Importance of Natural Resources

Leonardo DiCaprio & The Nature of Reality: Crash Course Philosophy #4

Crash Course Philosophy is brought to you
by Squarespace. Squarespace: Share your passion with the world. We’ve spent a couple of lessons thinking
about how philosophers reason. Now it’s time to do some actual philosophy. And one of the most important hallmarks
of philosophical thought is that you should never take things at face value. You should always be willing to accept that
there’s more to the world than meets the eye. Because, whatever truth seems obvious today,
might turn out to be not so true at all. It’s one of the more daunting pursuits in
philosophy — pondering what’s really real, as opposed to what you think is real, and
how you could ever know the difference. Fortunately, there are some guides who can help you on your journey, when you’re exploring the nature of reality. And you know who’s really helpful here?
Leonardo DiCaprio. I mean, I guess you could say that a lot actors can transport you to another reality if they’re good enough. But that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about Inception, that movie
where Leo plays a thief who steals ideas from people by invading their dreams. A super-handy ability if you want to, say, steal corporate secrets from a CEO, or military plans from a head of state. But after a while, it becomes hard for some
members of Leo’s team to tell the difference between one dream and another, or to discern
dreams from reality. The whole film is populated with people who live
in a dream world, convinced they’re living real-life. To them, the dream is all there is – it
has become their reality. But from the perspective of those outside
the dream, who see their sleeping bodies, the reality they’re chasing is simply false. It’s a real cool premise for a movie. I
haven’t ruined it for you — you can still watch it. And the fact is, the same concept
has been around for thousands of years. The basic question that Inception asks has
vexed philosophers all the way back to the very roots of Western philosophy. Is it possible that my current reality isn’t
real at all? Before we had Leonardo DiCaprio to walk us
through this question we had Plato. [Theme Music] Around 2400 years ago, Plato wrote his famous
book, The Republic, in which he describes — probably better than anyone before or since
— the nature of reality. He does it by telling a story about prisoners who have been chained since birth in a dark cave, facing a blank wall. All kinds of people and objects pass behind
the prisoners, and a fire casts the shadows of those things onto the wall in front of
the prisoners. These shadow images are all the prisoners ever see, and they come to understand the shadows as reality. Now just hold up a minute and imagine what
your view of the world would be like, if all you’ve ever seen are shadows. You wouldn’t
know that there was anything more. 3D wouldn’t even be a concept for you. The prisoners spend their whole lives understanding
only this shadow reality, until one day one of them escapes from his chains, and crawls
into the daylight. After spending a lifetime in fire-lit darkness,
the man is blinded by the sun at first. But in time, he comes to see the things outside
the cave are far more real than the shadow images that he once took for reality. They have substance. They occupy an extra
dimension. Think about how that would feel. To suddenly
realize that everything you believed just minutes ago turned out to be merely faint
outlines of reality. This is what happens to a lot of the
characters who inhabit the world of Inception: Once they realize there can be multiple layers of reality, they never look at the world around them the same way again. And for many of them, the
experience becomes intoxicating. This is also what happens to Plato’s escaped
prisoner. He goes back into the cave to tell his friends
the exciting news about what he’s found. But the conversation doesn’t go the way
he thinks it will. He expects them to be amazed by his discovery
— he figures they’ll be as eager to join him as he is anxious to get back. But they all think he’s crazy. As far as
they’re concerned, he’s babbling about some “higher reality” that they’ve never
seen, or heard of, or have any evidence for. To make matters worse, going back into the
fire-lit cave, after being in the sunlight, temporarily blinds the man again. So, from his friends’ perspective, his journey
into the outside world has actually damaged him, because now he can’t even see the shadow
images that were once his whole world. Now, you don’t have to be Plato, or Christopher
Nolan, to dream this stuff up. In fact, you might have experienced a diluted
version of this kind of reality-shock for yourself. For example:
Do you remember your first teddy bear? That bear was, philosophically speaking,
your only contact with, and your only way of understanding,
the concept of a bear. Then one day, you went to a zoo, or a wildlife refuge,
or a national park, and you saw an actual bear. And suddenly you realized that your previous
understanding of ‘bear’ was way, way off. Bears don’t have button eyes and little smiles made
of thread. They’re not soft. You couldn’t hug one. The bear you spent your first years of life
snuggling with, was just a shadowy imitation of the reality of bear-ness. Now, check out this somewhat more mature example: Maybe you were the first member of your tweeny
group of friends to discover the wonders of romantic attraction. You might’ve felt like
your eyes were open to a whole new world that your pals were still blind to. And when you tried to explain to them what
had happened to you? And how you felt? They probably thought you were crazy. And
the feeling was probably mutual. And this is what our poor protagonist goes
through when he re-enters the cave. So why does Plato tell us this story? It’s not just about little a-ha moments,
like when we discovered that bears and boys were not what we once thought they were. It’s
more than that. Plato wants us to see that we, right now,
are prisoners in a cave. Everything in our world is actually a mere
shadow of a higher reality. Just as the man in the story once mistook
shadows for real things, we are currently prisoners in a cave of our own. But rather than mistaking shadows for the
material objects of the ordinary world, our mistake is thinking that the material objects
of the ordinary world are the most real things. In fact, Plato says, the physical world that we think is the most real, is actually a mere shadow of a higher truth. If this surprises you, think about how many
beliefs were once accepted as absolute fact – only to later turn out to be completely
false – The shape of the earth. The idea that the
Earth was the center of the universe. The belief that heroin, and tobacco, and lobotomies
were good for people. Those so-called facts turned out to be far
from the truth. So, there’s a lot packed into this little
story. Plato is urging you to consider that the
world is not really as it seems. And making a statement about philosophy.
Doing philosophy is hard. Accepting that much of what you’ve always believed might actually be false can make you uncomfortable. You might feel temporarily blinded. You may learn just enough to know that your
old beliefs aren’t reliable, but you don’t yet know enough to feel comfortable with these
new ideas, either. What’s more, your old friends, who aren’t on this journey with you, might think you’ve lost your mind. Or they might take you for an arrogant, pedantic
jerk who thinks they have all the answers. But philosophy is also awesome. Because, once you get through the growing
pains, you can see things in a new way, and you can see through things that used to fool
you. And that brings us to another puzzle. Consider
this argument: No cat has 2 tails. Every cat has one more
tail than no cat. Therefore, every cat has 3 tails. Now, you’re probably thinking, that’s just
clearly wrong. That’s not much of a puzzle. I mean, the two premises sound right enough.
But the conclusion is … wha? This puzzle exploits a strangeness in the
language that we use to discuss certain ideas — specifically the ideas of nothingness,
absence, or emptiness. In premise 1, ‘no cat’ refers to an absence
of cats. Think about things with 2 tails, and none
of those things you think of are cats. Because you probably can’t even think of anything
with two tails. But in premise 2, the language tricks us into
understanding ‘No-Cat’ as an existent thing, rather than an absence of a thing.
The way it’s phrased, No-Cat could conceivably be that elusive creature that has 2 tails. So this leads us to the conclusion that, if
the No-Cat has 2 tails, and every cat has one more tail than it does, then every cat
must have 3 tails! Which is just wrong. And it takes a moment to understand the source
of our confusion. The conclusion is faulty, because it mistakes the absence of something for the presence of something. But it strikes us as plausible, on some level,
because language has duped us into considering a reality where a creature called No Cat with
two tails is actually a thing. Figuring out puzzles like this is kind of
like flipping a switch — first you’re confused, and then the cause of the confusion seems
obvious. It’s just a matter of sorting through what’s
really real. And Plato thinks philosophy is like that too
— going from the darkness into the light is both disorienting and rewarding. It’s kinda too bad in this case, though.
Because: a cat with three tails? I’d kind of like to see that. Though, to be honest
I’d mostly just like looking at any cat. And with that, we wrap up this episode of
Crash Course Philosophy. Today we learned about Plato’s famous Myth of the Cave, questioned
the relationship between appearance and reality, and talked about the process of philosophical
discovery. Next time, we’re going to disappear even
deeper into the hole of shadow and disbelief – all in the hopes of eventually emerging
into the light. This episode is brought to you by Squarespace.
Squarespace helps to create websites, blogs or online stores for you and your ideas. Websites
look professionally designed regardless of skill level, no coding required. Try Squarespace at for a special offer. Crash Course Philosophy is produced in association
with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check out amazing shows
like Shanx FX, Gross Science, and PBS Game/Show. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of all of these amazing people
and our Graphics Team is Thought Cafe.

