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The Character of Consciousness$
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David J. Chalmers

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195311105

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195311105.001.0001

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The Matrix as Metaphysics

The Matrix as Metaphysics

(p.455) 13 The Matrix as Metaphysics
The Character of Consciousness

David J. Chalmers (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter uses the movie The Matrix to address issues about our knowledge of the external world. On the face of it, the movie raises a version of Descartes' skeptical challenge. Just as I cannot know I am not the victim of a evil genius, I also cannot know I am not in a matrix. And if I am in a matrix, so the challenge goes, most of my beliefs are false: I am not really seeing a table in front of me, I do not really live in Australia, and so on. It is argued that this thought, although initially compelling, is wrong. Even if I am in a matrix, there are still tables and cars, and most of my beliefs remain true. That is, the hypothesis that I am in a matrix is not a skeptical hypothesis, as traditionally thought. Instead, it is a sort of metaphysical hypothesis about the underlying nature of our world. If we are in a matrix, the physical world is more fundamentally a computational world, in which things are made of bits. This is an interesting new metaphysics, but it does not lead to skepticism. The chapter argues that much the same applies to many traditional skeptical hypotheses, such as the evil demon hypothesis and the hypothesis that my life is a dream. This does not provide a complete victory over skepticism, but it nevertheless helps in the project of vindicating knowledge of the external world.

Keywords:   The Matrix, knowledge, consciousness, external world, skepticism

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