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Introduction to Philosophy (DLSU_MAD)

Topic: Epistemology (Philosophy of Knowledge) and Metaphysics (Philosophy of Reality)

Discussion Questions (Waking Life/Matrix)

1. The couple lying in bed together discusses a version of Chuang-tzu’s dream

paradox: a man dreams he’s a butterfly, but he might really be a butterfly
dreaming that he’s a man. The young woman thinks that her waking life might be
the memories of an old woman in the last moments of her life. The young man
suggests that recent studies of the brain activity of sleeping or dying people
show that a lifetime of experiences could be condensed into a few actual
minutes of activity. What does this say about our waking/dream life? If this is
true, what are its implications?
2. The second half of the film Waking Life focuses on lucid dreams and explores
the philosophical issue of appearance/reality, much the same way that Descartes
in the Meditations raises the question of whether he is dreaming. One character
argues that, “to the functional system of neural activity that creates our
world, there is no difference between dreaming a perception and an action, and
actually the waking perception and action.” How does this explain the nature of
we call reality?
3. After Neo is expelled from the Matrix, Morpheus gives him the following lecture
on appearance/reality: “What is real. How do you define real? If you're talking
about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then
real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain. This is the world
that you know. The world as it was at the end of the twentieth century. It
exists now only as part of a neural-interactive simulation that we call the
Matrix. You've been living in a dream world, Neo. This is the world as it
exists today.... Welcome to the Desert of the Real. What does this say about
the reliability of the senses? How do we then define what is real?

The Cartesian Exercise

1. Reflect upon all the sorts of things you believe to be true then make a list.
2. Ask yourself how you know that these things are true. Or, you might ask how you
came to believe the things you believe.
3. You believe so many things that it would be virtually impossible to
individually examine each one of your beliefs. But notice that there are only a
few methods by which you acquired your beliefs. Perhaps most of your beliefs
come about through conditioning by various people in a position of authority:
parents, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, celebrities, and so on. Now
ask yourself: have you ever been deceived by any of these methods? If so, then
throw out all beliefs derived by that method.
4. The idea, then, is instead of considering each belief individually, find the
principles on the basis of which the beliefs were acquired, test the general
principles rather than the particular beliefs, and throw out any and all
principles that led to any erroneous beliefs. If there is some method by which
you acquired a false belief, that method is unreliable.
5. After performing steps 1 - 4, list down the methods you think are reliable, and
the beliefs that you think are certainly true.