Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Waking from Dogmatic Slumber without The Matrix

with 2 comments

by weiner

Immanuel Kant supposedly said that reading David Hume roused him from his “dogmatic slumber.” I used to say that reading Rene Descartes‘ famous Meditations woke me from the dogmatic slumber induced through years of rote learning. Keep in mind, I read the Meditations back in 2000 for my modern philosophy class at Dawson College. True, The Matrix* had already come out in 1999, but I didn’t see it until 2001, when it was required viewing for my intro to philosophy class freshman year (I recall being one of about five out of 100 students who hadn’t yet seen it). So even before I heard Keanu Reeves say “whoa” as Neo (not too different from saying “whoa” as Ted “Theodore” Logan), I began to imagine the solipsistic universe that Descartes’ endless doubting led me to.

I think Descartes has that effect on a lot of people. In his lucid, friendly style, he introduced accessible concepts: the ball of wax, the evil genius, even his famous dictum, cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am.” He wrote clearly what so many adolescents have been thinking for so long: How do I know I exist? Is anything else out there? Am I dreaming or awake? How do I know reality is real? For those of us who hadn’t yet seen The Matrix, Descartes put to powerful prose ideas that were familiar yet just out of our reach. He made thinking interesting in a way that it had not been before.

I abandoned philosophy for history a few years after my own meditations, but reading Descartes made me consider the life of the mind a pretty worthwhile way to live.

*Incidentally, while the first Matrix movie is pretty good (the other two are shit, save for the unintentionally hilarious casting of Cornel West), in 1990, Total Recall dealt with similar Cartesian themes in a far more intelligent and entertaining manner.

Not only is it based on a Philip K. Dick short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” it also features Arnold Schwarzenegger kicking ass on Mars.  One of the best and most underrated sci-fi movies of all time.

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Written by David Weinfeld

March 19, 2010 at 21:36

2 Responses

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  1. nice post, very nice.

    steve

    March 19, 2010 at 22:58

  2. […] Waking from Dogmatic Slumber without The Matrix […]


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