In 1999, Putnam's thought experiment became the basis of a megahit movie, The Matrix. However, Putnam was not the first to suggest that there may be a problem with perceiving and knowing reality. A number of philosophers have wrestled with this problem. This brings us to your assignment.
Your assignment is to read them and then write an essay with a minimum of 600 words (in MLA, APA, or Turabian format) addressing some of the following questions. You must address the first question, but then you are free to consider any of the others.
While you are free to quote from sources, quotations will not count towards the minimum word count. Late submissions will not be accepted without the instructor's approval. Plagiarism of any kind will result in a 0 for the assignment and may result in being dropped from the course.
A word about the readings: The first reading is a synopsis of The Matrix. You may have seen the movie and so this would function as a review for you. If you haven't seen the movie, you may choose to do so. However, you should know that the movie is rated R for language and violence. It is not necessary to view the movie to fulfill the assignment as the synopsis is enough to consider the questions. The second reading comes from Plato's classic work, The Republic. It is in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon, a brother of Plato, and contains the famous cave allegory. The final reading is a section from Meditation I from Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes who offers some reasons to doubt his senses.
Questions to consider:
1. Compare and contrast The Matrix with the readings from Plato and Descartes. What are some similarities and differences?
2. Can we prove the world we are experiencing is real? How do we know we are not dreaming, living in a Platonic cave, or trapped in some sort of matrix?
3. At the end of the cave allegory, Socrates implies that most men would want to escape the cave and see reality as it really is. However, in his betrayal of Morpheus, Cypher implies that it is better to live in the artificial world of the Matrix. Which is better: the harshness of reality or the "ignorance is bliss" of illusion? Defend your answer.
4. Since much of our knowledge is based on sense experience, and since our senses are imperfect and can be deceived, can we ever be certain that our beliefs are true? Defend or explain your answer.