Imagine what it would be like to see the world differently then all of your peers and colleagues, like you had some superpower or sixth sense that told you: this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We all curse the geniuses that come up with brilliant life-changing inventions and ideas; where does this magnificent insight come from? Why couldn’t we think of it ourselves? Maybe these intellects are destined for greatness. Maybe they possess a unique quality that calls for such knowledge.
Regardless, each enlightened one contributes a specific notion that perceivably changes the world. Benjamin Franklin gave us electricity, Steve Jobs gave us the iPhone, and Plato gave us the ability to recognize the importance of understanding the world through spiritual. Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”, published around 390 BCE, is a metaphorical description of human society, written for the average citizen during that time period.
Plato describes to the people the process of becoming enlightened after living in a world of deceit by using an allegory of ‘prisoners‘ that live in a ‘cave’ who go outside to see the light, including detailed parallels and hidden meanings, I will validate Plato’s idea of a perfect society by comparing his ideas to the ideas depicted in Ursula Le Guin‘s “The One’s Who Walk Away from Omelas” from 1973 and Andy and Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix from 1999, By comparing and contrasting the diverse concepts in each work, I can assess the rationality of Plato’s claims and deem them effective or not in defining the process of enlightenment, “The Allegory of the Cave“ was a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon in The Republic, which consisted of books discussing political and ethical justice in human society and in government as well.
Plato describes a dark, uninviting cave that prisoners live in.
Here, they are chained and cannot move their heads in either direction; they can only see shadows cast on a wall from a fire burning behind them, Few of the prisoners are brought out one at a time outside of the cave, They see the light from the sun and become enlightened with knowledge, The other prisoners are unaware of a world outside of the cave; they do not know that they are living a lie. The educated one comes back into the cave to teach his fellow prisoners of his newfound knowledge; however, they do not wish to hear of what he has to say. The uninformed like the world that they currently live in (Plato 32-3), This metaphor relates to the aspects of the education process of man, as well as the development strategy for the government during that time period Plato’s metaphor can be seen in two different lights, both concerning human spirituality and politics, while the cave in which the prisoners live and see shadows can have different interpretations across different mediums, Plato‘s cave is described as dark place; the truth of education is unknown here because there is no light The prisoners see shadows on the wall of people carrying object.
They think the shadows of the artifacts they see are concrete things because “to them the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images“ (Plato 32) As Socrates explains, the prisoners are living a lie because the shadows that they physically perceive are not tangible, even though they think that it is real. Other stories have similar concepts of the cave and shadows, yet they serve different principals, In “The One’s Who Walk Away from Omelas”, the town that the people live in is ultimately considered the cave. In contrast, Omelas is a bright and happy with “smiles, bells, parades, horses” (Le Guin 37} At first, one might believe that this is the educated world as people are knowledgeable about the town’s secrets. The cave could be considered the closet where they keep and torment a child, as it is dark and desolate Yet after analysis, the real truth lies within this closet while the citizens choose to live a life of lies in their cavei.
heir shadows are unlike the shadows in “The Allegory of the Cave” because they are tangible and real. According to Le Guin, the shadows may be physically real, yet they still trick the people into forgetting the truth, Plato does not consider this point. He believes that the shadows must be actual shadows. He thinks that if what the prisoners perceive as shadows are real things, like in “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, then they will be forced to see the truth and acknowledge it. The citizens of Omelas prove that this will not necessarily happen The shadows serve a different purpose in this story; they distract the people from the truth instead of bringing it to light. Although the town is the complete opposite of the physical cave described by Plato, it is equally a place of deceit The shadows in Le Guin’s story have a different meaning then the shadows in “The Allegory of the Cave“.
In addition, the cave of The Matrix seems to differ in comparison to Plato‘s description In this popular film, Neo learns that he is living in a fake world called the Matrix, 3 computer program Everyone and everything that he thought he knew was a computer simulation created in the future, Morpheus and Trinity teach him the truth about the destruction of Earth, He takes on the life that is destined for him by taking a pill to save the human race. After his first experience outside of the Matrix, where he will live the res of his life, Morpheus wakes up Neo by saying, “welcome to the real world, Neo” (Wachowski). Here, the cave is the matrix, where people do not know of the truth. They are living a lie, believing that the world they live in is the real world. However, the ship that Morpheus’ crew lives in could be considered the cave as well. It is dark, dreary, and they can never escape back to their old life.
