After Neo learned kung fu, Neo and Morpheus connected to Matrix for a sparring program similar to the programmed reality of the Matrix. After the training, there was a conversation between them;

enter image description here

  • Morpheus: How did I beat you?
  • Neo: You... you're too fast.
  • Morpheus: Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place? Do you think that's air you're breathing now?

Are they really breathing air when they in the Matrix? Or it was also just an another control system? Is there any information about that?


3 Answers 3


When they're having that conversation, they're still in the Simulation Program. I think Morpheus meant (more bluntly):

Look, I didn't beat you because I have more muscles. This is simulation, you can hack it and break its laws unlike reality where you must submit to them.

He says "Do you think that's air you're breathing now?" meaning "There is no air." That is a simulation, they're in a virtual world which obviously implies they don't need to obey reality laws.

Think about videogames, you do things you won't ever do in real life.

  • I'd rephrase that slightly. I wouldn't agree that Morpheus means "there is no air", unless he qualified it with something that differentiates it from the air he was breathing before he entered the simulation. When thinking about video games, for example, I wouldn't say to a cinematic sequence where a character is breathing heavily: 'this character isn't breathing air'--the character IS breathing air... he simply is a simulated character with simulated need for simulated air, much like Neo is breathing simulated air in the simulator.
    – hexparrot
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:05
  • 2
    @hexparrot Do you know Magritte's Ceci n'est pas une pipe? I think that explains what I meant in the answer more than any explanation I can think of. :P
    – Alenanno
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:15
  • I greatly appreciate that image--that might belong in your answer, as I found it to be very purposefully supportive of how you described the absence of air. Perhaps "this isn't air" might even bridge the gap of ambiguity, in my mind.
    – hexparrot
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:27
  • @hexparrot Great! I'm glad it helped to clarify what I meant. :)
    – Alenanno
    Dec 19, 2012 at 20:35

The Sparring Program that Morpheus and Neo fight in is a simulated reality along the same lines as the Matrix, but much smaller and presumably hosted by the Nebuchadnezzar computers.

When they are 'plugged into' these simulated realities, clearly their physical bodies are breathing air, but the reality they are experiencing is simulated. Hence there is no air that they are breathing in that simulated reality. Morpheus is trying to make Neo realize he is not bound by the same physical realities as the real world, that it is his mind that is fighting him, not any physical body.


The point of the sparring program is to help Neo "free his mind". Breathing is an involuntary function of our bodies that helps us keep alive. The human mind associates "breathing air" directly to "being alive". We know if anything stops our breathing of air for even a few minutes, we will die. (example struggling to surface for air in a swimming pool, this is scary for everyone)

In the simulation program, or the matrix, the human mind continues with to perform involuntary actions like breathing, but this is in the mind. For example, in our dreams we continue to breathe, it is but natural and the only thing we are used to doing. But is it required to stay alive in the dream? No.

Morpheus particularly asks this question to Neo to shake the very foundation of this existence, to get him "to believe" that he is in a simulation. Neo technically doesn't need to breath in a simulation. That need is only in his mind. Morpheus is getting Neo to let go of the real world "rules" to help him realize that nothing from the real world holds good in the simulation.

Once that happens, Neo is able to move faster and defeat Morpheus. But that is just one small step, he still fails the jump test right after :)

  • 1
    Actually, I've never been aware that I'm breathing in a dream (that is, the dream hero, not that snoring sleeping body), precisely because it is involuntary. For the same reason one often just moves to another place in a dream instead of going there Apr 6, 2015 at 21:04

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