Pi and Plato

Published: 2021-08-07 06:15:07
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The Allegory of the Cave written by Plato and the movie Pi by Darren Aranofsky demonstrate exactly why such goals should not be attainable. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato expresses the idea of different perception of the real reality and the fear of letting go that perceived reality. The prisoners chained in a cave their whole life believe the shadows is what signifies their real world and the ultimate reality whereas one prisoner (the Philosopher) reluctantly leaves the cave and he discovers the real truth of the world.
Obtaining enlightenment, he has now understood their misconception of reality and intends on sharing with his fellow prisoners. In the movie Pi, a genius mathematician name Max Cohen is on the pursuit for obtaining the key for understanding all existence. Obsessed with trying to understand the concept of our world, he is determined to find out a pattern that lays hidden within. He experiences 5 hallucinations in which signifies his process of apprehending knowledge and the reluctance to go forward with his research as he fears the dangers ahead of knowing such things.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Pi both share similar goals but in opposite fashion, the Philosopher wants to enlighten others but is rejected for his knowledge whereas Max does not want to share his knowledge with the world but his knowledge is valued upon and can be benefited from. Max and the Philosopher’s process of apprehending knowledge in order to gain a better understanding of the reason for all things will prove to have unforeseen and destructive results. Max’s way of apprehending knowledge may differ from the Philosophers but both are very similar after attaining enlightenment do they realize the realization of the power they hold.
The sun or light plays a important role in both cases, in where it acts as truth and enlightenment. For Max, he gained the inquisitive nature and realization that there is more out there than meets the eye only after he looked into the sun as stated by Max himself: “9:13, Personal note: When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So once when I was six I did … [And] slowly, daylight crept in through the bandages and I could see. But something else had changed inside of me. That day I had my first headache” (Pi).
This is symbolic because when Max mentions that was when he had his first headache after the incident with the sun, he became more aware and suddenly everything just opened up in his eyes but that does not mean it did not come with a price. Due to that, he experiences these headaches which makes him experience hallucinations but it is also significant because his hallucinations actually play a part in his process of apprehending knowledge. Through each hallucinations, he gets more and more reluctant to press the enter key on the computer because he is afraid of the results if he actually cracks the mystery to the world.
The first hallucination he experiences actually has to do with a blinding light which acts as his enlightenment, whereas his door with all the locks is actually a barrier that is actually trying to protect him if he ventures forth. As Socrates is talking to Glaucon, he is talking to him about the process of how one of the prisoners which his the Philosopher had to be reluctantly left the cave in order to see the real reality than the one he thought to have perceived in the cave.
Socrates then explains how when they if one of them had to be liberated and compelled to stand up and look towards the light that “he would suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former self he had seen the shadows” (Plato 153). This shows that only after would they realize the world they lived in was an illusion and the truth of the reality would cause enlightenment in the process. Though the Philosopher may have been forced out of the reality in which he once knew, he gained knowledge of the real reality rather than the one he knew in the cave.
It is very similar to how Max’s achieve his enlightenment as they both looked into the light and then suddenly the realization of the reality that they lived in had more to it. Max wanted to go out through the door on his own accord, which he disregarded the safety of himself and risk to find out the truth where as the philosopher did not have that choice as he was forced out of his world and had to accept the new world which was shown before him. During Max’s process of obtaining the truth, he undergoes 4 more hallucinations.
These hallucination play a part in his process because they show the thoughts behind his decision to continue forward to apprehend knowledge to reach his goal. As Max moves on in his research, he visits his professor, Sol Robeson, to talk to him about his journey to find the reason for all existence, in this case a number pattern. Sol gives Max advice to not rush through things and to take a break because by going about so recklessly he is going to harm himself in the end. Sol gives an example of Archimedes’ breakthrough and he says to Max “The point of the story is the wife. You listen to your wife, she will give you perspective, meaning.
You need a break, you have to take a bath or you will get nowhere” (Pi). The point of Sol giving him that example was for him to slow down and not go delusional on finding that number pattern. Sol acts as a source of knowledge and truth because he gives insights to Max to not overwhelm himself because he has been through he is experiencing. This ties into Max’s second hallucination in where he sees a brain on the floor. He pokes it three times and the significances is that each poke shows the apprehension of him wanting moving forward. As he pokes it a third time, he gathers up all his strength to pierce the brain.
It symbolizes how he choose to move forward and disregard what Sol had told him. In the allegory, Plato (through the conversation of Socrates) discusses the philosopher’s newfound awareness of his own knowledge and understanding. During this conversation, Socrates and Glaucon both challenge the thought of the philosopher if he would return to his formerly accepted reality of truth or would his content lie in his newly understood perception of reality. Socrates asks Glaucon, “Do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them?
Would he … endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner? ” (Plato 154) and Glaucon answers back “I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner” (Plato 154). This dialogue is describing how the Philosopher would rather suffer any fate than return to his previous life and understanding. Upon returning to the cave, he would be entering a world of darkness again and he would face the unreleased prisoners. Here is where he would make his decision whether to go back to his old ways or use the newfound knowledge to enlighten others.
He feels pity for them that they, who ridicule him leaving the cave, cannot understand something they have not yet experience. The philosopher feels a burden to take the leadership because he does not want to feel contempt for those who do not share his enlightenment. After his second Hallucination, Max ventures forth to find the number pattern in which he will be able to find the reasons for everything. There was a computer bug in his system in which spat out a 216 digit number which his professor said happened to him. Although Sol considered it a computer bug, Max thought otherwise in which he thinks that number might solve everything.
