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I Think, Therefore I Whoa!: An Examination Of Cartesian Philosophy In "The Matrix"

1407 words - 6 pages

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 at once attack those principles which supported everything I once believed"1 sounds not unlike a slightly more formal version of similar sentiments uttered by the protagonists of The Matrix, throughout the course of the film. Constant references to Neo as "The One" suggest the a highly individualistic Cartesian struggle for personal identity and worldly understanding. Even during his tenure as a member of an artificial imagined community, Neo attempted to usurp preprogrammed structures through his role as a hacker, foreshadowing his employment of similar methodology when functioning as an almost deity-like saviour of universal truth.The concept of the Matrix itself can also easily applied to the theories of Descarte to illustrate the relationship between man, god, and truth. As creator, the Matrix is representative of Descarte's rather ambiguous views towards religion, reflecting his notion that "I will suppose not a supremely good god the source of truth, but rather an evil genius, as clever and deceitful as he is powerful"2. Like those forced to exist...

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