I believe that the meaning of life is to explore in order to find our truths and being able to learn from them. As we continue to live, we tend to long for the truth as we are all curious about our lives and the world around them. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, he explains how the person that escaped the cave did not only discover the truth of the shadows but also was able to face the realities of life outside of the cave.
In order to learn, we must continue to explore our surroundings as well as ourselves to be able to discover the truths. According to Stephen Hawking’s “Meaning of Life”, our meaning is whatever we believe it to be. There is no correct answer to the question of what is the meaning of life.
In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, he is able to explain the scenario of the prisoners living in a cave and how there was only one person that decided to leave the cave to see what was outside.
The one person that decided to turn around and actually exit the cave was able to witness the truth through his curiosity, which leads to his exploration. Although the man was able to have an idea of what was behind them, he still was not able to figure out the truth to the objects. If the man decided to stay inside the cave with the rest of the prisoners, he would have been “unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows” (Plato, 2).
The only thing that he would be visualizing would be illusions, the primary thought of the object rather than the object itself. By his decision to escape the cave, he was able to find the real truth of what he was looking at and was able to have “a clearer vision” (Plato, 2). The idea of what was outside of the cave was merely due to epistemology as he was able to formulate what he knows from looking at the shadows. The way that expresses our knowledge of certain things is through epistemology as we constantly go off of what we know since we are certain of those answers. The truth always seems to be the one that we all search for. The way that we decide to interpret the truth usually differs in our responses. As soon as the man finally learned the truth, his mind has completely changed as he has concluded that “he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions” (Plato, 4). By going through the scenario, the man probably will start questioning what is truly real as he has been living through false beliefs. The meaning of life, to me, is to continue to explore as there will more for us to learn and our own truths will be revealed. There is no specific answer to the question of what is the meaning of life is as Hawking explained in his “Grand Design: The Meaning of Life”. He basically explains it through Renee Descartes that “I think. Therefore, I am” as our minds and bodies are different (“Stephen hawking’s Grand Design: The Meaning of Life”, 5:32-5:37). The way that we think differs from person to person as our brains are extremely complex. As we continue to explore and learn, we look for our metaphysics, in terms of finding out the truth or the fundamentally real. Our lives are built on learning and looking into new information rather than be stuck thinking about illusions. As we continue to stay in the dark, we continue to lose our identities and self-awareness. We are merely dehumanized as we have fallen into ignorance and based our ideas around illusions.
The meaning of life is not mainly exploring and learning from the truths that we discover. There are people out there that refuse to step outside and explore. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, there was only one man that decided to explore outside of the cave since he wanted to know the truth. Although there are people out there exploring and learning, there are still those that will remain in the cave. Is it so wrong to live believe in ideas? For the most part, the truth hurts and not everyone wants to be seen to be wrong. We have so much pride towards ourselves that if someone tells us that we are wrong, it may ruin our self-esteem. Stephen Hawking even explains that his “reality is different than yours” or to anything mostly due to the fact that not every brain is the same (“Stephen hawking’s Grand Design: The Meaning of Life”, 33:11-33:14). Even if the other prisoners decide to escape as well, will they be able to see the same thing that the first guy saw? Will they feel the same? There are limits to knowledge as well since we are not able to know everything. Our lives do not fully revolve around exploring as there are times where all we want to do is to create illusions that could distract us from our realities. We are so used to being in the shadows that even it will be hard for the first prisoner as he has “to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world” (Plato, 3). It is never easy to decide to explore as it may be safer to stay inside.
We all have different opinions towards the meaning of life as Stephen Hawking mentions in his video that it “is what you choose it to be” (“Stephen hawking’s Grand Design: The Meaning of Life”, 51:10-51:13). There is no clear answer to what it is but through Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”. We can use it to help understand the meaning of life. For those that live in the cave, although it may be better live in an illusion, they will start to lose their humanity. As Socrates mentions to Glaucon that “the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort”, it shows that those living in the prison-house will not be able to have the idea of good (Plato, 5). It may be difficult to face the harsh realities of our lives, but it will happen due to curiosity. By staying in the cave, “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images” and there will be a point when you will end up turning around to see the truth (Plato, 2). We are able to learn through exploration, not just our surroundings but also ourselves. Who are we, exactly? It may take years to find the answer to that question, but through exploration, we are able to draw our conclusions closer. We crave knowledge and in order to have that knowledge, exploration is a way to gain it.