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?


In the movie inception, some people say that it is based on the Allegory of the Cave by Plato. In the allegory, there were prisoners inside a cave who could only see the shadows in front of them which resemble reality. In the movie, the people inside their dreams are those people inside the cave. They see their dreams as their reality in which confuses them to some point. As discussed in the allegory of the cave, the prisoner who was freed will realize that the shadows are not reality and confuse them. This was shown in the movie when Cobb was showing the new architect about the dream device. When the new architect realized that she was in a dream, she was shaken by the idea which caused destruction in the dream. As the movie progressed it displayed more details about the connection between the allegory of the cave and inception. On the part of the movie when the history of Cobb and his wife was explained, Mal (Cobb’s wife) upon entering the dreamscape with Cobb was able to create their own world. This made it more difficult for them to see reality. They became more comfortable that the dreamscape was their reality. Mal grasped this idea too much that she was denying enlightenment or the real world.

This shows that the similarities in the movie, the prisoners are the people entering the dreamscape. Creating their own realities inside it and avoiding the enlightenment of waking up. When people inside the dreamscape are enlightened by the truth of the real world, they become in denial or destructive because of the sudden confusion between two worlds. It can be seen that those enlighten prisoners on the allegory cannot easily persuade the prisoners in the cave for they have grasp the shadows of reality.

However, the movie has some differences with the allegory of the cave. The movie was introducing the world of dreams while in the allegory it was towards enlightenment or reality. Because reality was first introduced in the movie, the characters entering the dreamscape are addicted to the possibilities of the alternate world while in the allegory of the cave; the prisoners were devoted to seeing the light upon escaping the cave. Another difference is the presence of the totem. The totem was a symbol of reality for those inside the dreamscape. This means that people have an idea of reality inside them while in the allegory, reality is just new idea for them.

The central themes in Plato’s allegory of the cave are how people perceive reality from illusion and ignorance. The things that we believe are true may not even be true, sometimes we only believe that a thing is true to assure ourselves and not believe the things we don’t want to believe to comfort ourselves from reality. Most of the time, people do not want to hear the truth because we are scared of the uncertainty that comes with it.

Ignorance was also portrayed in the allegory, when the prisoners were unaware of the reality outside the cave. The philosophers of our society must also help people who need to be enlightened. Having proper education helps in perceiving reality and truth.

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


Reality by definition is everything that appears to our five senses – everything that we can see, smell, touch and so forth (Westerhoff, 2012). It is in substance any organism, fact, event, or those that are actually felt, seen, perceived, and affects this world. These are contrary to imaginary ideas or deceptions created by the mind.

However there exists a deeper concept in reality which lies between truth and falsehood. Dualism seems to be present in the relationship of the two since individuals believe things falsely as well as truly. Truth came from the Greek word aletheia which means “to unhide” or “hiding nothing.” People believed on what is present to be true reality. According to philosophers, there are three ways to define truth. First, truth is that which corresponds to reality or “what is.” Things or events may be viewed by someone to be true, but it does not necessarily mean that others discern those equivalently. For instance, one may adjudge a glass of water to be on the right side, while the person perching on the antithesis would infer the glass to be on the left side. Second, truth is that which matches its object. It depends on every other individual since no two persons are the alike. The necessary requirements for one do not dovetail every other event or specimen. Third, truth is simply telling it like it is. It is the actuality of everything or the way things are in conformity with facts. Non-reality or false reality on the other hand, is pure fiction and fantasy. It is contaminated by subjectivity which does not make it an absolute truth. A sphere of desirability and showcasing is conceived, thus the minds of people often choose to deny the truth and create a whole new version of truth to amuse the memory. One could only distinguish these two if he or she had set standards of ethics or which are acceptable and not in the norm. If facts or justifications were supplied, then the mind obviously would conclude it to be true. If one could reason out and ask the question “would it really happen or be in existence?” then a false reality could be recognized. Some dreams, goals, feelings, and the like may seem to be true, but when logic and perception steps in, all these would switch into an illusion. Philosophers have categorized the belief on false appearances into three. The physical appearance itself, by one, is the nature or everything around the people tricks them to consider the fact that they have limited senses and knowledge. Moreover, self-deceptions by the mind are the factors which pound or create their thoughts of reality to mitigate their wants and desires. Such creative structure of mind helps to gauge them away from the truth behind reality, that life is full of suffering. As a result, it leads to a matter of repression from loneliness, doubts, and fears. Lastly, they are the ‘mirrors’ in which people highly hinge upon for they are the ones who have been in their lives ready to support them. Nevertheless, associating to the stereotypical manner that people are relatively good leads them to the right way while the ‘mirrors’ would say otherwise. Through the hidden notions covered by the ‘mirrors’, people tend to direct their attention to a different reality wherein the reality should have never existed in the first place.

