Seeing Things as They Are

Plato is responsible for describing one of the most well known metaphors in philosophy.  The concept of “the cave” is becoming more and more relevant as science progresses and we realize how little we can observe with our basic senses.

Open Your Eyes (Abre los Ojos) addresses the concept of accepting what your perceive because you don’t know anything contrary to it.  Cesár is placed in artificial perception, but he is unaware of it.  His memory of signing up with Life Extension is wiped and overlapped with the virtual world.  He doesn’t know it is unreal.  He slowly sees that something is wrong with his world and it is incredibly painful to him, like how the fire and the sunlight hurt the eyes of the man who leaves the cave.

Cesár has trouble differentiating dreams from reality because he doesn’t know what the truth is.  Socrates emphasizes the importance of truth.  Cesár insists that he can tell what is real, but he has no knowledge of reality and doesn’t listen to others in explaining what is happening.  This is illustrates Socrates’ assertion that “opinions without knowledge are shameful and ugly things.”  Cesár first has to recognize that he is in an artificial reality before he can escape, as Duvernois says in response to Cesár asking why he wasn’t woken earlier “You only had to ask.”  But Cesár couldn’t ask because he didn’t know.

One can never escape his cave without knowledge.  But once you have knowledge, it is impossible to return.  That is why Cesár decides to wake up rather than remain in the artificial perception and attempt to change his dream for the better.  It is also why L.E. erases some memory from their clients and overlaps the virtual reality with their previous life.  It is essential to forget that another life exists in order to accept and enjoy the current one.  Socrates addresses this when he discusses the man returning to the cave after living out in the sunlight for so long.  He could not see the shadows as well anymore and he disdained the life of a prisoner in the cave.  Cesár couldn’t see the virtual reality as real much in the same way the man in Socrates’ metaphor couldn’t see the shadows as reality.  Cesár would rather take his chances with the unfamiliar world of the future.

Truly seeing things as they are is a theme in both Plato’s writing and in Open Your Eyes.  Cesár opens his eyes at the beginning of the film to see a dream.  He opens them again to see what we later discover to be a dream as well.  In the end, he wakes to the real world and is instructed to open his eyes once again.  This final opening of his eyes is like emerging from the cave and seeing the sun.  He finally sees the truth, literally and figuratively.

Interesting things I’ve found recently that are related to this topic:

SMBC about life being a virtual reality

New TV show YouTube was advertising about living in two separate realities

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