The film The Matrix addresses the philosophical problem of the external world in a manner that few have ever even remotely considered

The film The Matrix addresses the philosophical problem of the external world in a manner that few have ever even remotely considered. Many people casually question what is real, and what are we seeing. However, few develop in-depth theories and answers to this question. It takes a viral film on the subject to stimulate people’s thought process to the point of developing their perspective on what is real, and if what we see in our everyday lives can even be considered real. In the film, the problem is resolved by asserting that what we see every day is not real, but that we are merely plugged into machines that stimulate our brains to project a particular “reality.” In The Matrix, humankind developed machines that could think for themselves, or artificial intelligence (A.I.). These machines then turned on mankind, and a war between humans and machines ensued. At the time, the machines were dependent on the light of the sun to function, so the humans “scorched the sky” to deprive the machines of sunlight. After this, the machines began using actual human embryos and human living human bodies for energy. To prevent human resistance, the machines developed a world, mostly a computer program, and fed it into the human brain electronically. According to the movie, we are deceived into thinking that we are living in reality, but it is a computer program used to enslave humankind so that we can be used as a source of energy.
The basic philosophical problem addressed by the movie is the fact that if we are not, in fact, dreaming, or being deceived, at any given time, then how can we know that we are actually “awake?” There are several different answers to this problem, none of which seem to prove that we can be sure that we are not living a dream or a lie. The matrix contains different allegorical references. A few of these refer to Plato’s and Descartes’ philosophy that tries to explain the reality of this world that we are in. In “Descartes Meditations On First Philosophy In Which The Existence Of God And The Distinction Between the Soul And The Body Are Demonstrated “, he presupposed that we exist because we think (cogito ergo sum). Parallel to this, people in the matrix believe that they are living their own life. But contrary to this, they are just living in a fictitious reality. Anything physical happens to the people inside the matrix will also affect their human bodies in reality. One scene that showed this idea was in the big fight scene between Neo and Mr. Smith near the end of movie. Neo was hit and punched several times, and at one point he was slammed into a wall by Mr. Smith’s punches. He was even shot several times by Mr. Smith in the chest. We can see with the alternating views from the matrix and from the real world that Neo was affected not only inside the Matrix but also in the real world. It is because the mind thinks that they exist in the Matrix makes it feel that they are indeed existing; therefore whenever they get hurt inside the matrix, it also manifests in their physical bodies because the mind thinks that it happened “Have you ever had a dream Neo that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” -Morpheus, to Neo Another philosophy that stood out from this movie was Plato’s and his allegory of the cave. According to Plato, the world we perceive now to be reality (called the world of senses) is just a mere shadow or reflection of the world called the world of forms. In the movie, it is represented by the world of the matrix. Mr. Smith calls Matrix as ” The peak of our civilization.” Plato’s philosophy of the allegory of a cave was referenced in a scene in the movie. Right after Neo was rescued from the pods by Morpheus’ team, he underwent diagnosis and several processes for him to function properly again like a normal human being. Neo tried to open his eyes at some point but noticed right after that his eyes hurt and asked Morpheus why it was so. He answered him by saying that his eyes hurt because “You’ve never used them before”. Plato explained in his allegory that right after a person realizes that they only saw the dancing shadows and not the reality that was outside, his eyes would generally hurt because they were used to the dark fact inside the cave. They perceived the reality inside the cave to be true because it was what their senses could perceive at the time. They did not know that the real world was just outside the cave and that the reality they saw were only shadows cast by a fire inside the cave. Also in the allegory of the cave, the other people bound inside would not accept the fact that there is a greater and real reality outside of the cave. These people can be related to the people nowadays that would not dwell and analyze things more. This is so because they are already comfortable with the reality that they are living in now. They do not want to look at the higher possibilities to things outside of our existence today. This is also tackled in the book Sophie’s World where the author Jostein Gaarder relates these people to the people who are deep down inside the rabbit’s fur. They are people who are comfortable with the reality they are in. They no longer crave and lust for the endless possibilities awaiting our species. Sadly, these are also the people that criticise and persecute those that try to wonder about the possibilities and wander outside of visible reality.