People’s illusion or better known as their wants and desires in life have been instigated by the idea that leads to the meaning of a perfect life. Resolutely, people’s minds shift the fact or reality to appease their extensive wants and desires in life which results to the creation of a whole new sphere of thinking: the false reality. Evidently, people can barely pinpoint the differences of true reality and false reality in life as they are surrounded by several opinions and views. Fantasies and realities have clouded people’s mind to believe that farfetched things would occur in their lives. Philosophers have claimed that true reality exists below the surface which consists of the founding concepts of atoms, matters and others. People’s sense of seeing things tends to be what they believe in; however, it gears their perception to an illusion. They seem to believe the things they see in front of them at first, but in deeper sense, there is a confusion which changes their beliefs and ides. Through the structure, they tend to be more inclined to believing the false appearance – false reality.

In line with Buddhism, people want to reach nirvana – their wants and desires in life but they all know that these are not easy to reach. To feel happy, satisfying, and contented, people often look at the different side – false reality to cloud their minds from reality. The effects have gone to the point where people can barely discern true from false and that they want to let go of the true reality of life but simple cannot, so they just fill in their minds with false reality to satisfy their wants and desires in life. The mind then separates false reality from true reality by discerning what is truly real – existing. Some examples would be hopes, ideas, dreams, memories, feelings, illusions, and etc… People’s minds are so complex that confuses them reality from what is not. Illusion can be real at first but knowing it would never happen occurs when reality hits people.

The Inception movie itself depicted false reality and true reality. In order to live out or experience the character’s fantasies, they were put into sleep. So basically, the false realities were the dreams while the true reality was their sleep. Majority of the film was composed of the different dream state of the characters. One of them was when the van fell off the bridge, the feeling of falling carried over into another dream. In this case, the hotel scene, making it as if the hotel lost all gravity. We could conclude that this does not happen in real life, therefore it is a false reality. Also, the character Dominic Cobb, portrayed by Leonardo Di Caprio, performed the act of inception to his wife Mal, but she committed suicide when the realization of living a false reality had hit her so that she could wake up from that dream state.

Other scenes:

1. True reality – go back to children, while false reality (dream) – how to go back to his children.

2. Ariadne was shattered by a glass and hit her (knowing it was only a dream); she then woke up in reality from the dream.

3. Ariadne was stabbed by Mrs. Cobb and she woke up; she knows she was only dreaming that is why she said to wake her up.

4. Dreaming about Cobb’s children vs. seeing his children

5. Ariadne reminds Cobb that Mal is not real, that she is just a projection in the dream

6. Mal persuades to choose to live with her in the dream far from reality but Cobb says no.

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?


Free will has always been debated on what it really means. In a philosophical definition, it is defined as the capacity to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Free will appears to be a condition on reward for one’s accomplishments (why sustained effort and creative work are praiseworthy); on the independence and dignity of people; and on the value we accord to love and friendship.

René Descartes identifies the faculty of will with freedom of choice, “the ability to do or not do something” (Meditation IV), and even goes so far as to declare that “the will is by its nature so free that it can never be constrained” (Passions of the Soul, I, art. 41).

Answering the question, if someone can infiltrate your dreams in order to make you behave a certain way, you can still have free will. It is your choice if you will let that person continue to infiltrate your mind and control you. And no, it is not easily manipulated. As mentioned earlier, “the will is by its nature so free that it can never be constrained.”