As he gets into a frenzy about the 216 digit number, Sol tells him “Hold on, you have to slow down. You’re losing it. You have to listen to yourself. You’re connecting a computer bug I had with a computer bug you might have had with some religious hogwash” (Pi). From here it is clear that Max is starting to lose his sense of self as he is completely engulf in finding the meaning behind it. The reason behind such controversy is that Max talked to Lenny, a Chasidic Torah scholar, who believes that this long string of number is believe to be a code sent down from God.
As Lenny interest grows, Max realizes that there is more behind this number. Then he gets his third hallucination where a 216 digit pops up on his computer. He takes a second look and realizes that he knows it because he had already be confronted with the knowledge before. As this continues on, he finds out that this 216 digit number is the number pattern he has been looking for. Max process of apprehending knowledge is now getting more and more chaotic as he ventures deeper into the world that humans should just leave alone.
Though he had found what he has been looking for, he now realizes the dangers of holding such power and not only that but he is not the only person who wants it. The interesting thing in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is that it is the complete opposite of what Max Cohen is trying to achieve. By having obtained such enlightenment in which he knows the true reality, he feels the need to share this glorious discovery with his fellow prisoners. This allegory doesn’t just explain the misconceptions of reality but Plato’s vision of what a true leader should be.
The Philosopher is expected to return to the cave and live among his former prisoners as someone who can “see” better than all the rest. Through the newfound knowledge he has gained, this put him in a position as someone who is able to govern from truth and goodness. He is likely to not just enlighten them but to also care for his fellow citizen, “Rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty” (Plato 155).
He has now achieved the status of which he must assume the responsibility of a qualify leader. The knowledge bestowed upon him was for this reason, by being able to see and free himself from the world of appearances. His duty is now to spread the knowledge to his fellow prisoners as he follows his newly understood perception of reality, this is the conscious of goodness described by Plato. Plato’s ideal state is where it does not matter the status of the person but rather those who are able to spread the knowledge through equality are the true Philosophers.
By being the true Philosopher, one understands the forms of goodness in his duty for being a leader and to not feel contempt for those who do not share his enlightenment. Therefore he must educate others who have not yet gained the true vision of the world. By obtaining the knowledge to unlocking the secrets of the world, there can only be chaos. This is the case for Max as he believes that there is some sort of truth. Sol has warned him about the dangers of approaching such knowledge, “There will be no order, only chaos” (Pi). Yet he ventures forth because Max has faith in the chaotic way of apprehending knowledge.
This can be linked back to his hallucinations as each one, though he may be apprehensive, he continues forth to find the truth not knowing what may lie ahead. Max and Sol both differ in their beliefs of going about how to find the truth because Sol does not believe that there is a truth and the world is just too chaotic. Sol symbolizes the gateway of the things that human beings should not be able to know. This can be seen clearly through Max’s fourth and fifth hallucinations because at this point by having that knowledge, he is going to inevitably destroy himself.
His fourth hallucination is a rotting brain in the sink and he uses a drill to beat it but he drops it and uses his own two hands to crush it. This is symbolic of how his own brain decaying and by using his own two hands to crush the brains, he shows the act of ridding himself of such knowledge. This ties into the fifth hallucination because by then he burns the 216 digit number and uses the drill to relieve a part of his brain, his temple. These two hallucinations signifies that Max through his belief of apprehending knowledge by way of such chaotic process, he could not bear the power it contained.
This goes back to Sol warning him in the first place of tempering with things that should not be known in the first place. Being so obsessed with finding the truth, he eventually lost himself along the way through the process and this is why it led to Max disposing the knowledge he has longed for. The values of truth differ in the Allegory of the Cave and Pi because both characters apprehended the knowledge for the reasons of all things but they were used in complete opposites.
In Allegory of the Cave, the Philosopher who reluctantly came out of the cave only to achieve enlightenment feels the need to share the truth with his fellow prisoners. Though his goal is to share his newfound knowledge, the prisoners have no such use for it because they feel fear of seeing a new world when they have already accepted the reality that is within the cave. Whereas in Pi Max is completely focuses on finding the truth of the world, he was engulfed in a mass of knowledge which he did not know how to utilize it.
This is what led to his own self destruction because the value of truth was too extraordinary for one person to understand. He did not want to share the wealth of knowledge that was obtain with the world and instead destroyed it himself. In both cases, apprehending knowledge and obtaining the truth of the world is what each one received and in the end, it was valued completely different than what was thought. Those who are scared to let go of the perception of reality will not want to know the truth meanwhile those who do cannot escape the knowledge of knowing the reason for all things.
In Pi by Darren Aranofsky and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave the process of apprehending knowledge was a struggle to both Max and the Philosopher. Each one had their own way of obtaining knowledge like the Philosopher who was so reluctant to leave the cave because he did not want to leave his perceived reality of truth attained enlightenment and discovered the real reality of the world they were living it. Max who was so devoted to his research of finding the numerical pattern that would unlock the mystery of the world had went on to obtained it.
Only to realize that such knowledge could not be fathomed and no single human being could grasp the secrets of the world. The process that each character went through and the valued of truth cannot be set on one standard because there are many reasons to why such knowledge cannot be apprehended and why there are different views on understanding it. Such as how the Philosopher must now live amongst his fellow prisoners with his newfound perceived truth of reality whereas Max lost himself in the end realizing that knowing too much knowledge is harmful and destroyed the knowledge.
Trying to understand and attain knowledge does not assure that there are no risk involved, there is a price for everything. Knowledge may be a glorious thing to behold but those who are curious about delving further into finding the truth may have unforeseen results. There are things in the world humans are better off not knowing. Work Cited Pi. Dir. Darren Aranofsky. Perf. Sean Gullette and Mark Margolis. Artisan Entertainment, 1998. DVD. Plato. The Allegory of the Cave. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The humanities. Ed. Mary Ann Frese Witt. New York: Houghton Hifflin Company, 2005. 152-155.

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