Reader Comments

  1. Although it's possible that the reality we're living in is not the "real"/final/true reality (as the allegory of the cave alludes to), Occam's razor implies that unless we have good reason to believe that we're living in a dream/simulation/Matrix/…, the simplest explanation is probably correct and so this reality is probably the real one.

  2. Ironically, Plato's analogy of the three men in a cave, is quite a good analogy of FAITH. (That concept rejected out-of-hand by philosophers.)

  3. The Plato's Cave analogy is real, the one who managed to escape and see something new and real and returns is named crazy, because the others cannot conceive such as world.

  4. No cat has 2 tails
    Every cat has one MORE tail than an unexisting cat.therefore every cat has 2 tails because cats have ONE MORE tail and cats already have a tail help…

  5. I'm surprised there was no mention of The Truman Show. My Theory of Knowledge teacher brought up that movie in tandem with the Plato example.

  6. 6:12 im assuming this was ACTUALLY said to YOU at one point in your life, based on the TONE of your voice,the fact that you closed your eyes, and then the way you shook your head side to side 🙂 If i've been learning anything, this would constitute as an abductive guess,right?

  7. I loved the video until he said the Earth was round. How dare this channel confirm the lies peddled by the corrupt government!

  8. If I were to go to the caravans I might think these people are normal, but thanks to You Tube we know better because we saw them handing out cash to trick them to come here in the first place.

  9. I've always thought of Plato's allegory of the cave like this: The Cave is your mind, and when you crawl of it you find – nothing. For there is nothing for you that can be outside of your mind.
    The "shadows" on the wall are the sense impressions in your mind. Actual reality is beyond the grasp of the mind.

