What can we know? According to French philosopher and mathematician, in Mediations on First Philosophy, Rene Descartes, nothing can be certain. Similarly, in The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers raise the question of how does anyone know what is real and what is not? The Wachowski brothers and Descartes describe their ideas about knowledge and epistemology through skepticism.
Knowledge is a justified, true belief. According to Descartes, knowledge comes from two sources: Experiences, which are the senses, and reason. Descartes starts his argument by stating that many of his beliefs as a child turned out to be false. Since knowledge builds on itself, Descartes starts to assess all of his other beliefs in terms of falsity and truth. Because of this uncertainty, in his first mediation, he decides that he has to rebuild new foundations for his knowledge. He makes it questionable whether or not we can be certain of what we know. What someone knows is only what he or she thinks they know. However, if the something they thought they knew is actually false, then all of their other “knowledge” is subjected to the possibility that it is built on that falsity. Descartes describes what he thought he knew in his first meditation as beliefs that come from his senses. He cannot deny the senses but he then starts to wonder if he is dreaming because in a dream, one’s senses could seem very real even if they were being ultimately deceived. Descartes then says “…though the senses do sometimes deceive us when it is a question of very small and distant things, still there are many other matters concerning which one simply cannot doubt” (18). He thinks about extending his hand consciously and deliberately, and having a strong feeling of his senses. First he claims that “such things would not be so distinct for someone who is asleep,” but once he takes a moment to ponder this situation, he realizes that there is not a definitive sign that helps the mind determine being asleep from...
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