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Agent Smith - the Critique of Nietzsche

Between the first and second Matrix movies, I was introduced to Philosophy.  This made the evolution of the Agent Smith character much more enjoyable, since I viewed him as the complete embodiment of one of my favorite philosophical constructs: Der Übermensch

The Ubermensch is an often misunderstood concept, even by such luminaries as Simone de Beauvoir.  He imposes his will on others, but is not to be considered a mere dictator.  He seeks to tear down institutions, but is not himself an anarchist.  The Ubermensch seeks power in all things, sees power as his birthright, and sees his ascension as the inevitable manifestation of his superior nature.  For all this he is not a villain, he seeks to raise all humans around him to his superlative status, and shower them with blessings of wealth in knowledge.  It is a tribute to his power which gathers more good than he himself could ever enjoy.

The ubermensch is a hero, posited as the antidote to the Last Man (der letzte Mensch), appropriately embodied in the Matrix by the Architect.  The Last Man is the twin of the Ubermensch both being created by the death of God (or downfall of humanity in this case).  Responding to this change, the Last Man shuns all ambitions, seeking only to continue his current state in perpetuity, resolving all obstacles in withdrawn, lifeless calculations.  For Nietzsche, the death of God represented an opportunity, a crossing, where the next step of human evolution was laid open.  But whether we evolved into the slow dying complacence of the Last Men or the ruthless self-refinement of the Ubermensch was a choice left to us.

However, the Matrix does not leave its treatment of Nietzsche at mere representation.  It creates a poetically illustrated thought experiment designed to show the flaw in the Ubermensch archetype.  In the Matrix, the heroic qualities of the Ubermensch are horribly twisted, simply through the creation of a hyperbolic ubermensch, one who is so wholly beyond humanity in terms of power that he can not only impose his will on others, he can replicate his will in others.  In this, the Ubermensch becomes yet another destructor of humanity, destroying the depth and breadth of life in the universe though his ravenous accumulation of power.  True, Agent Smith raises the awareness and intellect and strength of all around him to levels they could have never attained on their own, but he destroys them in the process, makes them into a mere shell for the sake of his own transformation.  The Ubermensch foresakes humanity in his ascenion, for he is not limited by it.

Der Ubermensch may liberate humanity from all its oppressors, but it will never be in his power to liberate humanity from himself.

Honir Honir 26-30, M 4 Responses Jun 8, 2009

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If you want to launch a proper critique of the argument, by all means - I would love to be proved wrong, but if all you can do is dismiss it, you haven't proved anything.<br />
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Honestly, I think the overcontextualization of philosophy is what has made it irrelevant to modern society. If you can't say anything about a philosopher without saying everything about a philosopher, you've sacrificed the majority of your audience, as well as the commitment to clarity and conciseness. It's a bunker for pseudointellectuals to hide under. I understand its necessity as an economic model: exhaustive commentary (name-dropping, especially) leads readers to have to study a dozen texts just to understand one - which is great if you're trying to make a living as a writer and awful if you actually want to learn anything. It's justified in the case of someone like Heidegger, who's impenetrable enough in his own language, but Nietzsche? Really? He's one of the most approachable writers in philosophy - too much so for people who need diagrams in their explanations.

Any discussion of the ubermensch without a proper understanding of the will to power, sublimation, and self-overcoming proceeds from a point of misunderstanding. Agent Smith as ubermensch is a joke.

I'm so glad I found this... I took an extistential philosophy course a while back, and the way you've talked about the √úbermensch, makes a lot of sense. I think you'll find that aspects of the Matrix come up often in philo... Socrates' Allegory of the Cave in the Republic also touches on the Matrix. However, in this situation it's more in a broad way that what we experience everyday is not necessarily what's real.

Of course listening to Juno Reactor's Matrix songs as reading this for ambient purposes. <br />
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Guru, I'll come back to this story after I do some research.