In The Matrix, the concept of reality is deconstructed by positing that the world, at least Neo’s world, was nothing more than a deliberate illusion projected by machines. In the movie, the ‘human experience’ was nothing more than a mass-simulation of society projected in consciousness, which was run by the “Matrix.” Neo’s discovery of this world propels him on a mission to help others see the truth. The red pill given to him by Morpheus signaled his transition from ignorance to knowledge, from a virtual world to a real one.
Knowledge, then, is what separated the old Neo from the new one: he made a transition in identity when he took the red pill, which can be taken as the precursor to his enlightenment. Upon taking the red pill, he was able to see the world for what it really was, value things that were real, and take actions based on the new information he had. As such, Neo, the red pill and the Matrix parallel elements from Plato’s cave allegory. Socrates’ illustration of a man kept in a cave for all his life and supplied with nothing but shadows and images is like Neo before the red pill: he was ignorant of the world beyond, and lived his life according to the illusion of what he saw. He was in his Platonic cave of illusion. The red pill was the necessary transition from that cave and into the outside world. It made him conscious that there was a world beyond his own, much like how the caveman eventually came to perceive that there was a sky above his cave, and a world beyond it.
Both Neo and the caveman became conscious of a reality after leaving their illusions behind. The red pill, symbolic of the transition from illusion to knowledge, may have given Neo the opportunity to consider that there existed another reality, but it was only an enabling tool at best. It was ultimately Neo’s prerogative to entertain the possibility of such a world existing that made him take the red pill. And this prerogative is similar to Descartes’ exercise in his Meditations: it was when he considered the possibility that his reality was nothing more than illusions—for he claimed that the senses were prone to errors in judgment, so that the reality of false knowledge was inevitable—that he came to believe that true knowledge was not solely based on reality as perceived by the senses. That consideration enabled him to conclude that true knowledge did not originate from withal, but from within consciousness: it was our awareness that gives us knowledge and inspire our imaginations. Moreover, it was the same way with Neo: it was not the red pill that gave him knowledge, but the shift in his consciousness enabled by the transition it brought.
In all three instances, consciousness was presented as the only legitimate source of knowledge. But it was not entirely consciousness alone, for in all three abovementioned cases, consciousness was in actively making sense of the world, whether it was a world of illusion or reality. Therefore, the mind’s capacity to rationalize reality is the true progenitor of knowledge; it is reason that gives us ‘reality’ per se. Thus, there is no reality other than what is enabled and/or perceived by our knowledge-creating consciousness. In this case, knowledge is nothing more than belief justified by our consciousness, as opposed to the idea that knowledge comes from the input of the senses. It is the only knowledge that can be proven, so that we cannot prove for a fact that the events detailed in The Matrix are entirely fictional. As Socrates and Descartes pointed out, we can only operate on what we have experienced, whether these experiences are real or illusory.
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