Monday, July 07, 2003

I finally got to edit this to fit in a single post... whoopee! :)

Neo Vs. Smith: The One Vs. The Many

(Main resource: William Luijpen’s “Phenomenology of Knowledge”, and my Blog's March archives.)

It was fairly clear from the get-go that the Matrix was more than just your regular gun-slinging, kung-fu busting action film. The movie actually had a good deal of depth on it, which was picked up by fewer people than the Wachowski brothers hoped for. Nonetheless, with the sequel, more of the same undertones end up creeping their way into everything in the movie that didn’t involve the closing credits.

One such point of reflection was the battle between Neo and Smith. One might wonder what the point of their encounter was, if Neo could just take down Smith indefinitely, yet Smith can just keep replicating himself. If this were the case, and we were faced with a deadlock, what then, is the point to the entire battle?

It would do us good to point out that one of the longest-running debates in the history of Philosophy has been the dispute on the existence of one Truth vis-√†-vis many other truths. Was Truth really absolute? Or was truth merely relative? In Luijpen’s article, he outlines the role of Aletheia, or unconcealment. This concept of Aletheia stems from Plato’s “Allegory Of The Cave”, which speaks of the world of Eidos and its interaction with the physical world. Aletheia, according to Luijpen, is the illumination in the open space regarded as Lichtung. As we all know, this was a concept borrowed from Heidegger.

Let’s make an analogy here: Lichtung is the most basic truth there possibly is. Now, imagine a mug of Swiss Miss chocolate. Assuming you’re fond of it, you’d say that Swiss Miss is good. Take away the marshmallows, it’s still good. Take away the milk and cream, it’s still good. In fact, you can take away the water, but Swiss Miss is still good. But then, we hit Lichtung: you take away the mug, (Let’s not be too strict on the possibilities here and eliminate, say, spoons, or other similar apparatuses.) and you can’t really enjoy your Swiss Miss anymore.

Now, going back to Aletheia, truth cannot possibly exist without unconcealment. As the old clich√© goes, a tree that falls in the middle of the forest with nobody to hear it does not make a sound. While Aletheia itself is NOT truth (Or Truth, if you’re so inclined.), it encompasses truth, as it is a requirement for it, as Lichtung is a requirement for Aletheia. But I’m sure you already know that.

Now, what makes Aletheia tie up with the idea of the One and the Many? First of all, we must realize the standpoints both the One and the Many hinge themselves upon. In the case of the former, it believes that there is only One Truth that can be accepted, and regards such Truth as absolute, in that it cannot be disputed, in that it is immutable. This fits in nicely with Plato’s concept of Eidos.

On the other hand, the Many believe in truth as relative: what is true to you is true for you and for you alone. It promotes a certain chaos in that nothing can ever be contested simply because everything holds true to someone on a personal level.

Returning to the gap between the One and the Many, it can be resolved by realizing the twofold nature of Aletheia. It’s fairly clear that the Wachowski brothers took a stand in favor of Luijpen and Aletheia by letting the fight remain in a deadlock, because Aletheia actually encompasses BOTH the One and the Many, as far as their basic elements are considered. By saying it encompasses both subjectivism and objectivism, we can then say two things about truth (Since it has Aletheia as a prerequisite.). Firstly, truth is relative, which agrees with the adherents to the Many. Despite this fact, truth may indeed be relative but it is not so in a relativistic manner. This is because truth DOES relate to a person, but this does not mean that what is true for one is automatically untrue for another.

Truth, in this case, is relative because truth is an event. When an event occurs, that event relates itself to those who are witness to it, and truth is communicated in this respect. Truth, after all, is anthropocentric (People-centered.), and if this is the case, we cannot expect something to be true (In our milieu.), but has yet to occur in that of another’s milieu to be likewise true for them. This does not take away anything from the truth that relates to either society, nonetheless. If, theoretically, the Philippines were closed off from other nations, only the Philippines would believe that a bloodless revolution (That of EDSA) is possible.

On the flipside, we can say that truth is absolute, but not so in an absolutistic manner. Truth cannot be absolutistic in a Platonic sense, because truth is a never-finished event. If truth were absolutistic, then truth is already fixed, immutable, and finished for all time (A complete contradiction to the notion that truth is never-finished.). This absolutistic notion conforms to the idea of the World of Eidos, an idea that goes against the grain of unconcealment, since unconcealment works in temporality. If truth were absolutistic, what is the need to unconceal anything? It is already immutably true to begin with, from past, present, to future.

