->''When I made a shadow on my windowshade\\
They called the police and testified\\
But they're like the people chained up in the cave\\
In the allegory of the people in the cave by the Greek guy.''
-->-- '''Music/TheyMightBeGiants''', "No One Knows My Plan"

In Creator/{{Plato}}'s [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_Cave famous allegory]] from ''Literature/TheRepublic'', reality is not directly perceived. We are tied down, in a cave, in front of a fire, unable to see ourselves or anyone else, only their shadows; and as we see the shadows dance and interact, we believe the shadows to be ourselves, and the walls of the cave to be the world. (And [[DayHurtsDarkAdjustedEyes we would find it difficult to see if brought into greater light]].)

A Platonic Cave setting is one in which the cave is shown to be artificial. Stories in this setting frequently have to do with peeling back layers, trying to get closer to reality. [[IThoughtItMeant Not the cave you only like as a friend]].

A CuckooNest plot uses this as part of a single episode's story.

The term can sometimes be used as synonym for "artificial reality", as in the case of ''Franchise/StarTrek'''s holodeck.

Compare {{Cyberspace}}. May overlap with LotusEaterMachine.

'''Beware of spoilers beyond this point.'''
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!!Examples

[[AC:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* In ''Anime/DigimonAdventure'', the "cave" is a cave. Matt, Sora and arguably Kari and Ken (Dark Ocean) all get stuck in the same cave that only exists because of their insecurity and sadness.
* ''Anime/ErgoProxy'' : The domes.
* ''Anime/TheBigO''. [[MindScrew Maybe]]. [[GainaxEnding Possibly]]. [[TomatoInTheMirror Could be]].
* In ''PaleCocoon'', humanity is dwelling in great underground complexes restoring and filing data from the [[AfterTheEnd world how it used to be]], mainly videos and an pictures. Surfacing is strictly forbidden. [[spoiler:Bonus points for having the complexes be on the Moon, not Earth, which has been perfectly fine all along.]]
* Referenced in the [[http://www.metrolyrics.com/aura-lyrics-hack-sign.html lyrics for Aura's song]] in Anime/DotHackSign.
* ''RevolutionaryGirlUtena'' heavily implies that Ohtori Academy is something like this, with two characters, [[spoiler:Akio and Anthy]] implied to have been there for centuries. In this case it also serves as a metaphor for adulthood, with "graduation" being symbolic of leaving childhood.
* ''[[Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagicaTheMovieRebellion Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion]]'': The entirety of [[spoiler:Homura's Witch Barrier]] is this.

[[AC:ComicBooks]]
* ''TheInvisibles'', where our universe is the intersection between two others. When someone is taken to The Invisible College, they are told "Imagine the world is the pattern on the wallpaper...well, now we're in the wall."
* ''MorningGlories'', played very literally.

[[AC:{{Film}}]]
* Independent film ''Cafe'' has people spending most of the film inside the cafe. It turns out the cafe (and possibly the world outside) is a computer program, with a [[LittleMissAlmighty quirky little girl]] as the program's avatar. It's a [[{{Pun}} Platonic Cafe]], if you will.
* The Matrix, of ''Film/TheMatrix''. The "cave" is a giant computer program.
* ''Film/TheTrumanShow''. The "cave" is a town-sized TV show soundstage.
* The ending of the movie ''Film/{{Brazil}}''. The "cave" is the main character's own mind after going insane under [[ColdBloodedTorture torture]].
* Partial example: ''Film/TheyLive'', in which radio signals are beamed into our brains, causing us to see things inaccurately.
* ''Film/DarkCity'' - The cave is an alien spaceship/laboratory made up to look like an American city ca. the 1930s.
* ''The 13th Floor'' - The cave is a virtual reality simulation inside of another virtual reality simulation.
* ''Film/EXistenZ'' - The cave is the virtual reality game. However, this trope is subverted when it turns out that [[spoiler:transCendenZ is just as fake as eXistenZ]]. And the people who want to destroy the cave? Insane terrorists who want to [[CulturePolice stop you from playing video games]].
* ''Film/THX1138'': The cave is the entire underground city, and the final scene [[spoiler:where THX climbs the ladder and escapes into the sun]] is a clear reference to the "rough ascent" and transcendence as described in the allegory.
** In a similar vein ''Film/LogansRun'' has people trapped in a walled city with no concept of what the world around them is like. Subverted in that they know there is something outside the city, but their concept of what it is happens to be completely skewed.
* ''Film/ElTopo'' takes a very literal interpretation of this trope. [[WhatDoYouMeanItWasntMadeOnDrugs Psychedelically]].
* ''Film/{{Inception}}'': The caves are dreams, which are oftentimes impossible to discern from reality.
* ''Film/{{SourceCode}}'': A soldier is sent back in time in a military-crafted pod that is integrated with various electronic inside of it that require his maintenance. [[spoiler:Later he discovers that the entire pod is an illusion created by his own mind while his severely damaged body is in a camatose state [[BrainInAJar hooked into a machine]].]]
* Discussed in ''Film/AfterTheDark''. Zimit compares James to the observer-of-shadows, as a way of insulting James' intelligence. [[spoiler:The ending depicts Zimit as equally blind, because his egoistical disdain for emotions means he cannot understand James and Petra's love- or [[GreenEyedMonster the reason why]] it angers him so much]].

