In the film The Matrix, we are introduced to a scenario that is very much similar to some of the most fundamental concepts of the philosophical tradition as found in Plato and Descartes, for example. The Matrix is precisely a simulated reality that the individuals who exist in this reality believe to be entirely real, but is instead a falsification and a fabrication. This is a problem philosophically for Plato and Descartes precisely because they believe in a concept of true reality. This objective reality is not manipulated, as in the case of the Matrix or Plato’s cave for example. In Plato’s cave, we are deliberately deceived by those who hold power, to think that the reality of the cave is the true reality.
Instead, it is a carefully manipulated game of charades which hides the true reality. In Descartes, we see a different approach this same problem, this time from the perspective of doubt. In other words, how can we be certain that we know what we think we know? We may be dreaming or the victims of what Descartes calls an evil genius, much like in The Matrix, who manipulates us into thinking that our world is the real world. But these tools of manipulation are not merely philosophical concerns or science fiction scenarios. Consider, for example, the extent to which we live in a matrix. We are constantly bombarded by poltiical rhetoric that states that the Western way of life is the highest way of life, that democracy and capitalism are the best ways in which to organize human society.
However, if we take a critical view to this discourse, we can see that this is merely one reality that is presented to us. The radical inequality of capitalism, for example, shows that there are explicit ethical problems in this model. The rhetoric of democracy is often used by countries such as the United States to impose their dominance over the world. Waking up to the Matrix, or to Descartes’ Evil Genius and Plato’s cave, means, essentially, not accepting the discourse that is presented to us as the ultimate truth and instead becoming critical thinkers who engage with the world around us without merely accepting it, so as to discover the truth.