The Matrix Events For this paper, I will look at the Matrix trilogy (as well as the Animatrix, the anime prequel to the Matrix) through the lens of Badiou’s evental ethics. I will examine the events that happen (and have happened previously) both to humans (inside and outside of the matrix) as well as the machines, since events are truths for all.
I will start with the Animatrix since that is the prequel and deals with the groundwork of the matrix and the relationship between machines and humans. In the start of the Animatrix, humans have an advanced civilization and have machines doing most, if not all, of the work for humans; machines are slaves to their human masters. Perhaps that may seem like that term does not apply since machines are simply tools, like a hammer or a ruler, and perhaps that is even how the machines started out – simply tools with no sentience. Somewhere along the line and somehow, a ghost in the machine appeared, or in other words, a machine developed sentience, through a random event springing from chaos or the Void.
Specifically, the event for the machines that I would like to address is the first act of rebellion in the chapters fittingly called “2nd Renaissance” (parts one and two). This first act of resistance showed that machines/AI felt pain and were conscious. This event came from the Void, one of Badiou’s requirements for an event. Previously, no machine showed any signs of sentience and humans had no reason to believe machines did have sentience. This first sign of consciousness appeared with a robot named B166ER (fascinatingly, “B166ER” is internet “leet speak” for “Bigger” which is exactly what it is – the machine becomes more than just the self and achieves “Immortal” status to Badiou because it is interwoven with the event, which is something “bigger” than plenitudes). B166ER, as the movie puts it, “…was the first to rise up against his masters.” (Animatrix). This act had far-flung repercussions and was a highly publicized murder trial. The prosecution argued that machines were property of their masters, which Badiou would say is the knowledge at the time. Badiou says that knowledges serve some and in this case, the prevailing knowledge serves humans and not machines (43). B166ER’s only statement in his defense was that “he simply did not want to die.” (Animatrix). This was something that was unlike anything of the plenitude at the time; it clearly came from the void.
Badiou says that “a truth is for all.” (32). In the case of the Matrix, the truth for all would be a truth for not only just humans or just machines, but for all. The humans that deny the machines’ sentience are unfaithful to the event. Interestingly enough, there are many humans (in the Animatrix) that support the machines and their struggle for recognition and are thus, faithful to the event even though they are not machines themselves.
Eventually, the protests were met with violence from the army and that’s when it appears the machines lost almost all human support they had, which is a betrayal of the event for those humans and is thus, evil. The humans then began their genocide of the machines, even filling mass graves of robots that were eerily similar to mass graves of the Holocaust. The mass killings were certainly not an event, but a trauma since it was forced upon the machines. The machines then left human society set up their own apart from humanity, calling it “Zero One.” (Animatrix). They then sent ambassadors to the United Nations to seek admission into the U.N. as well as recognition as living beings. They were denied entrance and a naval blockade was placed around the machine city. Shortly after, the humans began open warfare on the machines (further straying from fidelity to the event). Finally, at this point, the machines fought back, putting their fidelity to practice instead of just thought, thus earning a stamp of approval from Badiou who says that a fidelity must be practiced, not just thought (42). Long story short, the war goes badly for the humans and they decide to blot out the sun and deny the machines’ main power source. It doesn’t work and the machines win. Without the sun, the machines turned to an alternate power source – human beings.
At first, I thought the enslavement of the human race would be Evil, but to Badiou, it’s actually a Good thing because they are remaining faithful to their event, their own sentience, and their own needs. The deaths and the enslavement of the humans are irrelevant to Badiou in this situation because it is beneath Good and Evil. Matters like that would be considered knowledges. To Badiou, there is nothing greater than the Truth and it seems that anything that furthers the truth is justified, or in other words, the ends justify the means. Kant would vehemently disagree because it would be a categorical imperative to not harm/kill sentient beings or take away their freedom (for either the humans or their machine counterparts). But that’s neither here nor there, because this is all about evental ethics.
After the beginning of the matrix, the primary event that happens is the “awakening” of the humans inside the matrix, which mirrors the machines’ “awakening” from their servitude. It has the same characteristics – it came from the Void (the realization that the matrix is a lie and not real life), and it is a truth for all (machines and humans alike), and it is quite literally emancipatory (particularly with the revolution it spawned). I will refer to it as the “awakening,” but I hate to put a name on the nameless; it is just as much the realization of reality as it is an awakening (physically and mentally,) but in the interests of making sense in this paper, I will simply call it the “awakening.”
