The Matrix And Philosophy: Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave

Categories: Plato

Watching a movie can sound like a typical and normal activity nowadays. Naturally, families and people spend more time selecting the film to see that thinking about the complex meaning that this entails. In order to emerge ourselves in the film’s situation, the world of cinema plays with our mind and body. This unconscious game with us is seldom noticed and we just keep our eye in the film and enjoy it. However, what would happen if we stopped for a moment to analyze these previous perceptions? Will they be the same? Absolutely no, most individuals are not aware of the significant and valuable consequences of trying to be more observers and analytics in cases as movies or general media.

“Seeing beyond what is easily visible”. It’s not necessary to be a philosopher to do it, this essay won’t pretend that everyone thinks or acts like a philosopher, albeit it will demonstrate the profits of being critical and having another conception of what we perceive as truth and reality.

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Being more specific, “The Matrix” is an excellent illustration of the complexity of the understanding of our daily life. This is because of the fact that a large list of religious, mythological and analytical issues have been shown in the movie. This essay will provide an explanation of the uses of philosophical ideas in the film “Matrix” and its relation to the “allegory of the cave” by Plato in order to explain how the reality can be understood. Consequently, it will be divided in the following main concepts: “allegory of the cave” by Plato, the definition of the philosopher, the Jewish religion, “the red pill and the blue pill” idea and its exemplification in current life.

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First of all, it is relevant to explain what means “Matrix”. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English (2018) generally, it is an environment or material in which something develops. Mathematically it is a special case of dimensional arrays which indicates the existence of two different dimensions called rows and columns and consequently each element has a determined space and role. In this order, this term can reflect the direct relation that the actual definition has with the “The Matrix” movie. The feature depicts the painful and problematic process of acceptation of the true existence for Neo, the principal character. Through the instructions and lessons of Morpheus and Trinity, he noticed that the world which he perceived as real was actually completely fake known as “Matrix” controlled by intelligent Machines. “The Matrix is the most philosophical film ever made, every step of its fast-paced plot pivots on a philosophical conundrum”.

Plato was really interested in images and illustrations; he often used those to describe the relation between the forms and perceptible things. Most well-known in “The Republic” Plato uses a metaphor of projected shadows to explain how we can make the transition from focusing on the forms to focusing on the real world,

“Imagine, he says, slaves chained in a cave so that they can see only a wall, which is illuminated by the light of a fire, close to which objects are carried so that their shadows fall on the wall. They would take these shadows to be real things. However, if their chains were broken, they would turn and recognize the objects themselves as the originals of the shadows: a real book is more book-like than the shadow of a book. But until they had done this, they would not know what real things, as opposed to opposing to shadows, were”.

In our case, we live in the movie theatre of the everyday life and we are able to know the presence of many things, although we find it hard to know what they essentially are. This kind of mental challenge is also described in “The Matrix” or even in Plato’s words: “world of dreams”. In which the so-called reality turned out to be the world of shadows and the “awakening” indeed is the crude reality. This allegory by Plato is still being present in nowadays cinema. While projected images pass in front of us, we are sitting contemplating them with attention. However, a relevant distinction between the prisoners and modern cinema exists. Plato’s captives are not aware of the issue that darkness, shadows and unreality were only their own idea of truth. On the other hand, despite the advanced technology in the movie, the truth and what it is seen on the screen are able to be distinguished. Neo had to pass through a series of, first decisions and second complications, in order to forsake his habitual conception.

The slave who lives in the cave or even Neo before the “awakening” represents a regular person. Somebody who just follows rules, obeys laws, repeats the quotidian action and is aware of superficial problems. On the contrary, the exemplification of the real philosopher is seen through the slave who takes off his chains or Neo after his “awakening”. Gunkel (2008) states that “Chains can be understood as everything that binds us and prevents discovering the truth directly”.

The philosopher is defined as the man who first escapes the cave. “The one among us who comes to realize that we are all in some way living lives of illusion, held captive by shadows and chains, not of our own making”. Morpheus during “The Matrix” it is that one who did it. Besides, the philosopher, the wise, has a paramount role in general. “He or she tries to free as many of his/her fellow captives as possible, liberating them to live in the broader, brighter realities that lie beyond the narrow confines of their customary perceptions”. Its goal is to free us from illusion and to help us get a grip on the most fundamental realities. This figure is not only always trying to seek the pure or sincere but also allows others to reach the same. It is a model who guides who also decides to make the effort to wake up. Morpheo also is a vivid image of this task of philosophy, because he guides to Trinity, Neo and other to the awakening.

Furthermore, another association that it is made it is the pain of realizing the deceit in which you have been living most of the time, or in fact, of life. In order to join Morpheus and Trinity in their experience looking for the real, Neo must be born again. In his case he suffered various aches, for instance he had to be in a long recovery due to the fact that he had never used really his body, his muscles were extremely weak, he does not have hair and his eyes were irritated at the beginning because, according to Morpheo, he never uses it truly. Likewise, in Plato’s allegory the slave who go out troubled similar illness too. The exposure of a true reality makes face challenges that just someone who absolutely is looking for the truth is able to support. Unfortunately, sometimes the pain is not just physical. In some occasions, it is present emotionally when the philosopher attempts to expose the truth and he or she is ignored or portrayed as a liar, manipulator or ignorant. Comparatively, in the last years, some cases made reference to this rejection. Social leaders famed as Nelson Mandela, Jaime Garzon or Mahatma were treated unfairly because of their controversial behavior. At the end, they were not wrong at all.

