For Plato, the philosopher was the one who escapes the cave. The cave then is a representation of the senses of humans; they see false objects, and hear false words. The person who is in the cave is using their senses to obtain a diagram of the world around them, but the cave is dark and there is no light, so all they see are shadows, or reflections of themselves; reflections that are of a lesser human. The philosopher on the other hand escapes the cave, or escapes the world of bodily necessity, and comes into the sun to realize that what objects are truly. Plato, being an opportunist but also a realist describes the scene of the philosopher escaping the cave and his encounter with the sun (truth), “…he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities…He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upperworld. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?”
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The philosopher was guided by reason to escape the cave. Upon witnessing the sun, he begins to see the truth. Throughout the dialogue in The Republic Plato utilizes the ‘cross examination’ method of Socrates, and this is especially true in the metaphor of the cave. In Book 7 of The Republic, Socrates is having a dialogue with Glaucon. Socrates, or Plato writing the dialogue, convince the man, through a series of questions that the cave is a false reality, and only when a person sees the sun can the truth be found.
In the movie The Matrix, Neo is faced with a similar confrontation when Morpheus offers him a pill that will make him see the truth. Ultimately that is what the cave allegory is teaching; the seeking of truth. Neo escapes his false reality, his reality filled with shadows, and goes through the looking glass into the true reality. It would seem then that not only are the main ‘real’ characters in The Matrix, or at least the characters who know what is real, are also the philosophers, trying to find the truth and expose it to the rest of the human race who are locked forcible in a subconscious state.
Therefore, in both Plato’s Republic and allegory of the cave and The Matrix, the truth is being sought and found. It is with Neo’s character that a person may find someone who transcends his own taught-thought reality and recognizes shadows for their illusions, and it is with the help of Morpheus, the philosopher, that Neo and others are able to escape the cave and see the sun, really see the sun. With that then comes a state of awakening of consciousness of oneself, and the reality, the true reality which surrounds them.
MacDonald, Ross. Socrates versus Plato. Aspects of Education. P9-22. 1996.