The MatrixThe Matrix
In viewing the Matrix, a 1999 Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow Picture release, there are numerous references to philosophy portrayed in the movie. In analyzing the Matrix one will be able to see how Descartes’ Meditations on Methodic doubt, his Evil Genius Hypothesis, and Plato’s allegory of the cave are portrayed in this film.
According to Descartes’ Meditation on methodic doubt he tries to achieve absolute certainty about the nature of everything. In order to acquire absolute certainty, Descartes must first lay a complete foundation of integrity on which to build up his knowledge. The technique that he uses to lay this foundation is doubt. Descartes starts by looking at our usual sources of truth such as physics, astronomy, and medicine. He looks at these truths and doubts them feeling that these are not reliable sources of truth because time shows that we are all eventually proven wrong, much in the same way that science has been proven wrong over the courses of history. In relation to the Matrix, the Matrix is ?everywhere.? According to Morpheus, the leader of the resistance,
The Matrix is everywhere; it is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it as you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth (Matrix Movie).
The truth that Morpheus speaks about is the truth that everyone in Neo’s world, including Neo has been born into slavery. They have been born into a ?prison? built for their mind. In regards to the meditations Morpheus is telling Neo that the world that he lives in is merely a false idea and should be doubted. However, telling Neo what the Matrix consists of is not enough. To fully understand what the Matrix is Neo will have to choose whether he wishes to learn about the Matrix or to believe what ever he wants to believe.
Descartes’ methodic doubt can also be seen, as he doubts the senses. He considers the generally accepted view that our senses dependably report the absolute nature of reality, but discards the senses as a source of truth because of the dream argument, which states that there is no definite way of proving that you are either dreaming or that you are awake. Therefore it is possible that everything that we believe is false, making the senses an unreliable source. This dream argument can be seen in the beginning of the Matrix as Neo is told to ?wake up? by his computer. After ?waking? up, his computer tells him that ?the Matrix has you? he is confused with what is going on with his computer, the computer then continues to tell him to ?follow the white rabbit? and the conversation is then interrupted by someone knocking at his door. The person at his door is one of Neo’s clients making a deal with him for a computer disk in exchange for money. His client looks at Neo and tells him that he looks ?whiter? than usual. Neo still confused with what just happened to his computer says to his client have ?you ever had that feeling where you’re not sure that your awake or still dreaming? (Matrix Movie). Neo here is confused with what is going on and does not know what is reality and what is a dream.
Another instance in the Matrix that show’s this argument is after Neo has taken the red pill from Morpheus and is getting ready to be transferred out of the Matrix. While getting ready to be transferred out of the Matrix into the real world, Neo touches a broken glass mirror and the glass from the mirror transforms to become part of his body. Neo questions what is happening to him and Morpheus tells Neo ?have you ever had a dream Neo that you were so sure it was real. What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference from the real world and the dream world??(Matrix Movie) The glass is in the dream world and the fact that the glass is transforming to his body shows that the world that he thought of as the real world in actuality is the dream world.
Descartes’ Evil Genius Hypothesis can also be seen in the Matrix. The hypothesis acknowledges the possibility of an all powerful, malicious being that is deceiving him about everything. This hypothesis in relation to the movie is the Matrix itself. The Matrix is made up of computer simulations run by sentient computers or artificial intelligence (AI). The Matrix is the world that Neo believes is the real world. The AI’s are running the world and are deceiving the people in this world by not showing them what the truth is by deceiving them in everything that they do.
Plato’s allegory of the cave can also be seen in the Matrix. Plato’s theory is that we are like prisoners tied up on the floor of the cave. But we usually cannot see the cave itself, all we see are the shadows on the wall. Thus like the prisoner in Plato’s allegory that is freed and that goes and looks around, that also sees the cave and sees the fire burning which is producing the shadows inside the cave, Neo is like this prisoner in the cave and once freed from the Matrix he learns that these ?shadows? or the world that he thought was reality is being produced by the sentient computers. He sees now that he has been manipulated like a puppet through the Matrix.
The Matrix is an excellent movie today that shows many deep insights into the philosophical world. The Matrix refers to many of Descartes’ meditations as well as Platonic overtones such as Plato’s Allegory of the cave. The Matrix shows an individual how you must question everything and that there are always two sides to a coin.