Inception and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

What to you are the central themes in Plato’s allegory of the cave? What are the ways by which the film closely resembles the allegory of the cave? Conversely, what are the ways by which the film differs from it?

One of the central themes in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is the existence of two worlds. In addition, ignorance of humanity is also being portrayed. Existence of two worlds is an evident theme in the Allegory of the Cave since it presents the true and false worlds. On the other hand, ignorance of humanity is portrayed because the prisoners inside the cave are unaware of the true reality outside.


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In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave,  prisoners are trapped in a cave where they are chained and unable to look back since their head cannot move. All they can see is a wall in front of them. Moreover, shadows appear on the wall, assuming that these are reality. The prisoners do not have the idea that puppeteers are behind them, playing with puppets and fire in order to create shadows on the wall. From then on, this is the reality prisoners know. On the other side, in the film, Inception, the prisoners are the persons involved in the process of inception. The shadows are similar to the dreamscapes projected in the film, which they actually think as the reality.

One of the differences between the film and Allegory of the Cave is the world of the prisoners and characters in Inception. In Allegory of the Cave, prisoners live in a cave where they can only see are shadows casted on the wall. Meanwhile, in Inception, the characters are able to manipulate their dreams where anything is possible to create and imagine. Also, one difference is the concept of reality. In the film, the characters are introduced first to the what is the real world. Eventually, their eyes are opened to the world of dreaming, where everything is unreal. On the other hand, the prisoners in Allegory of the Cave are presented to the unreal world, where shadows are the only thing they think are real. Then, one prisoner sees the real world after being freed from the cave.

How does the mind separate false reality from true reality? Enumerate instances (key scenes) where the film clearly delineates “false” reality from “true” reality.

People’s dreams, wants, and desires are stimulated by our own personal images of a personal life. A false reality is a reality that is created by our imagination. There is a fine line between false reality and true reality because false realities feel so authentic that you tend to just live in the moment. The mind separates false reality from true reality by what we know and our way of reasoning, since the ability to reason allows us to seek answers and use our gut feel or instincts. Our subconscious also helps us tell whether what we are experiencing is real or not. In the film, obviously, the mind separates the concept of true reality from false reality through the dream states – the false reality that the characters build in their minds in order to complete the task of inception.


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One instance is the use of totems. The totems that each character possesses determine whether the person, for example, Cobb, is still in a dream state. If his totem spins forever, he is in false reality, which is dreaming. Another instance of false reality is when Eames became someone else to disguise himself inside the dream. Next, in the dream state, Dominic Cobb was talking to Ariadne and told her, “you never really remember the start of the dream.” when she suddenly realized that they were dreaming. Ariadne had created and perceived a world when she was taught the first lesson from Cobb, where she manipulated the structures eventually. Lastly, the whole Limbo is a false reality, in which it can actually alter the real world – true reality.

If someone can infiltrate your dreams in order to make you behave a certain way, do you really have free will? Is free will that easily manipulated?

According to the O’Connor (2002):

Philosophers who distinguish freedom of action and freedom of will do so because our success in carrying out our ends depends in part on factors wholly beyond our control. Furthermore, there are always external constraints on the range of options we can meaningfully try to undertake. As the presence or absence of these conditions and constraints are not (usually) our responsibility, it is plausible that the central loci of our responsibility are our choices, or willings.

Based on the aforementioned statement, despite the infiltration made by someone to make a person behave in a certain way, free will can still be achieved. There may be factors that can affect your actions and decisions but in the end, it will still be your choice whether to let such factors control you. In reality, freedom of will cannot be easily manipulated for the reason that it is an innate capacity of an individual to choose what to will. In addition and relation to the film, though anything is possible to be done in one’s dream, everything still depends on how a person imagine and create things.

Discuss how Cobb’s actions follow closely either some of the 4 Noble Truths or all of them.


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The first and second noble truth is shown on Cobb through his dreams. Cobb and his wife were under a deep slumber which resulted in both of them being in the dream state of limbo. Limbo is a world where it could actually feel like its reality even though it is just a world created by imagination. When Cobb and Mal woke up from their dream, Mal wouldn’t believe that she awoke from the real world, but rather is in a dream. She emotionally detached herself from the real world and believed that death is the solution for her to be back into her perception of “reality”. Thus her death led to Cobb’s guilt, because he couldn’t accept his wife being dead, causing him to dream about his wife and their memories together and their family. This thought is also the reason for Cobb not being able to complete his task, because the thought of Mal in his dreams or during an inception plan always result in the failure of their plans. The origin of this suffering is because Cobb being guilty for Mal’s death and he just wants their family to still be whole. He basically wants to be with his family but he couldn’t since he was a wanted man. That is why in his dreams he thinks about the memory of his family together enjoying themselves. The end of his suffering was when he was finally home in the United States and be with his children.



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