The Matrix vs. Plato's Cave Allegory

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In Ancient Greece, Plato’s endeavor has been to support rational foundationalism: he argues against coherency to the senses, as he believes that faith is the underlying factor of rationality. In this way, he argues, because our knowledge is based on our belief, there is no way we can prove that what we are perceiving with our senses is reality. He asserts tangibility holds us from an imperceptible realm of reason and understanding, and thus, we are prisoners to our senses. Using this logic, Plato creates his Allegory of the Cave, in which he attempts to distinguish between the realms of reality and illusion by comparing different foundations of knowledge. This allegory has often been used in modern media to allow spectators to contemplate the truth of their existence; John Lennon, The Truman Show, and The Matrix have all referenced Plato. The Matrix, however, remains the best modern media provider of insight into Plato’s rationale, the plot and the characters exhibiting the same characteristics he demonstrates in his Cave allegory.

In the Allegory of the Cave, the prisoners watch shadows on the walls that are cast by puppeteers; they assume the shapes to be reality, as opposed to what is actually casting the shapes. Since they have been engulfed in this ‘reality’ since they were children, it is thus the only truth they know. In The Matrix, these shapes on the walls are not shadows, but rather a continuous world that exhibits the same characteristics: the humans in the Matrix are living unaware of the possibility that their sensory information is false. When Morpheus (who, interestingly enough, shares the name with the Greek god of sleep, who sends images in dreams or visions) introduces this idea to Neo, Neo accepts the red pill to learn the truth about his reality, but is disappointed and disgusted by what he finds. Shortly after taking the pill, he is swallowed up by a mirror where he learns that its reflections – much like the shadows on the wall in...
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