Reading the movie reviews for one of my favorite films “The Matrix” I’ve found several assumptions that the idea of the film was taken from one of Plato’s works, namely, the allegory of the cave. I decided to investigate this assumption and discovered interesting facts about the allegory itself and its meaning in modern culture.
The myth of the cave is a famous allegory used by Plato in his treatise “The Republic” to explain his doctrine of ideas. Chained people are sitting in a cave with no light. There is a fire above and behind them. Between them and the fire there is a stone wall, on which the “marionette players” are moving “all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials”. Their words are distorted by the echoes of the cave. The chained people can look only forward and see huge black shadows on the walls. Prisoners are looking at the shadows on the wall, but those are not even the shadows of real people and animals, and shadows of the figures are made by the light of the fire, and not by the sun. The prisoners do not realize that they are captives, and know only of the world that they have seen all their lives.
But one day, one of the prisoners is released from the bonds and he leaves the cave
The daylight blinded him and caused severe suffering, but having adapted to it, he was surprised to see the real world, the sky, the sun and the stars. Instead of staying in the outside world for selfish reasons, the prisoner returns to the cave to tell the others of what he had seen. But in the darkness he is blind again. The prisoners think that he left the cave, went blind and lost his mind. And when he tries to convince them to free themselves from the shackles and go up to the light, they kill him as a dangerous lunatic.
For Plato, the cave is a sensual world in which people live
Like the prisoners of the cave, people believe that they know the true reality through the senses. However, this life is merely an illusion. Only vague shadows can come here from the real world of ideas.
The allegory clearly brings to mind the story of Neo, freed from the Matrix to see the desert of reality. Like Plato’s prisoner, Neo discovers that he is chained or, more precisely, tied by black cables, by which the show of shadows created by the Matrix is broadcasted to his brain. No one knows who frees the prisoner in the allegory of the cave, but in “The Matrix” it was made by Morpheus. This is another interesting analogy, since Morpheus is the god of dreams in Greek mythology. I’ve also discovered that this allegory is relevant for today’s realities of the world of TV and Internet, when people are given information from unknown sources and they believe it easily.