“Ignorance is Bliss”, is a famous saying from many different cultures. They say the more you know, the more aggravated you will be. To know whether ignorance is truly bliss is the common theme of the two readings, Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” and Voltaire’s “The Good Brahmin”.
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In “The Allegory of the Cave”, by Plato, we see a discussion on perpetuated ignorance. Within the dark cave, there are people who were born bound to a wall. And right on top of the wall are people walking with various items made of different materials. Some of these people talk and some don’t, while they walk in between the prisoners and a fire lit behind the prisoners. Because of the fire, the shadows of the item carriers are cast to the wall right in front of the prisoners. Also, since the wall has the ability to echo any sound made within the cave, it seems that the shadows are talking. The prisoners live their life thinking that the shadows are real. The discussion then leads to the possibility of the prisoner escaping, and the consequences of the escape to the prisoner and the others that are left within the cave. When the prisoner escapes, he learns what the truth really is which is better than what he was lead to believe in the cave. He is then happy about it and pities the prisoners who were left in the cave.
“The Good Brahmin” by Voltaire, on the other hand discusses how a rich Brahmin is suffering due to all the knowledge he has. Thoughts of not knowing enough, or not knowing what is correct, bothers him so terribly. While the narrator discovers a poor lady who knows nothing but practical things, is actually very happy with her life. In fact, the lady thinks of herself as the happiest of all women for what she has, or better yet, for what she does not have. The reading ends with the narrator promoting ignorance to the philosophers, thinking that it will bring happiness. This act was in vain, because the philosophers would rather have knowledge of the reason for their happiness than just being happy.
So many people would say that ignorance is truly bliss. Why contemplate on matters of no consequence to their daily lives? Why would people ponder on their existence and the existence of the things around them, when we can very well think about how they can get their next meal, which may be a bigger problem for them. For the people that are like the prisoners who exist in the dark cave defined by Plato, it is not important to know if what they see is real. It is also not important to know what lies outside the cave. It holds no crucial consequence to their current life, such as philosophy. People would rather think of solutions for their current problems, than thinking of solutions for things that may never be answered and do not hold any value to their everyday lives.
Although it may lead to unhappiness, I would rather go on the side of the Brahmin and the side of Plato. Philosophy is indeed important in our daily lives. Philosophy in both readings, aim for the truth, which is for me, the most important knowledge in the world. Knowing what is true from what is false is more important than memorizing all the different theories of Science, and Mathematics, it is even more important than food. In looking at my meal, I would always wonder if what I eat is real. Moreover, thinking if my actions are real, or if it is a dream or figment of my imagination. Just like love, it is not enough that you love a person; you need to know the reason for loving a person, and if your love is really genuine, which is the same for happiness.
Philosophy may torment one’s mind, but nonetheless, it is still better to know things than to know nothing, and still feel happiness.