At this point, the previous idea allows to this essay introduce the “Jewish religion”, which also bears alliance with “The Matrix”. The main belief of this particular doctrine is the existence of a unique omnipotent God who desires people be just and loving. In the same way, Jewish people affirm that in God there are three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three are equal to each other, support each other and complete each other. This doctrine of the Trinity assures that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is also God, and that, nevertheless, there is only one God. The Matrix is also a spiritual film, saturated with religious symbolism.

The story goes deep into the Jewish religion, in which Neo represents Jesus. Neo's mission is to reveal the truth that will set humankind free. And if that is not enough, he gives his life for others and then rises from the dead more powerful than ever. He even ends the movie ascending to heaven. Moreover, Trinity is a clear reference to the Holy Spirit. She stays next to Neo and Morpheus; she obeys them, supports them and takes care of them in a certain way as the Holy Spirit. Also, Morpheus makes the representation of God. He knows the truth, he is able to see the seemingly invisible to others, he steers the new true way.

Equally surprising, “Morpheus” comes from morphe and in Greek mythology was the god of dreams; his name currently looks like “morphine”, which is a drug that induces sleep and freedom from pain and “morphing” which is used to change smoothly from one image to another by small gradual steps using computer animation techniques. Furthermore, “Neo” comes from néos and means “new, young”. Linguistically “Neo” is a prefix which denotes something current. In the religious context “Trinity” is the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. Each character poses a wonderful meaning that curiously manages to describe certain fragments of the personality and function that they have in the film.

It could also be said that Morpheus handles Neo's destiny. The beginning of this unimaginable crossing is remote to the scene where he made Neo choose between the red pill and blue pill. But, what is the meaning of those? Why was this decision extremely relevant? The pills represent an election we have to make between knowing the truth of reality (red pill), which is harsh and difficult or maintaining our complete ignorance of the world (blue pill), which is way more comfortable. "You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”. – Morpheus to Neo. If we lead this to a philosophical perspective, we are faced with the deeper meaning of the selection. The dilemma is: do we agree with living an ignorant life as long as we are happy? Or will we prefer to search and find the truth even if it will be difficult to assume? It is a personal option which each society or individual make every day.

Our current life is directly reflected in “The Matrix” too, no matter the date, year or century, Matrix should continue to be considered as a true example of how philosophy is present everywhere. “the idea of reading “The Matrix” is not as containing a consistent philosophical discourse, but as rendering, in their very inconsistencies, the antagonisms of our ideological and social predicament”. This how Matrix should be denoted, it is more than simple forms of philosophy, it’s also how the reality is comprehended dividing the world into two opposes sides. It is good or bad, high or low, heaven or hell, new or old, true or false. Everything tends to have two faces. “To be or not to be”. However, normally the options exist but in the end, each one leads to an opposite extreme. Reading the news, selecting which information is relevant, which issues deserve attention and time,social movements, revolutions, simple things as preferences, behaviors, likes, inclinations, the way we have to get home, what we eat, what we think, absolutely everything, no matter how minimal and insignificant it seems, could take us to an endless number of "realities".

It should be noted that like any movie, any artistic piece, just a glance is not enough. Revising each detail could lead in discovering much more essential information. The option to consider the background of the truth as presented in the film, not just a simple story, but as a proof that we have a choice. “The Matrix” and its philosophical issues had been compared and analyzed. Aspects as religion, Greek mythology, “red pill and blue pill” idea and lastly Plato’s allegory of the cave were explained. We either could accept our roles as slaves of the machine, or we can reinvent ourselves as philosophers as the Matrix style. The first and last day of the rest of the life need not begin and end in Plato’s Cave. Thereby is how life should work.

Works cited

  1. Brown, R. (2004). The Matrix and Plato's Cave Allegory. Philosophy Now, 47, 19-21.
  2. Chalmers, D. J. (2005). The Matrix as Metaphysics. In C. Grau (Ed.), Philosophers Explore the Matrix (pp. 63-82). Oxford University Press.
  3. Conard, M. T. (2009). The Matrix Trilogy: Machines and Romanticism. Lexington Books.
  4. Haber, K. (2003). Exploring The Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present. St. Martin's Press.
  5. Irwin, W. (2002). Philosophy and The Matrix. Open Court.
  6. Oxford University Press. (2018). Oxford Dictionary of Current English.
  7. Taylor, P. A., & Harris, J. L. (2003). The Matrix: Understanding and interpreting the digital age. Peter Lang.
  8. Wartenberg, T. E., & Curran, A. (2005). The Philosophy of Film: Introductory Text and Readings. Blackwell Publishing.
  9. Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and Simulation. University of Michigan Press.
Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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The Matrix And Philosophy: Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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