Certainty in The Matrix: Descartes and Plato's Views

The Matrix, a movie that has been popular and controversial for decades, delved into the field of epistemology by raising an important question to society regarding the certainty of knowledge and the reliability of the human senses. Plato with his Allegory of the Cave from The Republic and Rene Descartes with his Meditation I from Meditations on First Philosophy both provide epistemic platforms to compare and contrast the question of if what humans believe as reality is truly as it seems.

This paper will analyze the certainty of knowledge within the Matrix by exploring in Descartes’ and Plato’s perspective. In Meditation 1, Descartes speaks of how there are times where he can’t completely differentiate between dreams and reality; he provides support for this claim by giving an example of a situation that everyone has experienced before, a situation where one wakes up for a dream, shocked at the fact that they were dreaming since it felt so realistic.

According to Descartes, the only reason one realizes in that situation they were dreaming is because they wake up.

However, how is one to say that humans aren’t always dreaming except that they don’t “wake up” and realize this? Plato makes the same point as Descartes, but in different terms. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, he gives the reader a picture of a cave with prisoners where they have no option but to look forward due to being chained from their limbs and neck, with a large fire going behind them (Plato, n.

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d.). In Plato’s example, each time an object passes, the prisoners see the shadows and believe that to be their reality. Similar to Descartes’ example, the prisoners in Plato’s cave believe they are seeing the truth, but are blind to the fact that shadows are merely playing a game on them, just like how Descartes’ dreams play games on him. Neo in the Matrix is the prisoner in Plato’s cave with machines feeding off of his body heat to keep him away from reality just as the chains in Plato’s cave kept the prisoners away from reality.

Neo in the Matrix is Descartes within his dreams, living a life of lie and doubts without true knowledge of what reality is and why there is an unnerving sense of doubt constantly within him. The prisoner who got away in Plato’s cave, who wanted to return to familiar things and not face the truth of reality, can be compared to Cypher within the Matrix, Cypher, another character in Matrix that was given the option between the red pill and blue pill, had taken the red pill just like Neo, However, contrary to Neo, Cypher couldn‘t handle the reality he was facing, and just like Plato’s prisoner, Cypher wanted to rid himself of this newly discovered truth and return to his former, ignorant self and the life he was familiar with Relatively, Descartes also states how he wishes to go to his former self where he had “steady possession of his mind”

However, one thing that sets Plato’s prisoner apart from Cypher is the fact that the prisoner grew to accept the truth, just as Neo is trying his best to do within the Matrix, rather than run away from it like Cypher. Plato‘s prisoner, Neo, and Descartes all have skepticism regarding the reliability of the truths their senses can provide, and they repeatedly see that their senses can be easily deceived.Moreover, Descartes states in his Meditation I how he is able to see and feel in a dream, and how he believes in those things that he sees and feels within a dream, However, if he can see and feel in reality as well as in dreams, how can Descartes differentiate the both? Because Descartes concluded that his senses aren‘t fully reliable, he’s unsure as to an evil demon controlling the universe or not, Similarly, in the Matrix, the evil demon Descartes refers to can be seen as the Matrix itself, the technology involved within the movie, the machines that humans are dependent on, and the virtual lives that everyone lives, Neo and Descartes can be considered challengers of any form of foundationalism because they choose not to have their senses “prima facie justified”

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Certainty in The Matrix: Descartes and Plato's Views. (2022, Dec 16). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/certainty-of-knowledge-in-the-matrix-movie-through-the-perspectives-of-descartes-and-plato/

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