Plato, Descartes, and The Matrix Essay
Plato, Descartes, and The Matrix
The Matrix movie had many similarities with the readings from Plato and Descartes. All three discussed the scenario in which reality was discovered to be a non-reality. Specifically, in The Matrix, reality that was experienced by multitudes of people is actually a computer simulation called “The Matrix”. This is actually a deviation from the Plato and Descartes readings in that computers were not mentioned or available at the time of those writings. Plato (380 BC) speaks of people having their “legs and necks fettered from childhood”, while a source of the restraint is not specifically mentioned, it is most certainly a physical restraint as opposed to the material, computer generated reality as described in The Matrix movie. Descartes was the only one of the three situations that contemplated God in the various reality verses truth contemplations. Plato speaks to the initial shock of discovering that known reality is actually a lie and goes on to speak of the resulting repercussions of this discovery.
The denial of the true reality is so tangible that the people in the described scenario would rather believe that the lie was real than to believe and accept what they were actually experiencing. In The Matrix movie (1999) Morpheus asks “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real?” Similarly, Descartes (1641) also contemplates how often he dreamt that he was in familiar circumstances, dressed and by a fire, only to realize that he was undressed and lying in bed. Plato, Descartes, and The Matrix are all similar in that they consider people living in a world that they discover is not real and that they exist in perceived delusions that produce resulting anti-realities.
The Matrix movie is parallel to the Descartes reading in that they both examine our senses as sources of realities. Descartes contemplates how our senses occasionally mislead us whereas The Matrix describes a continual sensual overhaul which is controlling our mind and ultimate realities while our bodies lay dormant. In The Matrix movie Neo never expresses happiness over his liberation from the computer program but he does feel the need to liberate those still living under the control of the computer program. In contrast, the Plato reading describes and expresses a feeling of joy that would be experienced after emerging from the controlled reality. Can we prove the world we are experiencing is real?
In order to contemplate how we know that our current state of being is real we must first decide what “real” is to us. What is reality? In my opinion, reality is what we see, hear, smell, feel and taste in the present. Reality is what is occurring to us right now, this very second. Is what is happening to us, the world we are experiencing, real and can we prove that it is real? How do we know we are not dreaming? It has been my experience that dreams do not produce anything but thoughts and visions. I do not feel, taste or smell while dreaming. Therefore I can prove that the world I am currently experiencing, while I type this essay, is real because I can feel the keyboard that I am typing on and I can taste and smell the coffee that I am drinking.
Which is better: the harshness of reality or the “ignorance is bliss” of illusion? In my opinion, the harshness of reality is a far better state than the “ignorance is bliss” illusion. I believe this to be true because I believe that true depth of character cannot be achieved without experiencing the full harshness of reality. How can our intellects and philosophies be explored without experiencing the full range of life events? If you lived your life in ignorance then the world you experienced would skew the thoughts you pondered while excluding the full range of contemplations, restricting them to a bliss-filled reality. With intelligence comes a plethora of knowledge, both good and bad.
In conclusion, through the viewing of The Matrix and the reading of both Plato and Descartes, we can see that all three bring to mind many philosophical questions related to actual and perceived reality. Obviously, it is very fascinating to imagine a world where alternative and controlled realities are possible and even very real. The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction and, in my opinion, The Matrix and the thoughts contemplated by Plato and Descartes are just stories that will never be reality. I believe that my Christian worldview is such that would prevent me from ever believing any different. While all of the situations explored were interesting, they will remain, in my mind, fantasies.
Plato. (380 BC). “The Allegory of the Cave.” In The Republic (Book VII, 514A1 – 518D8). Descartes, R. (1641). Meditation I of The Things of Which We May Doubt. In Meditations on First Philosophy. Wachowski, Andy, and Lana Wachowski. The Matrix. Directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Los Angeles: Warner Bros. Pictures, 1999.