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A Comparison of Themes in The Matrix and Allegory of the Cave

One of the major themes that is noticeable in the Matrix is “being as such”. When considering the Matrix, Neo lives in complete delusion, a prisoner of artificial intelligence with no real control or perception of reality. He believes he is living in the city, enjoying hot weather when in reality his brain is in a body being tracked and controlled by machines thousands of years later than the time he thinks he exists.

The plotline can be directly referenced to the old philosophical argument “Brain in a vat”. This argument simply asserts that if scientists were to insert a brain into a jar, and add stimulating chemicals that cause the brain to function as normal, the brain and its thoughts would exist and flourish as if it were in a body. The brain could have experiences, relationships, and form normal the normal scenarios of living in a body which ignites the question: What is reality? The brain will be the brain (being as such), it is not more complex than simply “being”. I relate this concept to the phrase “believing is not seeing “ as what we percieve and believe is all that exists is not always the true reality of what actually exists.

In Plato’s Allegory of the cave, this concept is addressed in a unique manner. The men that have been imprisoned in the cave do not know of the world outside of the cave. They know that they exist, and they can see only what is infront of them. As “shadows” pass by them in their travels from behind as well as infront of them they hear their voices yet they cannot differentiate or even understand that the voices are actually coming from behind them as well, rather than just the figures that are visible. They are not able to imagine or aknowledge what they do not knows exist as they are conditioned to focus on the present:

“And suppose their prison had an echo from the wall facing them? When one of the people crossing behind them spoke, they could only suppose that the sound came from the shadow passing before their eyes. No doubt” (Plato 9)

He also mentions the fire that burns behind them, which emits the light that the prisoners are naturally conditioned to. They have not seen brighter light before, and dont even consider its existence. It would difficult to aknowledge that their perception was so blurred to the actual reality of life if someone were to tell them. Plato proves this when he mentions that if the prisoners were to be unchained and forced to turn around and experience the intensity of the true light of the fire, it would cause them pain and perplexion and dilute their understanding of what is real; although it is right infront of their eyes:

“He would need, then, to grow accustomed before he could see things in that upper world” (Plato).

The prisoner is more inclined to return to the way he faced before as what is natural easier to distinguish for him.

Another metaphysical theme in both the Matrix and in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is wisdom. Wisdom is built through knowledge and experience.

“I remember that I am here not because of the path that lies before me but because of the path that lies behind me”(Morpheus in The Matrix Reloaded)

When Neo sees the world for the first time in the Matrix, it is difficult for him to believe as well as percieve. Everything that he thought was reality was no longer relevant to actuality. He uses his own experience and the knowledge he gained from it to wake up the rest of humanity from the dream they are percieving as their reality. This theme in the matrix forms a direct analogy to the wisdom displayed in Platos allegory of the Cave when the prisoner is released from the cave and is blinded by the sun upon leaving. The light is so much stronger and larger than the only light that he ever knew to exist that his eyes physically could not handle it, causing him to be temorarily blinded. He must adjust and experience the light in order to observe the rest of the world that it illimunates. Once his eyes adjust, he immediately wants to return to the cave to tell the others about reality just as Neo did in the Matrix.

Overall, comparing both of these storires sheds a brilliant light upon what is reality and really influences me to stay “present”. What struck me the most is the “Brain in a Vat” concept in the matrix as well as in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Much exists beyond what we can see as well as imagine, and to understand what exists beyond we must develop wisdom using our experience as well as our intelligence.

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