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Tok Essay - the Allegory of the Cave and the Matrix

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TOK Essay

The Allegory of the Cave and The Matrix

03 December 2010

Many people think that what we know is not really what is real. This idea is shown through the story of The Allegory of the Cave and the movie, The Matrix. Both the movie and the story are similar (it is said that The Matrix is based on The Allegory) and the main plots of the two can be compared.

In The Allegory of the Cave, the people are chained up by their legs and necks in a cave from an early age, facing a wall. From behind, there are puppet holders holding statues and figures of animals that the prisoners can only see the shadows of. This can be compared to The Matrix where people are locked in the virtual world of a computer program. This idea is a metaphor for the people of today, who are slaves of the world. We could in fact be prisoners, locked in our world where we do not know what is real and what has just been perceived as real.

In The Allegory, the people cannot see everything, they can only see what the puppet holders decide to show them, and even then, they cannot see what is actually real. They see the shadows of the animals, and think they are real, when in fact they are just wooden figures. This is similar to The Matrix, where people can see what the programers decide to show them. This means that perhaps our version of reality is limited too, and that we see only what the people controlling us want us to see. Perhaps what we think is real, is not real at all, but a perception of reality, what we have been taught to know as real. We perceive things as being real, because that is what we have always known. Also, we cannot reason about what is real and what is not, if we cannot even see everything that is real.

Language is also a way of knowing in The Allegory and The Matrix. If a passer-by in the cave had to speak, the prisoners would accept what they have said to be real, because it is all they have ever heard. When speaking to each other, they would take what each other says as real too, because none of them know any different, and they all know the same things. Similarly, when speaking to one another in The Matrix, the people would accept what they have been told through language as the truth and reality. In our world, the way we describe something affects the way we see it. For example, if we had to describe what an apple looked like to a blind person, he would have to take what we tell him as the truth, because it is what he has been told, and he cannot see it for himself.

In The Allegory a prisoner escapes, and is allowed to view the real world. He can now see and hear for himself the real world, instead of being told and shown. His perception of reality has been changed, just like when someone has been freed from The Matrix. Instead of being controlled by a computer program,



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