The Matrix and Descartes

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The Matrix and Descartes


Professor Cynthia Lindenmeyer

Michelle Black

October 19, 2012


The Matrix and Descartes

The "collective hallucination" portrayed in the trilogy, 'The Matrix' by Larry and Andy

Wachowski, explores an array of philosophical concepts. Particularly prevalent questions

that are raised throughout the films include: "What is real?" and "How can I know (or arrive

at) the truth?" This paper will focus on concepts illustrated during part one of the trilogy

while examining their relationship to theories presented by the french philosopher, Rene

Descartes. Both Descartes and the film approach such questions by suggesting that the

senses can be deceitful, that it is possible to trust the mind through reasoning, and that the

attainment of wisdom is sufficient for overcoming illusions.

The Matrix clearly explores Descartes' concept that the senses and perceptions are

deceitful. Descartes subscribed to the view that our senses "provide only very obscure and

confused information" and that "judgments shall contain error" (Meditation VI). This view

derives from the fact that our perceptions are subjective; that is, an individual will uniquely

interpret his or her understanding of a given person, thing, or situation. Again, to approach

the question "what is real?" consider that "in neurobiological terms, "reality" is little more

than a representational model of the world, a construct generated by multiple neural circuits

acting in parallel. This model is based on sensory experiences received by the brain via

the senses, which can detect only the narrowest range of stimuli," (Costandi, 2006).

Therefore, the senses will react to something and then the mind follows up by examining

what is seen. Even after the articulation of one's own ideas, it is impossible to be fully

understood by another individual. The senses can be deceitful whether an interpretation


evokes doubt...