To clarify, Aletheia is different from the World of Eidos. The latter speaks of an immutable, final, and perfect “otherworld”, from which the physical world draws its existence by participating as imperfect copies of perfection. The former, on the other hand, sees a Being of beings (Which itself is not a being. But that’s a different story altogether.) that unfolds “itself” in all of being in temporality. The Being of beings will give unto all beings, but what becomes of these beings contributes back to the Being of beings, so that more can be said about “it”. Unlike the latter, Aletheia is a two-way process.

Thus, truth is an absolute moment, as for when one person speaks a truth, that person is then bound to that truth, and for all of history, the fact that this thing is indeed true cannot be repudiated (So long as it conformed with the state-of-affairs.). This is because when one stands before an unconcealedness, then this unconcealedness is irrefutable. At the point in history that this truth is born, it acquires a transhistoric value, in that its veracity will carry over time . That is, tomorrow, it will still be true that The Rock has captured the WWE Title an unrivaled seven times. It is absolute in this sense, but what if the Rock wins the title again? It is still true, in spite of this, that The Rock, for a time, was a seven-time champion.

Therefore, truth is historical. Truth is born out of a specific event in time, a specific event in history. Likewise, truth is a never-finished event, simply because what is true today can be built upon to form the truth of tomorrow. This explains the progression of how man has been defined, or how professional wrestling has gone from their non-scripted, shoot-style matches to today’s era of “Ruthless Agression”, where shock value and crash storylines are all the rage, giving little emphasis to in-ring action. Truth is also historical in that it is possible only in a particular phase of the knowing subject’s personal history AND in a particular phase of the collective history of mankind’s pursuit of truth, consisting of every personal history. For instance, in the 1980’s, American video game players did not appreciate Legend of Zelda, a relatively complex game the Nintendo Entertainment System was coming out with at the time in contrast to Super Mario Brothers. At the same time, Japanese players, advanced by half a decade of gaming in comparison, were more inclined towards them. After five years of gaming experience, the games were then screen tested for a second time among American gamers, and their approval of Legend of Zelda shot up.

The recognition of truth as historical, however, does not justify historicity: the belief that what is true today, is the truth for today, but tomorrow, it will not be so. If one were to adhere to this as true today, will it still be true tomorrow? This interesting notion means that the proposition of historicity is self-contradictory. Seeing that historic truth is not in congruence with historicity, we can say that truth is transhistoric, in that the things we see as true today lead us further down the road of unconcealment, carrying what we have already unconcealed, thus far. Transhistoricity explains the absoluteness of truth, in that it is an absolute moment of truth, and its veracity as an absolute moment carries over in time. The transhistoricity of truth also shows how an event, which may have not directly happend in a particular society, can be passed on to them, to the point that it also becomes a common experience with them, such as now, the whole world knows that there is such a thing as a bloodless revolution by hearing about EDSA.

Hence, with the realization of how truth is BOTH absolute AND relative, we can say that the main reason Neo and Smith did not find a clear victor in their battle was because it was being implied that the eternal debate of the One vs. the Many could be led to one of two things:

1. The belief that it is a pointless debate and should not be carried on any further. This is a sort of concession of futility, or:
2. The belief that this debate leads us to realize that truth is both, not one or the other. This is a recognition of further possibilities, rather than a concession.

What can we then infer from this? Is this trying to tell us that the Wachowski brothers will either make Neo and Smith become allies, or both of them will perish? It’s highly likely for one or the other to happen, more than for Neo to ultimately triumph against Smith by defeating him resoundingly, lest the Wachowski brothers become accused of being advocates of The One, and thus, biased towards that idea. Much less is it plausible for Smith to win against Neo (Barring resurrection undertones, though I recognize that it was done in the first movie.), lest we see yet another tragic ending, or Smith turns out to be the real hero of the story (Two endings that don’t spell “cash cow” to me, from a utilitarian point of view.).

Of course, seeing as I’m far from an authority on Philosophy (I’m only a Communications major…), I leave it to you, who probably know better than I do, to agree or to disagree with my opinion on the reason Neo and Smith ended up in a deadlock.

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