In contrast, they know the truth on the ship, which is in the real world, so then the cave must be the matrix where the reality of life is unknown There are many different places in society that could be considered the cave as many people are living a lie. Yet, the physical aspects of the place should not be compared with the physical aspects of Plato’s cave. The place should only be deemed the symbolic representation of the cave if the people living there do not know the truth; it should not be compared by it‘s physical attributes. After interpretation, it is apparent that in all three stories the prisoners reside in the cave. However, some may consider the poor child in the closet a prisoner in Le Guin‘s story. It is trapped in a basement, similar to a prisoner; “there may not even be a kind word spoken to the child” (Le Guin 39), The prisoners in the allegory do not know of the truth.
Therefore, the citizens in “The One’s Who Walk Away from Omelas” must be the prisoners because they live in the ‘cave’ and the child knows of the truth. However, all of the people of Omelas are shown the child. At first they don‘t accept it, but they end up forgetting about it. They know about the truth, This is a characteristic of the prisoners that Plato fails to account for. The prisoners may already know about the truth but refuse to accept it Nonetheless, this is not the case in The Matrix The prisoners in this movie are quite obvious: the people living in the matrix They do not know the truth about what has happened to Earth In contrast, the humans who do know about the truth, including Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity, possess characteristics of prisoners in Plato‘s “The Allegory of the Cave”. Once each of them decides to take the red pill instead of the blue pill, they understand that they will never be able to return to their old life.
They will always know the truth about the world (Wachowski). According to Plato, this wouldn’t be a bad thing because they would be enlightened. However, the humans that know the truth and are trying to save the human race are trapped forever, similar to how the prisoners are trapped from knowing the truth in the cave, Plato did not understand during his time that sometimes the truth could be debilitating for the beholder. Sometimes, the truth that prisoners seek is forced upon them and is not always necessarily ‘good’i In Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”, the prisoner is forced outside of the cave and the truth that they learn is accepting and bright, Plato then enforces the fact that the enlightened one must return home to share his knowledge, “ they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are worth having or not” (Plato 35).
Plato believes that one must return back to society to serve their country, regardless of its monotony. This would be excellent for the community; nonetheless, Plato only applied his theory to political viewpoints. He did not recognize the possibility of negative truth or never returning back home, In “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”, the truth that society is hiding is a hideous secret: they have a child locked up in a basement! Because the sun shines upon this town, the people that live there could be considered positively enlightened by Plato’s standards, Yet here is another example when an aspect in Plato‘s allegory, such as the sun, does not have the same meaning, truth. There is no good truth about this town. Both the prisoners and the Omelas are forced to discover the truth; they do not have a choice. However, some of the Omelas are so appalled by this horrific secret that they leave the town.
They never return. From this text, we can infer that maybe it is better to walk away from a situation when it is too forgone. The prisoner returns back to enlighten his fellow prisoner friends of his knowledge, even though they deny him, He can probably still convince them. The Omelas have lived with this secret for a very long time. The ones who walk away might conclude that there is nothing they can do to save the city or child. In comparison, Wachowski’s The Matrix also has a shocking truth, The world that Neo, the protagonist, lived in his whole life is a lie. His life was a computer generation. Robots controlled the real world (Wachowski), This is not enlightenment like Plato would like to think. This is the scary truth that Plato never mentions. However, there really isn’t a bad truth to consider when regarding spirituality. One can only get closer to happiness and divinity. In The Matrix, that does not seem possible.
As they go on, they all discover more terrifying truths like “the body cannot live without the mind” (Wachowski). Neo learns that if he dies in the matrix, he will die in real life as well. This is important because all of the stress ultimately leads Cypher, one of the crewmembers, to retaliate and make a deal with the enemy. He tells the enemy where to find Morpheus and Neo and in return he will return back to the life he once lived in the matrix (Wachowski), Cypher, like the ones who walk away from Ornelas, abandon the truth for a different life. They both know the truth and choose not to accept it. In society, it is possible for one to walk away and take their knowledge with them, completely abandon the truth, or contribute it to the world. Plato only expresses one of these possibilities Through evaluation, all of them are valid In addition, The Matrix articulates the idea that even though there are rules, they can be broken.
Cypher is not allowed to return back to his original life, yet he does it anyways Plato does not consider the fact that some humans in society might use their powers for evil, They will follow along the path of righteousness but make a wrong mm It is possible for them to go against all odds and break the rules. We cannot expect each author to have the same viewpoints across such a wide span of time, from 390 BCE to 1973 to 1999, I believe that many of the differences brought up in Le Guln’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” and Wachowski‘s The Matrix regarding Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave’i Modern day thinking has taken over. Way back when, Plato might not have had the intellectual depth to understand the potential possibilities of varying outcomes regarding his theory. Although his recipe for a perfect society is not necessarily universal, it was amazing that Plato could recognize the importance of spirituality versus reason based on evidence The mind is a powerful thing that Plato began to unfold, Le Guin and Wachowski simply unveiled Plato’s ideas through new perspectives.