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kortheo

Plato's Cave

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Something occurred to me today that I wanted to share.

Are you familiar with the story of Plato's Cave? It's a common introductory philosophy text:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave

I'll give a brief summary. Plato uses a allegoric story to contrast ignorance and knowledge. In the story, there are people chained in a dark cave. They've been trapped there their entire lives, and it's all they've ever known. Behind them, there's a fire which casts shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners. They can't turn their heads, so they are forced to look straight ahead. Between them and the fire there are puppeteers, and the puppets cast shadows on the wall that the prisoners watch. It sounds kind of weird if you aren't familiar with the allegory, but basically, the idea is that to them, the shadows on the wall are real people and things instead of just puppets. They see shadows as reality, instead of the real objects that cast them. Eventually, one of the prisoners gets free, finds the way to the entrance of the cave, and is blinded by the light when he goes outside. After his eyes adjust, he realizes that everything he knew was just shadows, and he wasn't really experiencing reality.

At the risk of being slightly dramatic, I think there is a parallel here with gaming. Gaming can be like the shadows in some ways. Instead of engaging with real life and improving ourselves, we pour our effort into gaming. Gaming at times can be a pale imitation of life. I guess I'm thinking of the idea of a character in an RPG VS. seeing yourself as a character in real life. We level up in both, we grow in both, we explore and fail in both, we achieve in both etc, etc. Sometimes that RPG or game can feel real and important. It's not that we don't know that it's just a game, it's that the game somehow starts to feel important and as if really matters even though it doesn't. We spend hours on games and build up our achievements. But once you stop gaming your perspective shifts and you realize all the much more important things that you could be doing. You realize that the games that seemed so central and important to your life we really kind of empty, in some ways. They don't really have meaning beyond themselves. And it feels empty to invest in games instead of people, life, relationships. It feels like coming out of the cave and realizing you've been staring at shadows, thinking they were real life.

Let me know if that made sense, or if you agree! :) 

Edited by kortheo

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I think there is certainly a parallel to be drawn between the Allegory of the Cave and gaming.  I think that this parallel holds true for many things in life.  This can seen in people who are workaholics, drug users, or people who are just growing up.  It's just like practicing mindfulness and meditation.  It's a process of seeing what's really there instead of the constructs of our ego.

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Plato would be proud of you and encourage you to go a bit further :)

He didn't have much respect for art (which is what video games are). The keyword here is mimesis (imitation). He asserted that art is twice removed from reality as it imitates the "shadows in the cave" which in turn imitate reality. As such it leads us astray from truth and from the gods, and generates bad feelings.

So once you get rid of art you still have to deal with the cave itself.

Aristotle, who was his pupil, disagreed with Plato. He saw art and its mimesis as educational, particularly through catharsis.

I tend to agree with Aristotle. I believe it's the (ex) gamer's responsibility to work on his/her moral virtue. That we are changing who we are, and what we do changes as a consequence of that.

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Ha, interesting. I was not aware of Plato's stance on art. Makes sense though. Here when we say "reality" or "truth" to Plato we're talking about the forms... which reality is an imperfect representation of, of which art is then again an imperfect representation.

Aristotle probably does have more to say about improvement. Some day I'll get around to his Nicomachean Ethics. :) Now that I'm no longer gaming, I may find the time!

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