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How is Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave" similar and different to the 1999 movie The...

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angiegirl95 | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted April 3, 2013 at 11:48 PM via web

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How is Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave" similar and different to the 1999 movie The Matrix? Please provide some examples and quotes to back up your explanation. 

I'm having trouble with this, so someone please help me.

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It is for my grade 12 philosophy class.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 4, 2013 at 1:37 AM (Answer #1)

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In The Matrix, the basic premise is that, in the future, what humans think is reality is actually a simulated reality in cyberspace. This reality has been created by sentient machines and is used to enslave human beings. Humans are encased in fluid-filled capsules. Reality for them is imaginary - as it is created by the intelligent machines. When Neo takes the "red pill," he wakes up and sees the actual reality of his existence. Thus, he escapes the matrix and sees the truth. 

In "The Allegory of the Cave," a similar structure is in place. Plato supposed that we do not see the true reality, the absolute truth. In his allegory, people are chained together, facing a wall inside the cave (similar to humans being encased and chained together with electric cables as they are in The Matrix). They can not turn their heads; they can only see the shadows on the wall of the cave. There is a fire behind them with men carrying figures, statues, and vessels. Thus, the prisoners can only see the shadows of these figures. Any sound coming from the men carrying things before the fire, the prisoners assume the sounds come from the shadows. The prisoner can not see the reality of their existence; they only see the shadows. Plato is speaking/writing allegorically here; but considering his realm of Ideal Forms (ideas and concepts in abstract perfection), there is also a literal sense to the allegory, that people literally do not see true reality in its perfect form. 

Plato suggests that if a prisoner (compare with Neo) is dragged from his chains to see the fire and the figures (and eventually to the True Reality outside of the cave), the prisoner will be overwhelmed at first, but eventually he will become accustomed to his new reality. From that point, the former prisoner will desire to free his fellow prisoners: 

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them? 

Neo (an anagram of "One") is the chosen one. The prophecy says that he will end the war between humans and machines, thereby exposing the truth of the matrix. He seeks truth and is similar to the hypothetical prisoner who escapes from his chains in Plato's allegory. Just as Plato supposed his prisoner would try to free his fellow prisoners, the free humans in The Matrix have a similar goal. 

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