All throughout time, all different types of media have proven or shown philosophical ideas. Most examples shown throughout this media source focus on the epistemological argument. The epistemological argument is “a philosophical discussion about the nature of knowledge and how you know what you know (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/epistemological). I chose the movie, The Matrix as my media source because it shows the use of epistemological arguments and skepticism, the genuine knowledge in such matters that is unattainable, throughout the movie.
The matrix takes place in the future with a Computer hacker called Neo. Neo has been contacted by underground freedom fighters though messages on his computer. Due to this he searches out to find them and when he does they explain to him that reality as he understands it is actually a complex computer simulation called the Matrix. The Matrix was created by an evil Artificial Intelligence. In the Matrix, it hides what is really happening from humanity. The matrix allows humans to live a convincing, simulated life in 1999 while machines grow and harvest people to use as an energy source. The leader of the freedom fighters is named Morpheus. He believes that Neo is the chosen one who will lead humanity to freedom and overthrow the machines. Together Trinity, Neo and Morpheus fight against the machine’s enslavement and Neo begins to believe his role as the chosen one.
One of the most central philosophical issues that lurks beneath the surface is perception. It’s a fight between how you know whether the things you perceive are real or just an illusion. Some scenes in the Matrix show this issue where it is directly discussing perception. One example of this occurs during the early part in the movie where Neo talks to the junkie. He asks, “You ever have this feeling where you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming? Neo thinks his first meeting with the agents is just a dream” (Matrix). There are multiple other examples that show the thought of perception through the film but that was just one of many. The main point is, is that the movie wants you to focus on how you know you’re not in something like the Matrix program.
In the film, The Matrix, it is a perfect example of what we have studied in class. In the movie, Morpheus goes on to explain to Neo that human existence is merely a facade. The truth about it all is that the humans are being harvested as a source of energy by evil machines. People actually live their entire lives inside of a pod, with their brains being fed sensory stimuli which give them the illusion of leading a normal version of life.
This leads us to think about the philosophical ideas being portrayed throughout the film. The Matrix is based on a philosophical question created by the philosopher Rene Descartes. One of Descartes’s most important theses was the ability to think for oneself. Descartes understood that sensory experiences would not and will not always match what is being seen in reality. Due to this, he used the Wax Argument to demonstrate how unreliable senses are in general. “Descartes first considers all the sensible properties of a ball of wax such as its shape, texture, size, color, and smell. He then points out that all these properties change as the wax is moved closer to a fire. The only properties that necessarily remain are extension, changeability and movability…” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_argument).
Due to this, Descartes becomes suspicious of the knowledge he obtained through his sense and all his own beliefs. He became convinced that one must use one’s mind, rather than one’s senses, to obtain information about anything. In the system of knowledge created by Descartes, perception is an unreliable way to gather any sort of information. The only way to acquire real knowledge is through the mental process of deduction. Descartes approached all knowledge, including his own, skeptically. Although he was skeptical, Descartes was certain that one could not be fooled about one’s own existence. This led to I think, therefore I am. By the act of thinking and doubting, the reality of his perceptions was confirmation of his own existence so he no longer doubted it.
When Descartes said ‘I think therefore I am’ (rational and emperisms powerpoint), he was defining the idea of truth in terms of doubt. Descartes’s argument is an epistemological one. It questions the limits and validity of human knowledge. Instead Descartes questions his own knowledge and interpretation of reality. Using the form of methodological skepticism, Descartes doubted anything that could be doubted. In epistemology, most of the knowledge that we obtain is sufficient enough to explain the world, but there is no such thing as ‘absolute’ truth.
The idea that Descartes had that all our perceptions are false may seem unreasonable but it is rather difficult to disprove so I agree with the argument. Descartes was right to distrust his senses. A good example of why he was right to distrust his own sense would be the idea of optical illusions. Optical illusions create problems between what is there and what is not there. Even though we know it could or could not be there we normally don’t question what we do and do not see. For Descartes though, even the most basic assumption about reality was to be doubted. While we dont need to be as skeptical as Descartes was, we need to keep in mind that he has a point about all of this. It is our senses and our brains which deceive us in the end. Even though we may not be living in a world where humans are being harvested, we all live in our own sort of little matrix whether we want to believe it or not.
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