  10. Well, so much for the 'paperless office!' I had to pause at the end of the commercial, just to manage to notice the very, very small recycling symbol on the paper ream's 'pants' (its outer packaging.) Did legal make you include that? Don't worry. I'm sure not too many people noticed. Phew! That was close. Rikki Tikki.

  11. one thing im confused about is the cave scenario. If 3 people are locked in a cave, they can still see each other in 3d,so they might already know something is wrong with the wall shadows

  12. The living within a dream of a being that dream to be alive, that sound more closely to what Hinduism.
    As westerners we don't give enough credit to contribution of eastern civilization for their contribution to philosophy

  13. I love how you reference the viewer (or your hypothetical thinkers) as female. This subject specifically needs it. We need more female philosophers.

  14. Hey, I'm a Chem teacher. Just letting you know (1) I'm stealing some of your drawings and metaphors to motivate teens to want to understand reality. (2) the parallel between the cave and romantic attraction (I changed it on the go to falling in love so I wouldn't need to divert) made one of my students really emotional and she clapped at the end of the lesson.
    Great vids!

  15. I spent 30 minutes, while watching, summarizing the content of this video and coming up with my own exmaples, then damn it! The automatic playlist moved to video N 4!

    DAMN IT!

  16. My current reality that is not so bad seems far worse than my worst reality in the past because I have lost touch with reality – grown weak and delusional through religious and social condemnation.

  17. It would be nice to have a list of contributions or advancements that Philosophy has brought to science or society. Thinking hard for a few seconds, nothing comes to mind. Is it even considered a branch of science? Does it have any value if I assign none to it? Since I can not sense it with any of my 5 senses, then does philosophy even exist? Maybe philosophy is a construct of unreality that prevents us from discovering reality?

    The cat is Real. Real has 4 legs. Everything without 4 legs isn't Real. (it took exactly zero thought come up with another stupid premise example)

  18. Starting at 5:48 is the story of my life. I nodded yes at the "they think you lost your mind" part, and laughed too hard at the "pedantic jerk who thinks he knows all the answers" part lol. So true. Damn you, philosophy

  19. The problem is that way too many people who, far from discovering what is "real," will instead switch one set of shadows for another. They'll get the same rush as anyone who has actually left the cave, but they haven't really done so.

    Worse is when they enter the cave willingly, despite having been born outside, because the shadows promise them power. They then evangelize like mad, insisting that the shadows are the truth, causing others outside to doubt what is real and then drawing them in.

  20. This reminds of the end of "The Last Battle." I always felt that there was something beyond Mr. Lewis's general Christian allegory there.

  21. 1:36 No.

    6:58 but if the way the language is used suggests 'No-Cat' is an existent creature with two tails, then so too does it for Every-Cat' being that with three, and the argument simply becomes true…

  22. So did Homer steal this "No cat has two tails…" idea when he had Odysseus fool the Cyclops by telling the Cyclops his name was "No man?" I've been assigned some of Crash Course as part of another class and am enjoying them immensely. (Especially the content about cats. Hello Future Me's "Our Supreme Leader Mishka" would be very proud!

  23. So the world being flat idea was debunked thousands of years ago, same with earth being the center of the universe. It was known that the distance between heavenly bodies was so vast as to make even the fairly accurate thousands of miles of the earths diameter an insignificant point. This was known by Greeks, and others before them YEARS before Christ was ever born. Even in the dark ages it was known amongst the educated peoples (including the church). Were there some issues, yes. But most educated people knew these facts.

  24. Let me begin by saying REALITY EXISTS AS AN OBJECTIVE ABSOLUTE! Plato is WRONG!
    To anyone looking at Plato's allegory of the cave and not quite buying it, let me be the first, if there hasn't been anyone else yet, to tell you that you're right to not buy it. It's B.S. basically. The men have their reason fully intact. They would know they themselves are not shadows and that they themselves are real! Just as real as everything around their limited environment. This is a sinister demonstration by Plato to undermine man's mind and the power of reason. Things being merely unable to be perceived fully does not hold man back from observing reality and understanding its nature. Have you ever SEEN an atom? No! And yet we're able to understand them down to the level of their fundamentals and interactions!

  25. For me it was Mickey vs an actual mouse. I was like 5 and freaked the hell out. And yes, I sounded crazy trying to describe what I saw. Lol

  26. Why are you calling out heroin at 5:30? Why not call out sugar or red meat or alcohol?
    It's time for all governments to end the myopic ineffective counterproductive hypocritical racist and failed War On Drugs. Treat as a medical – not criminal – issue.

  27. Keep telling how many times I was lost in belief of an erronious previous memory. You've got to be able to tell that story better. Your discoveries come across as your problem. The Hana Cana Pana theory the three stooges used to adhere to was much funnier. Therefore leaving one confused but at the very least smiling. This on the other hand just left me feeling my time was completely lost. And! i can't help but believe that was a reality. Boredom

  28. The 'no-cat puzzle' plays on the linguistic ambiguity created by naming a 'non-existent'. Does anyone know of similar puzzles?

  29. This cat example seems to me a problem to epistemic-closure: it's not necessarily true that from true premises we'll reach to true conclusions.

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