Thursday, March 11, 2004

And finally, I have completed two Matrix essays… check it out!

.:The Onetological Argument:.

Id quo majus cogitari nequit.

Prior to the Matrix Revolutions, a lot of Matrix theories were running amuck all over the internet. Theories ranged from a role reversal theory wherein Smith is actually the hero and Neo is actually the villain; to the highly cynical “Matrix within a Matrix” theory, wherein what the humans believed to be part of the real world, the city of Zion, was actually little more than another level of the Matrix.

Many Matrix theorists held fast to the Matrix within a Matrix theory, more than any other theory at the time. They really believed for the most part that Zion was not the real world, and was merely a higher level of the Matrix, which is to say that the “Matrix” Neo and the others got themselves out of was merely a sub-level. Everything about Zion was merely false hope to lead the people on. If there truly was a real world, it certainly wasn’t this. From a cynic’s point of view, a twist in this direction made a lot of sense. “After all,” the cynic would think. “It can’t possibly be this simple. There has to be a catch.” Less pessimistic adherents to the Matrix within a Matrix theory, on the other hand, were predicting that Neo would break even beyond Zion to finally reach the real real world.

But we’ve seen Revolutions already, and we are assured of the fact that Zion is in the real world. For the most part, though, the allegations about Zion as still being part of the Matrix made a lot of sense during Reloaded, and one of the most commonly harped reasons why they believed so was because of the assumption that Neo should not be able to use his powers in the Matrix when he’s already in the real world. The real world is not the Matrix. Any rules that Neo could break in the Matrix must still stand in the real world. When Neo managed to stop the Sentinels who were about to attack them in the real world, this proved, as far as those who saw only up to Matrix Reloaded knew at the time, that Neo was still in the Matrix. Otherwise, he shouldn’t be able to use his powers. Neo is, after all, as the Architect would say, “Irrevocably human”. For him to be truly human, he has to be normal in the real world.

On the surface, it made a lot of sense, truth be told. How can we possibly expect Neo to use his powers in the real world? He’s the One only in the imaginary world, the Matrix. He has no special abilities in the real world. If he still has special abilities in what they thought to be the real world, then it’s not the real world! Neo and Morpheus have been fooled: they are still trapped in the Matrix.

However, there is a perfectly acceptable explanation as to how Neo’s powers could still work even when he is in the real world. In fact, had Marcelle known this argument earlier, he could’ve predated Matrix Revolutions in confirming how Neo has truly been to the real world, the way he accurately predicted how Neo and Smith’s battle will conclude in Revolutions two months before the film was shown. The argument is, as most people would know, Saint Anselm’s Ontological Argument.

In spite of numerous critiques and contradictions to it, the Ontological Argument is still one of the most popular proofs for the existence of God. Simply stated, it says that if we define God to be the greatest Being we can possibly conceive in our minds, then He must exist. This is because anything that exists in reality is greater than anything that exists only in our imaginations, so if God exists only in our imaginations but not in reality, then how could He be the greatest Being that we can conceive? For God to fulfill His own definition (That which no greater can be thought.), then He must exist. The argument is very simple, and it makes perfect sense. One million dollars in one’s imagination is still nothing compared to five dollars in one’s pocket. As such, for God to be Id quo majus cogitari nequit, then He must necessarily exist, or else, He is not Id quo majus cogitari nequit.

Simply put, anyone who conceives the notion of God in his mind as the greatest Being one can possibly imagine, makes it a categorical imperative for him to accept that this God he conceived has to exist. A priori to any experiences and circumstances, any rational being has to acknowledge this argument as true, as any rational being who determines that one plus one is equal to two must likewise acknowledge this fact both in the categories of the mind and the categories of reality. God, being the greatest Being one can imagine, can fulfill this conception only in existing in reality as well.

For a moment, discard any critiques or countervailing points to this argument, and relish the sheer ingenuity of the idea. Saint Anselm has made a very logical argument to prove the existence of God, given two simple assumptions: (1) that God is that which no greater can be thought; and (2) anything that exists in reality is greater than anything that exists merely in thought. Clearly, the ontological argument is a solid argument that has even stood the test of time, despite all counterarguments to it. The ontological argument is a perfectly logical argument that any rational being is capable of arriving at, regardless of any circumstances he or she might face.