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


The first noble truth is acknowledging that there is suffering. Human existence is characterized by suffering. There are many types of suffering. If we are asked to enumerate the types of suffering, the list would be endless. However, there are two general forms of suffering, the physical and mental suffering (Garcia, 2013). Buddhism focuses on the mental sufferings. Mental sufferings are more on emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration and the likes.

In the movie Inception, the main character’s (Dominic Cobb) life is made up of sufferings. He is filled with guilt and sadness/loneliness among other things. He feels guilty because of the death of his wife. His wife, Mal, jumped from a ledge of a building because she thought that they were just in a dream, their world is not real. The only way for her to wake up from the dream and get back to reality was to kill herself. Cobb feels guilty because he knows he is responsible for the idea that caused Mal to question the reality, to question the world they are living in. He performed the process of inception to his wife. They were in limbo when he planted the idea in her wife’s mind. He planted the idea her world is not real, the only way for her to get back to reality was to die. This thought is true while they were still in the state of limbo. However, even though they got back to reality, that idea still stuck to her. She still thought that she was in a dream, that’s why she killed herself. The guilt that he is feeling is what allows him to distinguish reality from a dream.

He is also filled with sadness and loneliness. He is longing to get back to his children and see their faces. That is actually one of the main reasons why he accepted the job from Saito. If he was able to plant the idea into Fischer’s mind just as Saito asked him to do, he will be able to go back to his home and to his children. This is what drives him to do different jobs for different powerful people, thinking that he could buy his way back to a clean slate and go back to his family.

The second noble truth is that there is a cause for suffering. We suffer because of our pleasures and dissatisfaction. There is a root for every suffering and that root is desire ( According to the Buddha, there are main causes of suffering: excessive desire, ignorance and anger.

The most prominent cause of suffering in the movie Inception is excessive desire. Cobb’s excessive desire to go deeper into the world of dreams led to Mal’s death which caused him to suffer from guilt.

His desire to clean his name due to the death of Mal drove him to take a job and leave his children behind. This caused him another suffering, sadness/loneliness. He’s been away from his children for so long.

Another one is his desire to go back to his children. He took on Saito’s job because this can be his way back to his children. However, this led him to suffer from pain and frustration. By accepting this job, he had to open his subconscious to other people. For the job to be successful he had to face his projection of Mal and the other feelings he buried in his subconscious. He had to face the truths that surround him. This caused a lot of pain and frustration.

The third noble truth is that there is a way out of suffering and this is through the elimination of its cause. According to Buddhist teachings, the mind plays a very big role in human suffering. Just our mere thoughts are capable of giving us a happy life or the complete opposite. It is said that in order to remove suffering one must train and discipline his mind to take away the root of its pain.

In connection to the movie, with the help of Ariadne, Cobb was able to train his mind to let go of the guilt that he has been keeping. One time while Cobb was asleep, Ariadne sneaks into his dream world and was able to see his mind. There Ariadne saw the memories that Cobb kept imprisoned. Memories from his past that he can’t let go. Since then Ariadne knew how dangerous it was to go into Cobb’s subconscious. She started helping him and telling him to let go of the guilt. She reminded him that Mal is dead and he cannot do anything about it.

Aside from his guilt of what happened to his wife, another suffering was being away from his kids. He saw the job given by Saito as an opportunity for him to go back to his kids. This suffering is also caused by the guilt and regret he felt before. By accepting everything, he was able to let go of his past and the guilt that nourished within him.

Lastly, the fourth noble truth is that there is a path leading to the cessation of the suffering. This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path. It consists of: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. While the first three truths are primarily concerned with understanding the nature of suffering and its causes, the fourth truth presents a practical method for overcoming it. The eight items of the path are not to be understood as stages, in which each stage is completed before moving on to the next. Rather, they are to be understood as eight significant dimensions of one’s behaviour—mental, spoken, and bodily—that operate in dependence on one another; taken together, they define a complete path, or way of living.

This is not actually applicable because it is not fully shown in the movie. Only few of the dimensions were applied such as: Right Understanding – he realized that locking those memories in his subconscious will not bring it back. Right Action – he did was is right and accepted his fault but let go of the guilt he was keeping.

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