What Is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave? & Why Is It Important to 1899?

Throughout the entire storyline of season 1 of Netflix’s 1899, one of the concepts that we often hear in conversations here and there is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which has always been one of the most important philosophical concepts in history. This was something that was often mentioned in 1899 as a concept that allowed some of the personal philosophies of the characters to surface. So, what exactly is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and why is it important to 1899?

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave tells the story of humans that were kept shackled in a cave their entire lives and were only able to perceive the world through the shadows that they saw. This is important to 1899 because it was one of the guiding forces for Maura to develop a simulation that people thought was the real world.

The simulated world of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is one of the best examples of the very same simulated world that we saw in 1899. It was this allegory that actually supported Plato’s theory that humans are unable to perceive what is real and what is not, except if we actually tried to question everything we think we know. That said, let’s look at this allegory and how it relates to 1899.

What Is Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave?

We already know that there are a lot of different mysteries hiding under layers of intrigue in 1899, as this is a series that is quite philosophical in terms of its approach and overall plot. Of course, the entire season has a plotline that focuses on the topic of worlds within worlds, as there are layers of simulations in what appeared to be a period mystery drama set in the 19th century.

The truth is, however, that the different characters in 1899 were merely trapped in a simulation that allowed them to repeat their voyage to America onboard a steamship over and over again due to the fact that Henry, Maura’s father, wanted to repeat this scenario in the hopes that his daughter would be able to remember where she hid the key that could be used to escape the simulation.

But as the series went on and we got to learn more about both Maura and Henry, one of the concepts often repeated throughout the storyline was Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which seems to be an important part of the philosophical mindset of the main characters of the series. So, what is the Allegory of the Cave?

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is actually one of the foundational philosophical stories that allow us to see just how deep Plato’s own philosophy was and how he was able to introduce the importance of questioning the things that are presented to us as facts. The Allegory of the Cave was one of the ways that Plato used to introduce his Theory of Forms. Theory of Forms Talks about how not everything around us is real and how these are all mere perceptions of what the real things are. Basically, Plato is saying that the things that we see around us are not in their real forms but are merely in the forms that we perceive them to be.

The Allegory of the Cave allows us to understand this concept more because Plato was able to illustrate a scenario where people were presented with things that they believed to be facts but were actually just perceiving them to be facts.

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In the Allegory of the Cave, there are a few people made to sit inside a cave while they were shackled and facing the wall. They couldn’t move their hands, legs, and necks as all they could do was look at the wall in front of them. Meanwhile, there was a fire burning behind them to provide light. And when things pass by or when puppeteers use their hands or puppets, their shadows are shown on the wall in front of the prisoners.

Because the prisoners have always been in the cave and have never known the world outside, they believe that the shadows that are shown on the wall in front of them are real and that the sounds that they hear are coming from these shadows. In fact, they even think that the shadows of the humans and animals that appear on the wall are actually real articles. As such, these prisoners are made to believe that everything they see on the wall is facts and that this entire cave is the only world that exists.

In that regard, Plato was able to present the Theory of Forms in this manner as he believes that human beings act in the same manner such that we only see things in the way we perceive them and not in their actual forms. That’s because he believes that humans are not capable of seeing things well beyond their own perspectives. And this is where he introduces just how important it is for us to question any kind of fact that is presented to us, as there is still a good chance that this is not the ultimate truth and that the world around us isn’t even what it appears to be.

Why Is The Allegory Of The Cave Important To 1899?

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave can be somewhat heavy for different people to comprehend. However, it is important to the entire plot of 1899 because of the fact that this allows us to see the mindset of none other than Maura, who is the main character of the series and was the one who actually created the entire simulation.

Near the end of season 1 of 1899, Henry tells Elliot the story of how Maura stumbled upon the Allegory of the Cave when she was still just a young girl. She was so fascinated with this concept that she wondered if everything that we saw in the real world were just the shadows of the true form of what the world is. The Allegory of the Cave made her question what real life truly is.

Henry, of course, tried to calm his daughter’s queries by telling her that God was real. However, Maura said that if God was indeed real, then we are all dolls and playthings to Him. And she even went on to continue questioning God’s status as a creator because there must have been someone who created God as well.

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In that regard, Maura already developed the idea of worlds within worlds through her introduction to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. She believed that everything we see in the world may not be real at all and that not even God is absolute in the sense that he may just be living in a world that He believes is the true world but actually isn’t because an even higher power probably exists out there.

We all see this in the entire first season of 1899 when layers of truths were uncovered. The ship simulation was merely created by Henry, who himself was also trapped in a simulation that Maura created before they were all trapped in it. And the entire simulation was controlled by Maura’s brother Ciaran, who is outside in the real world.

It is even possible that the real world that Ciaran is in may not actually be the real world at all but is simply another layer that Maura and the others need to peel in order to get to the deeper truths behind what has been happening in the series. 

As such, this is where Plato’s Allegory of the Cave comes in as it introduces the concept of people who believe that the world they are in is real but actually isn’t because the world that they see is merely their perception of reality. And Maura was able to apply this concept to the simulations that she created in the series.

  • Ysmael is a self-professed geek that loves anything related to fantasy, sci-fi, video gaming, and anime. Spends his free time watching movies, TV shows and gaming, a lot.