Introduction to Philosophy. Spring 2017

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1 Introduction to Philosophy Spring 2017

2 Elements of The Matrix The Matrix obviously has a lot of interesting parallels, themes, philosophical points, etc. For this class, the most interesting are the religious and philosophical points The movie contains obvious parallels to religions, most primarily to Christianity and Buddhism The Christian imagery is obvious in the One coming to save humanity, dying, rising from the dead, and then ascending (along with the various names, etc.) The salvation message seems to more parallel some of the Gnostic Christian sects in which special knowledge is what sets you free Despite all these images, the most obvious parallel is to Buddhism, specifically in the human predicament and salvation.

3 Elements of The Matrix For Buddhism, this world is an illusion created by our minds (mainly by our desires, which leads to suffering) and we need to learn to reject this reality to no longer see distinct objects as distinct, but to understand the underlying unity/non-reality of things. I.e. There is no spoon (Zen Buddhist Koan) This is what Neo does in the scene where he comes back from the dead. He finally sees the unreality of this world, and so transcends the rules of the Matrix. He reenters the matrix solely to bring this knowledge to people.

4 Elements of The Matrix In addition to the religious/salvific claims, there are a number of interesting philosophical issues raised in the movie (e.g. human nature, free will, etc.) First and foremost, there is the parallel to the Descartes dreamer argument Unlike with some dreams, we have no reason to think we could tell the difference between the Matrix and reality as we think we perceive it. Furthermore, with the Matrix, it becomes abundantly clear that science has not and will not bring us any closer to escaping skepticism whatever we discover about the senses cannot let us transcend the sense to perceive reality directly. Also, the Matrix incorporates the intentional deceit, leading us to be that much more questioning of the world

5 Elements of The Matrix A second important philosophical point concerns the importance of truth Would you take the red pill? What is the value of truth? Is it always worth knowing? What do you say to those who would rather be happy and ignorant? This leads nicely into a third point What is real? Most people assume that reality has to be something behind our perceptions, but why think that? What is wrong with Cypher s claim that the Matrix is more real than the outside world? Idealism is the view that all that is real is perceptions. This view escapes Descartes skepticism because it couldn t possibly be the case that there were substances behind our perceptions.

6 Escaping Skepticism Faced with the skeptical problems we have seen, there are a couple options One could deny that there is a mind-independent reality (a la Buddhism and possibly Kant) and see this knowledge are freeing us One could deny that there is a mind-independent reality because reality is whatever is perceived (idealism) One could embrace skepticism and say that while we would like to believe there is a reality out there, we simply cannot know whether there is anything beyond our immediate perceptions. If all these options seem bad, then one needs to find a way to escape skepticism to show that we can have knowledge of a mind-independent reality.

7 Descartes way out In Meditation 2 Descartes concludes that he cannot doubt his own existence or the contents of his own mind This shouldn t be shocking, since the things we know best do not come from the senses but from the intellect (wax example) Descartes is thus showing that he is a rationalist (a person who believes not all knowledge depends on the senses) Having found his Archimedean principle, he then wants to show that the various skeptical hypotheses he raised in Meditation 1 do not occur. Meditations 3-5 are attempting to build up all our knowledge from this one foundational principle

8 Descartes way out 1. There is a God (which he proves from the Trademark argument) 2. God is necessarily morally perfect (by analysis of the essence of God) 3. Deceiving is a moral imperfection (again by analysis of morality) 4. God is not a deceiver (from 2, 3) 5. God created me and gave me my basic faculties (Follows from Trademark argument) 6. If the basic faculties I have are deceptive, then God is a deceiver (from 5) 7. The basic faculties I have are not deceptive (by MT from 4, 6) 8. If my basic faculties are not deceptive, then I can only be deceived if I misuse them 9. I can only be deceived if I misuse my basic faculties (by MP from 7, 8) 10. If I withhold belief on all things which I do not clearly and distinctly perceive, then I will not misuse my basic faculties. 11. I can know anything I clearly and distinctly perceive (from 1, 9, 10) 12. I clearly and distinctly perceive various things in the external world. 13. I know things about the external world (from 11, 12)

9 Moore s way out G. E. Moore ( ) provides a famous response to external world skepticism. His response is to endorse common sense reasoning for there being an external world. His proof: 1. Here s a hand. 2. Here is another hand. 3. Therefore, there are hands (from 1, 2) 4. If there are hands, then there is an external world (that is the nature of a hand). 5. Therefore, there is an external world (MP from 3, 4). Is this a good proof? Is it really this easy to refute skepticism?

10 Moore s way out There is an argumentative move here that has subsequently been referred to as the Moorean shift. Consider the following skeptical argument: (1) If we don t know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming, then we don t know whether or not there is an external world. (2) We don t know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming. (3) We don t know whether or not there is an external world (MP). Descartes and many others try to prove that 2 is false; we in fact are not in the skeptical scenarios

11 Moore s way out Moore does not attempt to start by showing that skeptical scenarios like the Matrix do not occur Instead Moore accepts the first premise, but shifts it from a modus ponens to a modus tollens (the reverse would also be a Moorean shift). That is, Moore s arguments take this form: (1) If we don t know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming, then we don t know whether or not there is an external world. (2 ) We know that there is an external world. (C ) We know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming (MT).

12 Comparing the Arguments Descartes: (1) If we don t know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming, then we don t know whether or not there is an external world. (2) We don t know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming. (3) We don t know whether or not there is an external world (MP). Moore: (1) If we don t know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming, then we don t know whether or not there is an external world. (2 ) We know that there is an external world. (C ) We know that we are not in the matrix or dreaming (MT).

13 Moore s way out Rather than trying to reject premise 2 so that we can deny the conclusion, he uses the denial of the conclusion to reject premise 2. Moore s reasoning is that he is far more certain of the fact that he has hands than he is about philosophical claims about what is required for knowledge This is the Moorean shift. Is this fair? Can I say I know I have hands even though I do not know that I am not dreaming?

14 Moore s way out If one accepts Moore s claim, then there is an interesting consequence concerning the nature of knowledge. Consider: (KK) For any proposition P, if one knows that P, then one is in a position to know that one knows P. Moore s argument entails that (KK) is false

15 Knowing and Knowing that you Know In order to know I have hands, I must have hands, I must believe I have hands, and my belief must be based on some good reason. In order to know that I know that I have hands, I must believe that I know it, I must actually know it, and my belief that I know it must be based on good reasons. A reason to think that I know that I have hands would be a reason to think I am not in the Matrix, which I do not seem to be able to give. Thus, even though I know I have hands, I am not able to know that I know that I have hands, since that higher order knowledge would require me to rule out skeptical scenarios. Thus (KK) is false)

16 Moderate Foundationalism Basic beliefs are those which are not believed in virtue of any other beliefs (are not justified by your other beliefs) Properly basic beliefs are basic beliefs which you are warranted in accepting without justification. Descartes thinks that only beliefs we are certain about can be properly basic On the other hand, if we have given up (KK) then we can be open to moderate foundationalism which says that a belief may be properly basic even if false For instance, it could be that our visual faculty gives us properly basic beliefs, and this is the case even though it sometimes gives us false beliefs and we are not always in a position to know when it gives us false beliefs. While remaining foundationalist (in that it builds up beliefs from a base of beliefs accepted not on more basic beliefs) this view seems to be the exact antithesis of what Descartes wanted, since we are reasoning from foundations we don t know to be true

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