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If it was a dream, then the programmers clearly attempted to incorporate background realism. For example, the characters get dirty; like sweat, dirt is not something that the programmers would need to create to have realistic humans, but there is dirt on people. If one accepts the premise that the entire story is a dream, it is not difficult to take an additional step and assume that the programmers would think to have a character, who is supposed to appear nervous, sweating while he was on screen.
7. There are clues throughout the movie that the hero could use to discover whether his experiences were veridical or not. Perhaps the best clue is foreshadowed at the beginning of the movie and comes at the end of the movie; the appearance of the blue sky on Mars. Having never been to Mars, I have to rely upon my own conjecture, but I am under the impression that a blue sky on Mars would be impossible. If one is in a society where Mars has been colonized, an element that almost certainly must be true in the story whether or not the rest of the story is a dream or reality, because the company could not implant a realistic fantasy about an adventure on Mars were it not colonized, then one would have that knowledge. If a blue sky on Mars is, indeed, impossible, then Quaid could use that knowledge to investigate his dream. While that does not exactly address continuity, it does address the lack of reality in dreams that Descartes discusses. Dreams frequently fail to adhere to known laws of nature, so that, if it were not a dream, it would defy everything Quaid has known as reality. Moreover, the fact that the blue sky does not appear until the end of the movie demonstrates a lack of internal continuity, suggesting a dreamscape.
8. The characters in Inception and The Matrix approached their worlds in two very different ways. In Inception, the characters were intentionally choosing to leave reality and enter the world of dreams; he chose to escape into fantasy, thus needing a manner of keeping touch with reality. He chose the spinning top, but a scene in the film shows other dreamers choosing other touchstones. In contrast, in The Matrix, the character has not intentionally entered the world of dreams; he was captured in the world of dreams and has entered the world of reality. Because, once he is awake, he is aware that he is "dreaming" when he enters the matrix, Neo-would not seem to need that same type of touchstone. However, having been conditioned that the matrix is reality, he falters in his belief that, in that reality, he can do things that are beyond his capability in the real world. Another significant difference is that, in Inception, the characters can manipulate the external environment of the dream, not just their interactions with the dream world (for example, the creation of the tsunami), which differs from how characters can interact with the matrix.
Locke begins with the belief that no person could really mistake a dream for reality. He thinks that there is a distinction between something conceived of by the mind and something experienced in actual reality. Therefore, Locke would seem to reject the notion that a person would need an external element, such as the spinning top in Inception, to distinguish dreams from reality. Hume looked at vivacity as an independent variable that could impact "thoughts" and how they interacted with reality, so that a sufficiently vivacious thought could become reality for the individual, without ceasing to be a thought. The clearest example for Hume would have been a person experiencing a mental illness. Therefore, Hume would have found having an element, like the spinning top, to remind one when something is a dream or reality as a helpful element.
9. It appears that we are supposed to believe that Neo-has learned to ignore his education prior to leaving the Matrix and recognize that those things he has learned to be realities, such as the laws of physics, simply do not apply to him when he is in the matrix, though they are applicable when he is not in the matrix. What he has learned is to be mindful of the fact that he is in a dream at the time that he is dreaming. This is something that Locke, Hume, and Descartes all discuss in varying degrees, the ability of the dreamer to recognize a dream while it is occurring. However, while the philosophers discuss that phenomenon, they honestly seem more concerned about being able to reassure themselves that what occurs when they are awake is actually happening during wakefulness. To be aware, while dreaming that the apparent reality is actually part of an imaginary construct, and to be dreaming are similar experience, but they are also fundamentally different. To be aware that reality is an imaginary construct, but that certain rules will still apply in that construct is a further step. For example, Neo-learns to bend and change "reality" in the matrix, but can still be injured, even fatally, in the program if he ceases to understand that it is not reality.
10. I think the answers to those questions would be strongly based on the individual who answered the question and cannot be answered in a blanket manner. Some people react very negatively to stress, danger, and anxiety; for some people those elements are exciting, for other people they are distressing. In Total Recall, it certainly appears that Quaid would prefer to live in his dream life than in his waking life; his normal reality does not contain sufficient anxiety to meet his personal needs for stimulus. In Inception, Cobb seems content to live in dreams, but for a different reason that what motivates Quaid in Total Recall; Cobb seems to enjoy the element of absolute control over externalities that he has in dreams, which simply is not possible in reality. For them, living in a dream could be more enjoyable than reality. There appears to be a fundamental difference between those movies and The Matrix. Rather than entering into a dream state, Neo-wakes from a forced dream state; he is a slave in reality but a freeman in his imagination. Choosing between freedom and enslavement is not the same choice posited by Nozick in "The Experience Machine." In that argument, Nozick presupposes that humans are free, after all, they are free to make the choice to use the machine or not use the machine. Therefore, Cypher choosing to live as a slave seems to be irrational. However, when one considers the real trade-offs that human beings make every day in order to increase their personal comfort, it becomes clear that humans are willing to accept limitations on personal liberty in exchange for comfort and security. Cypher's choice may not be admirable, but not being brave or admirable is not the same thing as being irrational.
11. Of course, the most significant difference between the victims in The Matrix and the brains in a vat discussed by Putnam is that the humans in The Matrix have bodies and are not simply brains. The brain in a vat scenario removes the possibility of sensations from the outside world, which is not removed in The Matrix, and that difference is relevant. For Putnam, the brain in a vat could never have a true awareness of being a brain in a vat. It lacks the means to perceive outside stimuli in that way. This is connected to the lack of a body. If it becomes aware of that notion, it is because of the outside source of information, which could be false, making it impossible for the brain to come to that conclusion. However, once disconnected from The Matrix, the person becomes capable of using all of their normal means of encountering stimuli. Neo-has eyes, so he can physically observe the other humans in their vats, a possibility denied to the brain.
As to whether the victims of matrix-induced hallucinations can still have thoughts about an external world, the answer seems to be yes. There does not seem to be any reason that somehow real perceptions from people's senses could not sometimes break through into the artificial reality. The movie does not enter into an in-depth discussion of those break-throughs, though one would imagine that they are perceived as dreams by the victims. Dreams of being suspended in water or waking feelings of hopelessness and depression might be ways that the dreamers would process these external stimuli.
Section 2: Philosophy of Mind
1. Of course, the most significant philosophical problem hinted at in the opening is the idea that Samsa has woken from a dream. The stage is set to understand that Samsa has been experiencing unsettling dreams that night. In fact, the word "unsettling" is very significant. Samsa…[continue]
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