The philosopher Rene Descartes attempts to resolve this very problem in his Meditations where he tries to resolve the concept of reality, and how we can be sure that what we see is actually reality. In his different meditations, Descartes uses several methods to establish some sort of “real.” In this first Meditation, he uses doubt. In the second he simply tries to find something that he can be certain of despite deceit by our senses. These different methods continue through six Meditations, but even at the end of his works, it seems that Descartes has not reached a certainty that we know what we see at any given time is not a dream or deceit of some type (Pojman 73-94). Essentially, Descartes’ arguments are incredibly debatable, can be and are questioned in several areas, and are non-conclusive. It seems so far that we cannot be sure that what we see every day and what we think we know is not a dream or deceit of some sort. Despite the arguments for either view of this problem, it seems impossible to prove or be sure that we are not living a dream.
Another issue that is pointed out in The Matrix is the so-called “Alice in Wonderland” effect. Basically, the reference in the film suggest that if we are living a dream, or deceit of some sort, would we not feel like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole if we were suddenly “awaken” and shown the “truth.” This reference made in the film seems to hint at the concept that we may not be able to handle waking from our dream lives into what is real. Maybe “tumbling down the rabbit hole” would be too much for the human mind to handle and we are better off living a dream and being “content” in carrying out our everyday lives in what we perceive to be real. After the character Morpheus makes the reference to Alice in Wonderland by telling the character Neo that he understands how he is feeling, he offers him the choice of two pills, a red one, and a blue one. By taking the blue pill, Neo would wake up in his bed and be free to decide if what happened was a dream or reality. By taking the red pill, Neo would get to see “how deep the rabbit hole goes,” meaning that he would be awakened to the facts of what is instead of what he has spent his life believing. Neo chooses the red pill and is located and removed from the “human crop” in which his body is located. After his body is rebuilt, he is shown what the world is like and told what has happened. As can be expected, Neo’s initial reaction is one of shock as both his mind and body are overwhelmed by the information of reality, essentially feeling as Alice felt when she tumbled farther and farther into the rabbit hole. After this initial response, Neo becomes acclimated to the new information and begins to learn more quickly and easily the aspects of reality. However, another character, Cypher, responds somewhat differently to the revelation of the “real” world. At one point in the film, Cypher says to Neo, “If only I’d taken the blue pill…” as he contemplates his feelings on being awakened from the dream of the matrix. Eventually, Cypher makes a deal with the machines, which he sees and computer inputs into the matrix, to reinsert him into the matrix. Cypher makes this decision by comparing his “life” before being shown what is real and his existence on the ship. Cypher says to the machines that “ignorance is bliss,” and decides that he would rather live a lie and not know it than be miserable in the actual real world.
If given a chance to choose between the red pill and the blue pill, I would prefer the red pill without a doubt. If put in the situation that Neo and the other crew members were put in, I would want to know the entire truth and would not be satisfied with not being sure if I was dreaming or not. The problem I think I would run into would be similar to that of Cypher. If the characteristics of reality actually were as the film depicted them, I think I would rather live a dream life, which is a life like the one I am living now, than live a miserable and painful life running and hiding from machines, although I would still want to know the entire truth and experience it for myself. The main problem I would have in deciding, as Cypher did, whether or not to be reinserted into the matrix would be one of the moral questions. Although I would rather live a more comfortable life being deceived by the matrix, I would not be able to let myself do this and allow humanity to remain “imprisoned in deceit.” I would decide to stay in the real world and fight the machines because, despite the fact that I might rather live a life of deceit, other people may not feel this way and it would be unfair for me to give up and not give them this chance because I would be more comfortable. I think the decision Cypher made in the film was a very selfish one, and although I may agree with it somewhat, I believe that put in the same situation, I would have stayed and continued to rebel against the machines. My choice in this situation would not be based on a moral obligation of sorts, but solely based on my moral values. I do not believe that every person would have a moral obligation to stay and live a life of fighting, running, and hiding. I think that every person if placed in this situation, should make a decision based on his or her particular moral values, and my specific moral values and beliefs would be the reason I stay and fight for other people to have the same choice. Primarily, I do not believe that there is some overall set of morals that all people should be required to follow. I do however think that there is a standard set of morals that all people share to some degree, even though this degree may vary drastically at times.


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