What does this have to do with Neo? Throughout the Matrix franchise, it was quite obvious that Neo is a Christ analogy (As if the cross signs throughout Revolutions wasn’t enough of a hint.); in the Christian belief system, the Son of God, who is also God. We know the definition of God according to Saint Anselm, which means that Jesus Christ must exist if He is that which nothing greater can be thought. Jesus Christ is also fully human. This did not discount the fact that He was still God, and He still had the power of God.

Neo, being an analogy to Christ, must follow suit. For Neo to truly be “The One”, his powers must transcend the imaginary world. His powers must transcend the Matrix. Otherwise, he cannot be “The One”, because he is irrevocably powerless in the real world, that is to say, “The One” does not exist in the real world. How can Neo be “The One” if he is merely so only in the Matrix? From this viewpoint, it makes perfect sense why Neo was able to destroy the Sentinels with just a thought, despite his being already outside of the Matrix. Being analogous to God, Neo must be able to do things in the real world akin to the things he can do in the Matrix. “The One” must be real. Yes, Neo is irrevocably human, but he is also undeniably “The One”. Like Christ, these two are inseparable facets of Neo’s being that may seem paradoxical to one another but are still part and parcel of Neo.

It’s an ingenious explanation that could’ve been used long before Matrix Revolutions ended the trilogy. Truly, there was no need for anyone to doubt the existence of the real world because of this brilliant solution that was under our noses all this time. The Onetological Argument makes it explicitly clear why Neo is the way that he is. After all, if “The One” is the greatest being who will bring humans and machines together again, why should he be “The One” only in our imaginations? He has to be “The One” even in the real world, which clearly debunks any notions that Zion is also part of the Matrix, even before we all had to see Revolutions. Zion was already the real world. Neo, being a Christ analogy, was capable of things other humans weren’t by virtue of his status as being “The One”.

With that being said, the next time someone who thinks he knows it all tells you that Zion is also part of the Matrix, you can smile easily at him because now you know better, and he sure as Hades is not “The One”.

.:The One Vs. The Many, Revisited:.

Neo and Smith ended their battle once and for all in the Matrix Revolutions. While Neo did earn the victory against Smith, Smith likewise defeated Neo in the process. Simply put, their battle ended in a draw. Smith implanted his code onto Neo, but through the aid of Deus Ex Machina, Smith was destroyed because of it. Afterwards, the Matrix is restarted, although this time, the Architect promised to the Oracle that he will release anyone who wants out of the Matrix, and there is now an indefinite peace between humans and machines in the real world. The Matrix was not destroyed.

First of all, the ending was so predictable that it became unpredictable. Everyone and their mother was making this or that theory about the Matrix, and had their respective ideas as to how the Matrix trilogy would’ve ended. Through it all, everyone overlooked the first idea that came to mind: Zion was part of the real world, Neo will triumph (But not necessarily survive.), and there will be peace between man and machine at last. It seemed too easy and too obvious to be the actual ending. Everyone was so busy expecting the unexpected that what seemed to be predictable ended up being the best surprise to everyone. In short, we’ve all been had. There were no huge swerves at the end of the trilogy, and everything fell into place in the end, and most of us were simply overanalyzing the possibilities so much that the Wachowski brothers could very well have realized that pulling no swerve was going to be the biggest swerve to all of us.

While the film’s conclusion was obviously straightforward, one thing that needs to be given a second look is the final confrontation between Neo and Smith. While Marcelle would concede that the fight scene was too long for its own good and too much like a live-action Dragonball Z fight sequence, the conclusion of the confrontation may seem to hint at no more than pressing on Neo’s being a Christ analogy: he sacrificed his life for everyone.

However, that’s not the case. Neo is the One. Smith is the Many. Throughout history, the battle has always been on whether we must believe in the Truth, or merely the many truths. Religions more often than not advocate Truth, while more pluralistic minds advocate diversity of truths. People are inclined to always take either stand, and that is perfectly fine. What we have to realize, though, is that the One and the Many is simply part of a greater whole, and that is what we call Aletheia.

