Philosophic Comparison: Fahrenheit 451 and Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’

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Topic: Sociology
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Introduction

One of the main aspects of a contemporary living in the West is that, as time goes on, citizens continue to grow intellectually marginalized – something that will eventually result in them being turned into nothing short of ‘organic machines’, whose purpose of existence is being solely concerned with processing food/experiencing sensual pleasures, as something that has the value of a ‘thing-in-itself’.

Even though formally speaking, there is nothing wrong with this state of affairs, I believe that the described situation is far from being considered thoroughly normal. In this paper, I will explore the validity of the above-stated at length, while referring to the 1966 film Fahrenheit 451 and connecting it to the so-called ‘allegory of the cave’ by Plato.

Body of the paper

Probably the main idea that is being explored throughout the entirety of the mentioned film, is that it does not take much downgrading the representatives of Homo Sapiens species into the two-legged animals, who lead the essentially purposeless existence – all for the sake of ensuring the society’s ‘stability’. After all, the idea that once forbidden to read books, people will be much more ‘manageable’ is indeed discursively legitimate.

In order to illustrate the validity of this suggestion, we can well refer to what accounts for the realities of a post-industrial living in the West – even though there is still no ban on reading books in Western countries, it may well be the case in the near future. This suggestion is not being deprived of a certain rationale – something that can be illustrated, in regards to the process of Western societies becoming ever more consumerist and anti-intellectual.

From the synergistic perspective, it is indeed possible to ensure that a particular society remains on the path of progress, without this society’s members being required to actively contribute to the process. The legitimacy of this suggestion can be confirmed, in respect to what enables Westerners to enjoy a good living – namely, their emotional comfortableness with turning a blind eye on the fact that the West’s prosperity is the direct result of people in the so-called ‘Third World’ being mercilessly exploited.

In other words, there is indeed a certain rationale in keeping people arrogant – the less they know about the actual ways of the world, the more likely it will be for them to act as the consumerist society’s ‘normal’ members. This is exactly the type of reasoning, which prompted the policy-makers in the dystopian society of the future (as seen in Fahrenheit 451) to enact the policy of forbidding people to read books.

After all, as history shows, knowledge is the direct pathway towards discontent – the lesser one knows; the lesser is the number of wrinkles on the concerned person’s forehead. This explains why even though there is still no any officially endorsed ban on reading books in today’s West, the activity in question is clearly not being considered a must – the fact that the majority of Westerners gain information about the world by watching TV, confirms the overall soundness of this idea.

This state of affairs, however, cannot be considered thoroughly appropriate. The reason for this is that there is a direct link between people’s willingness to work on expanding their intellectual horizons, on one hand, and the quality of their lives, on the other. In this respect, it would be in order to mention the so-called ‘allegory of the cave’, associated with Plato.

According to the philosopher, one’s existence can be well discussed in terms of the cave, which contains prisoners chained to the wall. These prisoners remained in the cave ever since they were born – meaning they never saw daylight. The only idea about the outside world that they have is concerned with the fact that there is some light is being projected out of the cave’s entrance onto the wall – hence, allowing prisoners to see the shadows of people and animals that pass in front of the mentioned opening.

Thus, the prisoners in question would be naturally tempted to believe that the shadows they see represent the actual outside world, as it is, without considering the possibility that this may not be the case. The meaning of this allegory is quite apparent – it may well be that the surrounding physical reality is nothing but the shadow of some greater (metaphysical) one.

One may wonder about how the mentioned ‘allegory of the cave’ relates to the themes and motifs, contained in Fahrenheit 451? The answer to this question can be formulated as follows: just as it happened to be the case with the movie, the allegory in question promotes the idea that, in order for people to be able to remain on the path of progress, they may never cease making inquiries into the essence of the surrounding social/natural realities.

In its turn, this can be achieved by the mean of reading books and comparing the gained insights with whatever appears to be the ‘visible’ side of life. The reason for this is that, as practice indicates, people’s cognitive perceptions of the environment around them, do not always correlate with what can be deemed the dialectical causes that brought it into being. In plain words – what ‘appears to be’ is not necessarily ‘what is’.

Yet, for as long as one continues to rely on its non-analytical perceptions, while addressing life-challenges, he or she remains socially manageable, which in turn explains why, throughout the course of history, the representatives of the elites have always tried discouraging ordinary people from questioning the status quo with the established state of social affairs.

And, the best way to do it, is forbidding people to have access to the alternative sources of information, such as books – especially those that contain ideas inconsistent with the currently dominant socio-political discourse.

Therefore, the film Fahrenheit 451 is not quite as dystopian as one may think – it directly relates to many aspects of the 21st century’s living, concerned with the process of more and more people in the West is encouraged to think and behave in the manner that the controlled Media would like them to.

Conclusion

I believe that the deployed line of argumentation, in defense of the suggestion that the film Fahrenheit 451 and Plato’s ‘allegory of the cave’ do interrelate, is fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis.

Apparently, there is indeed a good reason to think that the forces of anti-intellectualism are strong and that, after having been exposed to them for a while, people naturally begin to regress, in the evolutionary sense of this word. This, of course, once again emphasizes the sheer importance of one’s continual willingness to indulge in the intellectual pursuits – as the ultimate precondition to be able to remain human.