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The synopsis of The Matrix and the readings from Platos and Descartes all have similarities as well as differences.
One thing that all three of these writings have in common is the topic. The synopsis of The Matrix and the readings from Platos and Descartes all discuss the topic of reality. They tackle the concept of if what you experienced through your senses in daily life is accurate, or truly reality, or if it’s all just an illusion or trick.
One way that these three sources differ, is how they address this issue of reality. In the synopsis of The Matrix, the main character Neo discovers that all of the people aren’t experiencing reality (“Synopsis: The Matrix”). Rather, their bodies are kept alive in machines and a large computer transmits information to their brains through wires that makes them experience sights, sounds taste, and more to make people think that they are living and experiencing these things when they are really not (“Synopsis: The Matrix”). In Plato’s The Republic, the men are chained in place in a cave (“‘The Allegory of…). Because of this, they only see reflections on the cave wall (of people, animals, etc.) (“‘The Allegory of…). Because this is all they see, this is their reality, when truly there is a whole world and other living things right outside the cave if only they could see or leave the cave (“‘The Allegory of…). Both The Matrix and Plato’s writing take on the concept of reality in relation to senses and the information we receive because of them. Descartes takes on a different approach. In Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, Descartes considers dreaming. He talks about how dreaming feels so real and wonders that if dreaming feels real and isn’t, what if real life feels real but actually isn’t (“‘Meditation I of the Things…)? Descartes approaches the concept of reality in relation to dreaming more so than people’s senses. Although all three of these sources address the topic of reality, they don’t necessarily approach it in the same way.
Another way that these writings are all different, is the time period in which they were written. Plato’s The Republic was written between 514A1–518D8, Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy was written in 1641, and the movie The Matrix came out in the year 1999. These sources are all from strikingly different time periods, but still address the same common question of reality (as discussed above). Although the time periods these pieces were created during are so strikingly different, it shows just how prevalent and timeless the discussion of reality truly is.
After reading these sources, one may ask how we can prove that the world we’re experiencing is real? At its core, this question is about skepticism. James K. Dew Jr. and Mark W. Foreman discuss the topic of skepticism in their book “How Do We Know?” (2014). In their book, they discuss and find flaws in the different skeptic approaches. Dew and Foreman recognize that skeptic views do raise points that are worth discussing, but conclude that, “postmodern philosophers are overstating their case and drawing illogical conclusions” (Dew & Foreman, 2014, p. 58). They state that, “Although it is always possible that our statements about the world may not be perfectly accurate, it is foolish to say that there can be no correspondence whatsoever between statements and reality” (Dew & Foreman, 2014, p. 58). According to the discussions and conclusions reached by Dew and Foreman, skepticism is wrong and cannot be defended. Similarly, in his presentation “The Challenge of Skepticism,” Foreman gives a couple of major points against skepticism. He points out that skepticism is impractical as no one can truly live that way (Foreman, n.d.). He gives the example of if one does not truly know if a traffic light is green or red (Foreman, n.d.). There would be chaos! He also states that skepticism is self-defeating and gives the example of a skeptic who says” no one can know anything,” and points out that if no one can truly know anything, then the skeptic cannot know that his statement is true. Both the points raised my Forman in this discussion as well as by Dew and Forman in their book show that skepticism is illogical and falls flat when faced with opposition. Because skepticism is evidently unreliable, it becomes clear that there is truth and knowledge in the world. As Forman stated, there is validity to our statements about the world, even if they are not perfectly accurate (Dew & Foreman, 2014, p. 58). The ridiculousness of skepticism and the validity of our statements about the world are how we can know that the world we are experiencing is real and not some dream or matrix.
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