I Think, Therefore I WHOA!: An Examination of Cartesian Philosophy in "The Matrix"

Essay by superclownUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, September 2008

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Despite its undeniable societal influence and pioneering filming innovations, the Wachowski brother's The Matrix is a film rooted as much in four hundred year old philosophy, as the cutting-edge intricacies of the 21st century. Anyone who doubts the validity of examining the works of pre-industrial theorists in this so-called "post-modern" age, need only to draw a comparison between Rene Descartes' Meditations on the First Philosophy and the narrative discourse of The Matrix, to realize that even in the midst of multiple centuries of cultural evolution, there remains an unchanged universality to the anxieties which arise out of humanities' persistent desire for a "higher" truth.

In his celebrated work Meditations on the First Philosophy, Rene Descartes questions many commonly held notions about truth, suggesting that its discovery and understanding is a labyrinthine process of a highly personal nature which both deceives and disappoints. According to Descarte, any version of truth, can be tested by examining the feasibility of its most basic foundations.

If the primary basis of an argument is proven false, its entire structure, no matter the degree of its immensity, becomes void, allowing for the creation of new system of understandings. It is this concept of truth's fragility, which lays much of the groundwork for many of the existential dilemmas presented in The Matrix. The movie's hero, Neo, could be considered almost perfect modern embodiment of Descartes himself. Like the 17th century philosopher, Neo once lived an existence in which he blindly followed preconceived notions about the truth and its relationship to society's organization, however, not unlike Descarte, he soon attempts to achieve a higher understanding of his own relationship with the world around him, and in the process revolts against his own ignorance as well as the devious agendas which spawned it. Descartes' quote "I will...