Plato's Allegory of the Cave and the Movie ‘The Matrix’
As we have been going through the study of epistemology, we started off with an allegory. This was allegory was said by a famous philosopher named Plato. His allegory was called the allegory of the cave. This allegory was an explanation of how mankind live, its life and how our understanding are actually very limited. This is explained is multiple steps which show the evolution of knowledge. ‘The Matrix’ is a visual representation of the allegory. If you were to watch ‘The Matrix’ without studying the allegory, you would be confused. But after reading the allegory you can see lots of similarities. I’m going to be explaining both the move and the allegory and doing a comparison between them.
Plato begins by explaining that all mankind is chained in the bottom of a cave, unable to do things for their own. But there is a shadow of an object which they believe is real because that’s all they have ever known. The object is being held up by someone or something of higher power to show that there is always some in control even if we think there isn’t. The object represents how we perceive our lives. We believe that everything we can see and do is ‘real’. But how do we know that there isn’t something above us pulling all the strings and controlling us. There is no proof that contradict this so it is a possibility. In ‘The Matrix’ it appears to be a normal society, similar to the one we live in. Except this is not like that at all. The Matrix is a computer program where each person was programed into. It was made to be as real as possible and it has been mostly successful. The people who made the Matrix are called puppet-handlers. When you put this in comparison to the allegory the puppet-handlers are the same as the powerful beings holding the object which produces a shadow. The puppet-handlers made the entire program including all the buildings, cars, roads and interactions and the humans believe this is real because this is all they have ever known. They are all being confined and restricted based on this program and no one knows about it except for a select few.
Neo, who is the protagonist of ‘The Matrix’, also lives within the Matrix itself. He is an outcast to the rest of society because he asks questions and begins to analyze his life. Plato’s next part of his allegory is that some will ask questions. They will analyze their surroundings and life itself and realize that something is off with it, there are too many loopholes. Because of all the questioning and examination, it leads him to Morpheus. Morpheus is the head of a rebellious group who is trying to free the human race from the Matrix. We can see the direct comparison between Plato’s allegory and ‘The Matrix’ with the fact that in both there are individuals who asks questions and come to realizations that there is something more than just what they are experiencing.
Plato believes that all the questioning will lead to the escape of this particular prisoner. There are always going to be outsiders and those are the people who question and analyze. Once the prisoner has been freed, he sees everything clearly for the first time. He sees the actual object instead of the shadow and he sees the being that is holding the object. Maybe if we dig deep and try and analyze our lives to the fullest extent, we could get a new understanding or have a new perspective on life. In ‘The Matrix’, when Neo meets Morpheus, he begins to tell him there is an outside world and all the questions you have are all factual. He explains what the ‘real’ world is like and Neo wants to be a part of it. So, he takes the red pill and everything changes. After a rejuvenation process, he wakes up in a capsule. He breaks open his capsule and uses his eyes for the first time for real. The only thing he sees around him is rows upon rows and columns upon columns of bodies. It’s an endless field of comatose bodies trapped in the Matrix. He also sees that everything is controlled by robots and there is no actual human race. Here is another comparison between the allegory and the movie. In both scenarios the prisoner escapes and he is finally able to experience real life without boundaries or restrictions.
As Neo begins to use his entire body and get actual function of his brain things start to go south. Since his body was so used to being in the capsule and being in a comatose state, he is unable to function properly. He has also received life changing information and it is really hard for his brain to comprehend it. He ended up going into shock and fainted because of the overload of information and how drastic of a change it was. In Plato’s allegory it speaks of a similar idea. He stated that once the prisoner is freed and learns of the new information and about what is truly happening, he won’t be able to handle it. The change in his knowledge and understanding of everything he has ever believed in is so dramatic that he is unable to accept it and comprehend it all at once so he passes out. The allegory continues with the fact that once the prisoner wakes up, we won’t believe what he saw and learned and will want to go back to the cave. His mind isn’t able to accept this knew knowledge so it is just easier to go back to the cave where everything is much simpler. The same idea happened in ‘The Matrix’ with Neo. After he woke up, he was all discombobulated and wasn’t able to make straight forward thoughts. His brain kept trying to wrap itself around the new information he acquired but he wasn’t able to. He said that he wanted to go back so it would all just be simpler but in the end he stayed. We also hear a quote from cypher which states, “I think the Matrix can be more real than this world”. This shows that even a person who is used to being freed and understands the truth still believes that the fake world is better because it is simpler and easily comprehensible.
Finally, Plato says that once the prisoner is freed and understands all the new information, he will want to share this information with the rest of the prisoners. He doesn’t want to be the only one who knows the real truth and wants to free everyone else. But the issue is that the prisoners aren’t at the same mental capacity as he is and don’t want to accept this new information. They believe that the world they are living in is the truth and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. No matter how hard he tries he is unable to free any of the other prisoners so he leaves them. This is very similar to what occurs in ‘The Matrix’. Once Neo comes to terms with the new information and accepts his new reality, he wants to go back into the Matrix try and free the rest of mankind. He learns hundreds of different programs so that once he enters, he will be well equipped. He puts in as much effort as possible but Morpheus steps in and says, “You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it”. This proves that just as Plato stated you are not able to save everyone and most people won’t be able to comprehend what you are saying and would rather just keep things the way they are.
The allegory of the cave and ‘The Matrix’ are two important items which are closely related. The allegory was composed a long time ago by a Greek philosopher named Plato and this was his way of comprehending life. He created this allegory to teach anyone who read it that we must think and analyze everything that we do and we must try and connect to, as much as possible with our lives. ‘The Matrix’ is a visual reproduction of Plato’s allegory to make it easier for us to comprehend what he is trying to teach. But the main idea that both of these things teach us is that a life which is unexamined is not worth living.
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