“You know beyond a doubt that you’re not in someone else’s dream”
This past week, our Philosophy class has been eagerly dissecting every aspect of one of the most famous philosophical dialogues in history, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” I’m not going to summarise the contents of the allegory, because that is not what I set out to do today, I set out to create a reflection, a self opinion on the allegory, and its ideas, but not one that just short hands the actual allegory.
Many ideas, and points of views have popped up, some I agreed with, others I digressed with. Out of these, all of them could be categorised into 2 big overarching ideas. First of which revolves around Progress, the second of which is Reality, and how we know what is real, and what isn’t.
Plato’s allegory goes out of its way to portray Progress, and by default Learning is supposed to be difficult, and potentially painful, as indicated when as the once imprisoned man is dragged out from the shackles of his confines, his limited knowledge, and view of the world, and shown the bigger picture of the world. The man experiences intense pain as he broadens his horizons, however he does in the end realise that despite however painful that may have been, it all was worth it.
Some people believe that progress doesn’t have to be difficult, and that it can be easy, however I adamantly disagree with this notion. Firstly, the Zone of Proximal Development, which was devised by a Russian scientist states that without help we can only accomplish, and learn a very little portion of the knowledge that is out there. So, that by default logically should state that without encountering difficulties, then we really can’t have any progress, as we can’t get anywhere. Looking back at the ZPD, even getting to the limited barrier of what little we can learn by ourselves involves a lot of effort, and difficulty, let alone how much difficulty we’d encounter as we venture into the knowledge we can only acquire with help.
Secondly, if we don’t encounter difficulty with out acquirement of knowledge, then we probably would have very little, if at all any progress at all. Learning for Progress’s sake has to be hard in order for us value what we have acquired. Should the knowledge be easy to come by then it is simultaneously easy come, and easy go. This is something that we can acquire easily, and freely is something that we never value, for example if a regular citizen had a million dollars they’d value that money, as they’ve put in a lot of hardwork to get there. Consequently, they’ll keep nurturing that money, and growing it. But, flip the tables and ask what a million dollars is worth to a multi-billionaire, who by waking up in the morning earns millions of dollars. To them, that million dollars is nothing, and they’re likely to spend on a 50 case of ’82 Bordeau or a customised Rolls Royce. They don’t treasure that money, because to them a million dollars is easy to earn, and they put no stock into the value of the money. Similarly with knowledge, if learning is easy, then would we value it? Or would we blow it on fine wine, and nice cars? The answer would be the latter, and because we don’t treasure the learning, then we’d really not get anywhere. So, learning must be hard earned in order for the world to progress, and the world indeed has progressed from its most primitive roots.
The second main point that we discussed was the notion that our world is possibly not real, and that we’ve all been living in a dream, or in a matrix or something of that sort. They argue that our world isn’t real, and we cannot say that our world is real because we cannot prove irrevocably that it is.
I won’t argue the belief that we could be living in a dream, or in a world that isn’t really there, because I like everyone else can’t prove that our world isn’t there. But, just because our world isn’t there, or just because it’s happening all in our hands, does that make not real? Does it make it any less real? I would say no.
Reality, is subjective, truth is what we believe, and perceive it to be. As new information comes to light it can be molded, shaped, persuaded, and morphed, but as always it’s and always will be what we perceive it to be. So, if we perceive it to be real, then isn’t it?
Let’s use the example of a dream. In a dream, the impossible happens, but in the heat and midst of the moment, we believe that it is real, and while we dream that becomes our reality. It is only when we wake up from our reverie that we can distinguish that our dream was just inside our heads. However, does that make the dream not real? Looking back after you wake-up you’d answer without a thought, that no it isn’t real. But, I ask you to go back to the moment in the dream, during that time, was it real to you? Yes, it is, and in that moment is it your reality? Yes it was.
So, in the end we can only really trust ourrselves, and our sense, because after all if we can’t even trust ourselves then who can we trust? If we perceive where we are to be in the real world, and that this is reality, then this is our reality, this is real, despite the fact that we may just be the dreams of someone else.
I leave you with an example from the ending of Inception, as Christopher Nolan cuts way from Cobb’s Totem in the last scene with a maddening finality, leaving the ending ambiguous, it may seem quite infuriating at first. But, upon further reflection, it reveals a whole new layer of philosophical reality. In this world, where Cobb’s dream of being reunited with his kids has happened, then I’d hazard a guess that to Cobb, whether it is a dream or not, that this world has become his reality, because this is where he wants to be, and where he perceive it to be true. So, in the end, whether or not it is someone else’s dream, his own dream, or real life no longer matters to Cobb, because he believes this world to be real, rendering the spinning Totem useless, and pointless.