White Belt Content
The red pill and the importance of understanding The Matrix and the allegory of the cave.
Do you remember when Morpheus said to Neo? "You were born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind." In the film The Matrix, mankind is held captive in cocoons to generate bioenergy for machines.
They feed off of the humans, and since a body can't live without a mind, the central computer (the Matrix) generates experiences and sensations that make the captive humans believe they lead a normal life. In the physical world, they find themselves connected to tubes and spend their days captive and floating in inside a liquid cocoon.
The film The Matrix is a work of science fiction, but also a production that addresses a number of very important philosophical issues.
We want to discuss the importance of an understanding of reality. To do this, we must talk about why ethics is essential to our social and professional lives.
One of the qualities unique to man is that he can think and choose. We call this free will. Neo was presented a new and difficult situation where he could choose to withdraw. Resistance to any slavery passes through knowledge, but knowledge requires free will. Those who are free, who wish to remain free, need knowledge.
The philosopher William Irwin wrote: "the only thing worse than a prison of the mind is a prison of the mind that you don't know exists, therefore, a prison from which you don't even try to escape," like in The Matrix.
Without a doubt. Imagine if you discovered that you lived a dream that you thought was reality. Many would be unable to bear it. Oftentimes, to be aware of reality is very difficult but without awareness of what is real, no one can exercise choice or be free.
Pay close attention to the following dialog:
Neo asks:"Why do my eyes hurt?"
Morpheus responds: "Because you've never used them." Often times, when we encounter something new, we become uncomfortable and irritated. It's a matter of attitude. To overcome insomnia, for example, something difficult, we need concentration and will.
In the beginning it's difficult, but later, with practice, it becomes easier. Before we delve further into the film, we must make something very clear to everyone: The Matrix did not bring anything new to philosophy .The idea that we live in a world that we don't understand, that could be deceiving us, is an old one for philosophy.
Let's read some dialogue from The Republic by Plato. The passage is from book VII and is called Myth of the Cave. In it, Plato recounts a conversation of Socrates with Glaucon. Socrates wants to show Glaucon the path traveled by an individual to free himself and see the truth. The truth is not what it appears to be. Plato was born in Athens in 428 B.C. The film The Matrix was released in the 21st century A.D. Plato is one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Socrates was another great philosopher and master of Plato, his disciple.
Socrates: ... Behold! human beings living in a underground den which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance.
And between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
Glaucon: I see.
Socrates: And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials which, appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
Glaucon: You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Socrates: Like ourselves. And they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
Glaucon: How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
Socrates: And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
Socrates: To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
Glaucon: That is certain.
Socrates: And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows.
And then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, what will be his reply? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
Glaucon: Far truer.
Socrates: And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
Glaucon: Not all in a moment.
Socrates: He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
Socrates: Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
Socrates: He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
Glaucon: Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
Socrates: And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
Glaucon: Certainly, he would. (...)
Socrates: Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
Glaucon: To be sure.
Socrates: And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous?
Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
Glaucon: No question.
Socrates: This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument. I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right.
Parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
Glaucon: I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
Does Socrates remind you of a character from the film The Matrix? Plato wrote this conversation of Socrates trying to convince Glaucon of the need for true knowledge. Socrates is not Morpheus nor is Glauco Neo.
Consider this: What is the link between Plato's Myth of the Cave and the film The Matrix? And, if freedom is so good, why do prisoners suffer when they are freed?
Cypher, in the film The Matrix, no longer wanted reality and reported Morpheus to Agent Smith in exchange for a better life in The Matrix.
The moral choice taken by Cypher is individualistic and is often seen in today's world. You must've heard the saying "what you can't see, can't hurt you."
Moral Philosophy and Ethics
The professor Marilena Chaui wrote: "Every culture and society has its own system of morals, that is to say, values concerning what is good and evil, permitted and prohibited, and of conduct that is considered appropriate for all of its members. Cultures and societies that are highly structured and with different castes or classes may even have various morals, each one of them associated with the values of a cast or a social class."
The existence of morals does not imply the existence of ethics. From a philosophical point of view, ethics is not the same as morals.
So, what is ethics?
It was Socrates who inaugurated the so-called Moral Philosophy that also became known as ETHICS. The Greek philosopher wanted to know if what society considered virtuous and good corresponded with virtue and good. Socrates questioned individuals to make them reflect on their actions.
Read the arguments put forth by Professor Marilena Chaui:
"(...)Is an ethical moral individual only someone who knows what he does, understands the causes and the purpose of his action, the meaning of his intentions and attitudes and the essence of moral values?"
Dr. Chaui also wrote:
"The ancients believed that ethics--whose means was virtue and end was happiness--was achieved through virtuous behavior, and understood to be an action in conformity with the nature of the agent (its ethos) and with the ends sought by him."
"They also believed that man, by nature, was a rational being and as such, virtue or ethical behavior is that where reason commands passions, giving norms and rules to will so it will choose correctly."
"Although Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers differed on the definition of virtues, reason, will, passions and nature, they agreed on the general principles stated above."
"This agreement was derived from another, whose definition also varied, but was the same in general principle: the admission of the existence of a universal order, of a rational cosmos, in whose interior men and each man, like all things, possess a certain place that determines the rational conduct of each one according to certain ends considered universally beautiful, good and just."
Is there a separate set of ethics for pirates, doctors and engineers or just one?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle distinguished praxis from technique. Praxis is difficult to define. We can say that it is practice followed by critical reflection.
Suppose that a hacker creates a program. Aristotle would say that he performed a technical act. The hacker is not the program that he created. For Aristotle, the technique is practical knowledge that distinguishes it from the agent or thing that created it.
While praxis is another type of practical knowledge in which the agent, the action and the final purpose are inseparable. In praxis, we are what we do. Well, you might say: so what? So for the good and old Aristotle ethics refers to praxis. The subject of the action, the action itself and the final purpose cannot be considered different things.
A doctor can be technically outstanding and still be an unethical professional. What is the purpose of medicine?
Mainly, saving lives and alleviating pain. When a doctor refuses to fulfill the purpose of his profession, he is being unethical. If a patient is penniless and he does not help him, is the doctor acting ethically? No. Because ethics cannot be suspended for a specific situation. This is why, as Professor Marilena Chaui explains, "in praxis, ethics are what we do and what we do is the good or virtuous act." Consider this: do hackers have ethics? Certainly. Hackers were the ones mainly responsible for building the Internet. One of the most valuable contributions by hackers is in cooperation, in promoting the idea of helping others.
Do morals and ethics depend on the times in which we live?
Sin City is a film based on a comic book with scenes in black and white, with somber tones that were highlighted with strong colors, like red, in some scenes and actors. What's so special about Sin City? Because it is a city full of criminals and corruption, where the law is constantly broken and only the strong have rights.
Watching Sin City and its characters raises a couple of interesting questions: 1) what would a society be like without morals or ethics? 2) or what would a society be like with ethics based on values unlike the ones we consider correct today?
We will see that morals have a historical component. In other words, not everything that we consider good and correct today was always considered as such. So we can say that not everything that we defend today as right will be considered right in the distant future.
Without ethical values our society would become like Sin City. Ethics in the real world, in real-world practice, tells us which behaviors are just and correct. Ethics doesn't depend on law. It is within each one of us.
Give some thought to which values you believe should guide hacker conduct before our next meeting.
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Illustrations: Mateus Andrade