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Existence and The Matrix

  1. Jul 29, 2004 #1
    Alright, if any of you have seen The Matrix, then you have heard Morpheous's question to Neo concerning reality. In the matrix, Neo and Morpheous see a red chair and a television. Neo says that none of it is real, based on the logic that it is all of a computer program. Morpheous responds by asking how Neo defines real, i.e., is "reality" what is really there, is it what the neurons in your brain say it is, or is it something else? In other words, are the things in the program real? Now let's take a trip to the past with the famous quote "Cogito ergo sum," "I think, therefore I am." I do not believe that is the complete picture at all. I prefer my own tautology: "That which does not exist does not exist." Using this logic, one can easily see that the chair does indeed exist. It is there, so it must exist. I think that if you can point your finger at it, then it most certainly exists. However, the inverse is not true; one cannot point at something like courage or love, but they certainly exist too. What I am saying is that regardless of whether or not it is a chair, it definitely exists and thus is real.

    The profound question about the chair is now obviously "is it a chair?" This new question raises a very important point. At what point does a chair stop being a chair? I know I've heard something almost completely the same as the previous sentence, but I can't remember where. Anyway, I believe it has to do with substance and accidence, where substance is what its essence is and accidence is what it physically appears to be. Any ideas?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2004 #2
    I don't know what you're trying to get at here (all of it is essentially incoherent). Are you saying: Something is real if and only if it exists?

    Reality is whatever you define it to be. The same thing goes for the "chair". A "chair" is whatever you define it to be. If I want to define the bucket I'm sitting on as a chair, then it is a chair. I don't believe in universals only in standards.
  4. Jul 29, 2004 #3
    Sorry if it is hard to follow; I've never been good at putting ideas into words. My first post is basically intended to be an answer to the question in the movie. After all, they never answered it in the movie and it is an interesting question. In the first paragraph I try to define existence and reality, which I do regard as the same thing. The second paragraph is not about existence and reality but is instead somewhat about the philosophy of using words, if that makes sense. Again, I apoligize if it is difficult to follow.
  5. Aug 7, 2004 #4
    Existence is quite simple actually.
    We as observers can see parts of what exist, "existing" is a word we invented for things that are.

    In other words, it doesn't matter where something exists, or how it exists.
    This text I'm writing consists of several parts, the keyboard keys I type one, the asm language in the computer, the hardware motherboard and the buffer, the light going to the monitor, the pixels in the monitor, as such, all these things exist because they "are".

    As for the sofa, it exists in several parts, but it doesn't matter what parts its made up of, or what it "is", thats seperate from existing.
    You can just say that everything that you can't think of doesn't exist.
  6. Aug 7, 2004 #5
    The concept of existence, both logically and linguistically, is perhaps one of the slipperest ever debated by philosophers. I suggest you might find the Stanford philosophy website illuminating on the issue. If you are willing to accept one tautology, why not a dozen? Why not at least just apply the one to everything?

    Until you can answer this question to your own complete satisfaction, there is no way I can know what kind of answer if any you will find satisfactory.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2004
  7. Aug 7, 2004 #6
    I experienced the answer to this when I was very young. I witnessed it. It was not until I cared in later years that I figured out what I experienced and witnessed. That too ultimately was an experience of a slightly different kind. There will be a proving in the not so distant future(our life times), but that will be meaningless for your experience is all that counts.
  8. Aug 7, 2004 #7
    I cannot say that at all. :redface:
  9. Aug 7, 2004 #8
    i dont see why we have to make everything so difficult.
    to first address the thread starters post

    what is the profound question here exactly?
    the universe is a large mass, a large mass made up of strings, or particles or whatever it might be. however what it is made up of is irrelevant.
    you can do many things with these particles. (lets just say the universes smallest parts are particles for the sake of argument).

    they bind and push eachother away and you get things like a sofa, a computer, a human.
    now, a human has the power of observation. we can SEE the world. we are sentient.
    so you asked about the sofa.

    either the sofa can be a figment of someones imagination, like in the matrix.
    if it is, its a neuron state. an electrical impulse in the brain, a vague semi metaphysical sofa.
    if the sofa exists in the real world its made up of particles, and other particles can interact with it.

    so whats the problem with existence?
    just say "its all a big blob of particles, some things exist on a metaphysical level, in an observers mind, and other things exist as physical particles."

    and then boulderhead. if we proceed with the particle theory.
    every particles that is in the universe /exists/. the meaning of the word exist means /to be/ to be /something/.
    "nothing" is then all those things that DONT exist. the particles do not exist.
    the only way we can put a form or explain nothing is to say that it is the absence of /something/. but literally nothing is all that does not exist.
  10. Aug 11, 2004 #9
    I think that what Sven is really trying to say is that if an object cannot be perceived by atleast one the five senses it is not in existence. As for the second part of the argument... If you can imagine looking at your room and wondering what is really there. You close your eyes, and suddenly realize what you see is there. You open your eyes and what you now perceive as a chair has changed. You might very well wonder if what you see is a chair and, if so, what was that you saw before.

    Sorry about streching reality there, and if this is not even close disregard.
  11. Aug 14, 2004 #10
    Is Nashan's interpretation of your (Sven) post correct?
  12. Aug 14, 2004 #11
    Nashan and Imparticle, y'all are close to what I meant. Everything that exists falls into one of three mutually exclusive catergories:
    1. We can sense it, and we do sense it
    2. We can sense it, but we don't sense it
    3. We can't sense it, so we don't sense it

    Everything that we sense is real, so everything that we sense falls into the first catergory. If we sense something, then it is real; but if we don't sense it, it's not necessarily not real. It's kind of like the classic statement about all squares being rectangles, but not all rectangles being squares. There are some things that are real that we don't sense. That's where the next catergories come in.

    The second catergory would encompass the matrix, on the off chance that it exists. Disclaimer: I am completely sure that the matrix does not exist. Anyway, if it did, then we could theoretically sense the outside world if we got the chance. Chances are we wouldn't sense it, but it would still be real.

    The only example I can think of that fits into the third catergory is quantum foam. It exists, and we have come that conclusion by pure logic, but it is impossible to sense in any way.

    And bola, you are correct; the "matrix" chair and the "real world" chair are just two different but valid ways of existence. The profound question (at least in my view) is what the chair is. By that I mean that it has the accidence of a chair to our viewpoints, but does it have the substance of a chair, the substance of electrons, both, neither, or something else?
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