The Matrix and Descartes

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With a movie like The Matrix, it is very easy to get caught up in the spectacle. Granted, the movie has special effects that were cutting edge for its time, and includes many elements of our modern high tech culture. However, it also has a much deeper and more philosophical side. When it was written, ideas were incorporated into it from a variety of sources. One of these sources was the first meditation of the French philosopher Rene Descartes. In this movie, what most people perceive as reality is no more real than a dream. This dream is created by a powerful being bent on deceiving humanity, but there are some members of humanity who choose to let themselves be deceived. Neo experiences the same doubt about reality as Descartes when he talks about not being sure if he is awake or still dreaming. Descartes points out that there are no certain markings between the dream world and the waking one. After all, when one dreams, he is unaware that he is doing so, so it is impossible to rule out that what we perceive as reality is not, in fact, only a dream. Descartes uses this basis to call into doubt things that would otherwise be impossible to doubt. Morpheus states this quite well when he poses the question of what reality really is. Things that our senses pick up are nothing more than impulses interpreted by the brain. There is no way of knowing that something real truly created the experience or if it was generated by something completely different. It could even have been dreamt up by the brain itself. Descartes brings into doubt all the sense because, once something has been known to deceive, it is prudent to not trust it. An example of this is when Neo sees the woman in the red dress. Neo's senses deceived him, and he quickly finds an agent has taken her place. However, Descartes argues that we can be sure that one can be certain that some part of the things we sense must exist in the real world. Even when we dream something completely unique and original, its...
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