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According to Critical Thinking and Ethics, very few people qualify as critical thinkers. Critical thinkers can rationally think about what to do or what to believe. Having an open mind is crucial in achieving this because it gives a person the ability to look at other perspectives and learn from them. Unfortunately, most people are unwilling to accept the fact that he or she may be wrong. Author Charles Faraone states that it may have to do with a subconscious desire to have a consistent flow of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a type of chemical in the brain that makes a person feel happy or excited. This is usually cause by drugs, exercise, junk food, or sex. Studies have shown that being rejected can cause dopamine levels to decrease; resulting in an unhappy person. Besides the subconscious, a person’s reluctance to admit his or her mistakes is understandable on an emotional level. It can be heart breaking for someone to find out that he was wrong about something that he so strongly believed in. The Matrix is a movie filled with philosophical concepts that portray the struggle to question reality and the need to wonder what the truth is.
One of the philosophical concepts that was portrayed in The Matrix was Plato’s Allegory of the cave. The purpose for the Allegory of the Cave was so that Plato could convey the importance of education and the lack of it in humanity. The story is set with people who have been imprisoned in a cave. They have lived there all their lives and do not know anything of the outside world. The only source of knowledge they have are shadows of objects being shown by the light of a fire. These cave dwellers believe that the shadows are sentient beings rather then illusions. Then one day someone finds his way out of the cave and has seen reality for the first time. He sees the light of the sun, colors of nature, and the animals and objects he once knew as mere shadows. As he reenters the cave he has trouble seeing in the darkness as he did before. Once the man goes back into the cave to share his enlightenment with others, he is immediately rejected. He starts to see the cave dwellers as inferior and misguided and vice versa. The others become angry at the truth he is saying and eventually plot to kill him.
In this allegory, the cave dwellers represent people before philosophy. The sun represents knowledge and leaving the cave symbolizes a more accurate understanding of the world. The Matrix portrays this story by questioning how people know what reality truly is. How do people know that tastes, smells, and colors exist? What is “real” could simply be electronic signals interpreted by the brain. It is about people living in a world that turns out to be a lie. Most of humanity are hooked up to a bunch of machines and falsely believe that what they are seeing is real. The matrix symbolized the cave that most people are comfortably trapped in. Unplugging from the machines is the equivalent of walking out of the cave. Towards the end of the film, it is found out that the current matrix is an updated version of what was meant to be a paradise for humans. Most people are unable to accept this as reality since the real world turned out to be a desolate waste land. As a result, many return to the illusion after being enlightened. However, characters like Neo stay and fight against the matrix. Neo is very similar with the man who leaves the cave. Neo has a goal of getting everyone out of the matrix while the man tries to enlighten the others by trying to get them out of the cave. Unlike the man, Neo succeeds and shows everyone the truth about reality.
Rene Descartes is another philosopher whose ideas were conveyed in The Matrix. Descartes was a major skeptic who specialized in epistemology; a branch of philosophy that studies the nature and extent of knowledge. Growing up, Descartes realized that many of the things he used to believe were false. He was unable to know that they were false because of his belief in them. This brought up the exact same question that is the basis of The Matrix: How do we know what we know? How can people know whether their beliefs are true rather than a belief that has not yet been realized to be false? His philosophy was to reject everything until it can be proven to be true without a doubt. One of the beliefs he challenged was empirical; ideas gained through the senses. The senses are typically seen as the most reliable source of information. However, Descartes has pointed out that the senses fail people all the time. Sometimes the brain plays tricks on people and they end up not seeing something clearly. Another instance could be how people are unable to taste properly when becoming sick. Empirical belief is also challenged in The Matrix. People in the false world could see, smell, taste, feel, and hear things perfectly. Despite their senses making everything seem so real, it shows that what people detect could still not truly be there. This ties to Descartes’ other ideology, known as radical skepticism. He claimed that no one can really trust his or her thoughts. Descartes believed that our ideas could have been put into our minds by some sort of “evil genius” who has made an indestructible illusion; with no way of being detected. The only thing he could have no doubt about was that he was a thinking being; maybe a brain without a body. Radical Skepticism is shown in The Matrix as people only truly existing as thinking beings and are being manipulated by people in charge.
The Matrix is a movie filled with philosophical concepts that portray the struggle to question reality and the need to wonder what the truth is. It is a scary thought to consider that everyday life could just be a mere illusion. More people should seek the truth no matter the result; like Plato and Descartes. This is because knowledge gives one growth, strength, and freedom. Without it, everyone could continue to be trapped in a cave or in a machine and never know it.
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