Aletheia is unconcealment. This unconcealment happens over time, the way that the fact that the Earth was round was unconcealed to the world some time ago in history, the way that America was unconcealed to Columbus and his crew in 1492. It is not necessarily truth (Which is Althea) per se, but it is a prerequisite for truth. Something cannot be held to be true if it is not unconcealed. While it may be the case that a tree were to fall in the forest, it cannot be held as true if there is nobody to see or hear it. Truth is a correct kind of judgment, which means somebody has to pronounce that judgment. The only way someone can pronounce judgment on something is only if it is unconcealed to that someone. As an equation…

Aletheia + correct judgment = truth (Or Truth, if you’re so inclined.)

Advocates of the One are of the belief that the Truth is objective: there can be no other Truth that exists, and only that which advocates of the One believe. If it be Christ, for instance, the Christian advocate of the One will believe that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They will not believe in Buddha, nor Allah, even if they may be tolerant of these other belief systems.

Advocates of the Many are of the belief that truth is relative: what may hold to be true for one may not hold to be true for another. A pluralist Christian will believe in Christ, but recognize that those who believe in Allah or Buddha are taking a different but likewise valid path towards their respective telos, which is by no means the same for everyone.

This gap between the One and the Many is bridged by Aletheia because it encompasses both. Because Aletheia is unconcealment over temporality (The way a song will have to run its course for it to be truly a song. It has to be played in temporality.), then truth can be both relative and absolute.

Truth is relative in that when something is unconcealed, for it to become true, it must relate to someone. However, the fact that something unconcealed will relate to another means that it cannot be relativistic: not everything one believes is necessarily true just because of the fact that they believe it to be so. Their judgment has to be correct regarding that which is unconcealed to them, or else, their judgment will be in error, and this is obviously not truth.

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. While the fact that the world was not flat did not relate to the people in the middle ages, this does not take anything away from the fact that the world was round when this truth was unconcealed to more open-minded people.

Truth, on the other hand, is also absolute. If I prove that one plus one is equal to two in my mind, then I am obligated to adhere to it, because it is true. However, we cannot be absolutistic in a Platonic sense. After all, truth is a never-finished event. If truth were absolutistic, then truth would be fixed, permanent, immutable, and finished for all time, which completely contradicts the notion that there is unconcealment of truth in temporality. If truth were absolutistic, why would we need to unconceal anything? It would’ve been already true for all time; from past, to present, to future.

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. It doesn’t matter if some day, Fr. Ferriols would move to DLSU to teach Philosophy. At one point in history, it will always be held to be true that he taught Philosophy in the Ateneo.

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.

This means to simply say that truth is historical. For now, we cannot say anything that is certainly true about ghosts and spirits. Perhaps in the future, we can. Five hundred years ago, nobody could’ve believed that cloning can be truly done. Now, we can. Truth is born out of a specific event in time, a specific event in history. 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. And to debunk historicity (That what is true for today is no longer so for tomorrow. Obviously, if this theory is true, then tomorrow it won’t be true.), 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. Maybe there wasn’t a single Filipino who has tried to clone a sheep, but because of this Global Village we now find ourselves in, we still can believe that it is true. Two things can be inferred from this:

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.

The Wachowski brothers appear to have taken the latter standpoint, and so we arrive at the conclusion that Neo and Smith are part of a greater whole, as they represent the One and the Many, respectively. Is there any question why their ultimate confrontation led to their both perishing? It only means to say that both the One and the Many are encompassed by Aletheia. Neo’s victory over Smith and Smith’s victory over Neo proves that the deadlock is not necessarily a deadlock because they are both part of something bigger than the both of them, which is why the Matrix and the real world both still stood after it all (It’s up to you to determine what represents Aletheia in the film, though.). They were both encompassed by it.

Now, recall the fact that Marcelle arrived at this conclusion merely a month or so after Matrix Reloaded was released. His exact prediction was as follows:

” 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 Marcelle recognizes 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 Marcelle, from a utilitarian point of view.).?”

Accurately predicted two months before Matrix Revolutions was shown was the ultimate encompassing of the both by something bigger than the both of them. This essentially proves that the Wachowski brothers certainly did not make an outright stand in favor of the One or the Many, but decided to attribute them to something that encompassed them both: Aletheia.

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