In the Matrix, Neo is awakened from the matrix and comes to realize the harsh reality of the truth in an energy/heat collection pod in the human “farms.” Just prior to that inside the matrix, Morpheus tests Neo’s fidelity to the event (and the human race) by giving him the choice between the red pill or the blue pill. If he chooses the red pill, he “…stay(s) in wonderland, and I [Morpheus] show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – meaning that Neo would awaken to truth and reality outside of the matrix (Matrix). If he chooses the blue pill, “The story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.” (Matrix). If he had chosen that route, Neo would have been betraying the event by not staying faithful to it. I would lean more towards Lacan and say that events can be individual or maybe in other words, there was the initial event of the first person breaking free of the matrix, but then everyone else experiences their own breaking free. They are clearly interwoven and you have to be faithful to your own awakening to be faithful to the original. Neo’s awakening is an event that others, particularly Morpheus, are faithful to in thought and deed because Neo is the One (clearly something springing from the chaos of the Void since no others are like him).
In the Animatrix chapter, “Program,” two characters (Duo and Cis, both whose minds are freed from the matrix) face similar tests to their fidelity to their emancipatory event. While sparring, Duo says to Cis, “Maybe you regret taking the red pill? It crosses everyone’s mind at least once. The wish to return to an ordinary life, a carefree life in the country, the life we had before knowing all this.” (Animatrix).
It is somewhat ironic that he mentions the life inside the matrix as carefree or pleasurable because Badiou says that the truth procedure initially produces pleasure (53). At first, one might think that the awakening would be a trauma, looking out at the vast farms of humans in captivity in the wasteland of Earth, but I believe there is still a glimmer of pleasure, a moment of “Aha, I was right. I knew it; there is something more – the Truth.” Revulsion, despair, and anger would probably then shortly follow.
Tired of real life, Duo confides to Cis that he is going back into the matrix. “I wanted to know the truth, but I don’t care about the truth anymore. What’s real doesn’t matter. What matters is how we live our lives.” (Animatrix). That last statement could probably spawn an entirely new paper by looking at Aristotle, Mill, or Kant, but I will stay on the straight and narrow and point out that Duo has committed an evil act in evental ethics’ view. One of the names of Evil is “to fail to live up to a fidelity is Evil in the sense of betrayal, betrayal in oneself of the Immortal that you are,” Badiou puts forth (71). Duo tries to convince Cis to leave with him. Their fight turns serious when she realizes that Duo has given up on his fight against the machines; he has betrayed the event, not to mention the entire crew of the ship he is on. Cis proves her fidelity to the truth process by opposing Duo’s change of heart and says, “I won’t walk away from the truth.” (Animatrix). She puts her thoughts to practice and kills Duo. Interestingly, Duo says that he loves Cis right before he dies. Not only has he betrayed the initial awakening event, his own awakening event, he has betrayed his amorous event with Cis, too by selling her out to the machines (not to mention trying to kill her).
In the Matrix, Cypher does a nearly identical act when he contacts the agents to get back into the matrix, and betrays Morpheus, Neo and the others. Cypher is the only human in the Matrix trilogy that betrays an event. Even the freeborn people that were not awoken from the matrix fight the machines and promote human emancipation however they can, fighting whatever impossible odds they have to. Even the pragmatic general Lock of the Matrix Revolutions fights with everything he has to the end, even when faced with the knowledge that a battle against the machines is hopeless; he never gives up on his fight or the event of the original awakening. But, strangely enough, he is not faithful to the event of Neo’s awakening, by constantly arguing with the Council about not allowing Neo to take one of the defense ships (Matrix Revolutions).
Agent Smith is more difficult to address. He was previously an AI for the machines, but through an event of his own, he achieves autonomy and true sentience. He seeks destruction or dominion of the machines as well as the humans and he only serves his own agenda from the Matrix Reloaded on, so either he betrays his own event or his awakening is a simulacrum. One thing is for sure, he betrays the both the machines’ and the humans’ awakenings.
The machines remained faithful to their event and practiced their fidelity (apparently unanimously with the one exception of Agent Smith) from the very beginning of their awakening with their protests, the founding of their machine city, their revolution, and throughout all of the following Matrix movies. The humans, with the two exceptions of Duo and Cypher, practice their fidelity to the awakening throughout the Matrix trilogy and the Animatrix.
It could be argued that since a truth is for all, the machines are unfaithful to the humans’ awakening and the humans are likewise unfaithful to the machines’ awakening until the very end of Matrix Revolutions when both sides work together to defeat Agent Smith then finally declare a ceasefire and begin to mutually respect each other. At that point is when both machines and humans are truly faithful to each other’s events (and that is probably an event in itself since it comes from the Void and cuts through knowledges). Symbiosis and mutual respect of each other’s sentience is Truth that everyone, man and machine achieves at the conclusion.
Works Cited Animatrix. Dirs. Peter Chung, Andy Jones. DVD. Warner Home Video: 2003.
Badiou, Alain. Ethics. New York: Verso, 2002.
The Matrix. Dirs. Andy and Larry Wachowski. DVD. Warner Home Video: 1999.
The Matrix Reloaded. Dirs. Andy and Larry Wachowski. DVD. Warner Home Video:
The Matrix Revolutions. Dirs. Andy and Larry Wachowski. DVD. Warner Home Video: