A Question Arises, “What am I?”
Descartes expands on this idea in Meditation II. A question arises, “What am I?” One option he considers in order to solve his question is Common Sense. He claims that he is a physical body, which he understands to be true through his senses, and has been made or animated by some fiery breath. The problem then occurs that if he already doubts his senses and the external world, then his prior analysis is incorrect, thus the fiery breath is entirely hypothetical and speculative. Doubting the senses is the most compelling because as humans, we are so reliant on our senses to guide us in everyday life. Our senses allow us to understand the world around us. The argument he makes in doubting the senses also relates back to Plato’s allegory of the cave. Just as the prisoners in cave are deceived through the shadows they witness, we may also be deceived in what our senses provide for us.
The prisoners can only see and experience the shadows that have been presented before them. They do not experience anything other than what they see, which causes them to believe that the shadows they observe occurs in reality. However, they do not realize that there is something or someone projecting/providing these images they are witnessing. Therefore, is it fair to state that through the use of our senses, we also do not perceive the “shadows” correctly/accurately, just as the prisoners do not? Can our senses deceive us into seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, things/objects that may not have really occurred? The argument thus is that there is a reality outside or external to the senses in which humans perceive. How can we trust that what we perceive is not manipulated? If we are easily manipulated by pigmentation or light, optical illusions, and other such factors, how can we be so reliant on our senses? The argument Descartes makes raises a lot of compelling questions.
In relation to The Matrix, if we were living in the computerized program, where are senses were manipulated and dictated by someone else, would it be possible to recognize that an individual’s senses he experiences contrast the senses of the individual living outside The Matrix? Just as Descartes recognizes that the sensations in his dreams were lively and intense to convince him that his dreams were real, the humans plugged into The Matrix do not understand or realize that their sensations are false as well. The sensations they register from the senses are produced artificially instead of occurring from definite experiences. Until Neo is pulled out of the computerized program, he also did not comprehend that his life was one that was processes in virtual reality (32 minutes 45 seconds). Similar to Descartes, Neo ultimately understands to reevaluate what he perceives and understands from his senses. He realizes the importance of questioning the existence of all things life has to offer.
An example in which the brain may deceive in the individual through the senses occurs in the scene when Neo observes a woman in a red dress. His senses trick him because when he reevaluates his observation, he faces an agent instead of the women (57 minutes 9 seconds). This scene resembles Descartes argument of doubting the senses. Neo automatically accepts what he believes he saw that when he examines his observation, an agent with a gun appears in front of him instead. This is one of Neo’s first experiences towards his understanding of sensory manipulation. As Morpheus explains, “The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy” (56 minutes 38 seconds). Morpheus has already accepted and understands the deceitfulness of The Matrix. Morpheus is the character whose goal and mission is to find the chosen one and enlighten him with reality so that the chosen individual may free society from obedience and submission. He represents the real world untouched by the conforming ideas and the accepted illusion surrounding him. His character represents the idea of individuality so that the audience may see the contrasts between freedom from the oppressors and unawareness of the system.
Morpheus understands that the senses may be impacted and manipulated, while the other members of society do not. Morpheus supports this idea when he states, “…when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save” (56 minutes 43 seconds). He understands that until they save these individuals, they are still part of a system that controls their senses. These individuals are so dependent on their system that they will cause strife and “fight to protect” the system and the ideals that they are implanted with.