[[AC:{{Literature}}]]
* Robert Heinlein's short story "They" has the protagonist catching on to the fact he's in a cave when someone running the world messes up and it's raining outside one window and sunny outside another. They send in a psychologist to try to convince him that he's schizophrenic.
* Used in Shelley's ''Literature/{{Frankenstein}}'' in the Creature's narrative.
* The protagonist of William Gibson's book ''{{Neuromancer}}'' is at one point inside a virtual reality program, sitting by a bonfire, inside something very reminiscent of a cave.
* In ''Literature/TheGreatGodPan'', the scientist responsible for the whole plot did the experiment because he believed in this theory, and wanted to expose part of the "real" reality to ours. Whereas this is true or not is not specified, but given the fact that an EldritchAbomination is running around it is likely so.
* In Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''Literature/IRobot'', the story "Reason" revolves around a robot who becomes convinced that the space station on which he works is his entire universe, and the duties he performs on the station [[CargoCult are rites for a deity]].
* In the HorusHeresy novel A Thousand Sons, Thousand Sons primarch Magnus the Red retells the story in an effort to convince the Emperor that he should allow continued exploration into sorcery. [[spoiler:He fails, and although his legion is censured for its use, they continue to use it with disastrous results.]]
** In this case the Emperor is trying his damnedest to keep the cave in place, since he knows what's lurking outside the cave is utterly horrific. [[spoiler: And Magnus has long since made a bargain with one of those horrors, which is precisely what shoots his case in the foot.]]
* ''Heaven'' by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen happens mostly in the real world, but it involves LotusEaterMachine "worlds", and contains one scene like this. An initiate to the deeper secrets of the religion setting up these fantasy worlds is shown inside one like them and then returned to the office where he was. His instructor argues that the virtual reality he experienced was real, and he disagrees. He says that what is really real is ''this'', meaning his surroundings, at which point he's awoken and realizes that was actually another simulation, used just in order to make a point when he'd start going on about it being more real than the first one.
* The ''modus operandi'' of Creator/PhilipKDick. Many, many, '''many''' of his stories involve counterfeit worlds or unreliable representations of reality, often as a TomatoInTheMirror reveal:
** ''Eye in the Sky'' has the main characters trapped inside solipistic manifestations of the main characters' minds, where reality bends to the ConfirmationBias of their subjective beliefs.
** ''Literature/TimeOutOfJoint'', [[spoiler:similar to ''The Truman Show'', has the main character discover his seemingly-idyllic suburban '50s life is a sham created by the military.]]
** In ''Literature/TheManInTheHighCastle'', protagonist Mr. Tagomi [[spoiler:concentrates on a piece of art so hard he becomes unmoored from his own reality, where the Axis powers won UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, and briefly wanders into ours.]]
** ''The Penultimate Truth'' features a literal Platonic Cave, where the good little worker bees are in massive underground vaults constructing autonomous weapons while news reports of the eternal war ravaging the surface of the Earth are piped in. [[spoiler:Turns out the war ended a while ago, and those autonomous weapons make great landscapers for the elite who have hoarded all the wealth.]]
** ''{{Literature/Ubik}}'' has Joe Chip discover the time-regressing world he's caught in is actually [[spoiler:his dying dream as he lingers in suspended animation.]]
** ''{{Literature/VALIS}}'' is outrageous about this, mirroring the author's nervous breakdown, when he believed he was communicating with an alien satellite that tried to convince him the Roman Empire was constructing a fabricated Gnostic reality to trap people's souls and make them forget that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ happened very recently. Amazingly, he then wrote himself into the book as ''the voice of reason'' for the protagonist, pointing out he may just be having a psychotic break.

[[AC:{{Live-Action TV}}]]
* The setting of ''Series/{{Life On Mars|2006}}''... maybe.
* The Shibuya in ''{{Series/Sh15uya}}'' is explicitly stated to be a virtual replication in the opening of the show.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The two-parter [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E8SilenceInTheLibrary "Silence in the Library"]]/[[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E9ForestOfTheDead "Forest of the Dead"]]. The "cave" is [[spoiler:the library's computer system]].
** The Matrix in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS14E3TheDeadlyAssassin "The Deadly Assassin"]], [[spoiler:the eponymous setting]] in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS19E1Castrovalva "Castrovalva"]], and the alternate realities in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS3E7TheCelestialToymaker "The Celestial Toymaker"]] and [[Recap/DoctorWhoS6E2TheMindRobber "The Mind Robber"]].
** Also [[spoiler:the fake Earth]] in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS13E4TheAndroidInvasion "The Android Invasion"]] and the tunnel in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS29E3Gridlock "Gridlock"]].
** One of the worlds presented to the Doctor, Amy, and Rory in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS31E7AmysChoice "Amy's Choice"]] is the Cave, being AllJustADream, with the other one being the real world. [[spoiler:Actually, both worlds are false, making it a double cave]].
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'': Professor Moriarty discovers that he's a character in a holodeck fantasy, and it even gets down to the point where he is questioning the memories and personality he was programmed with, rejecting them for a chance at a new identity and existence. When Picard fails to live up to his promise, a follow-up episode has Moriarty trapping Picard and Data in one of these briefly leading Picard to muse that [[LeaningOnTheFourthWall their own reality might be a Platonic Cave]].
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' has the Q create a representational reality that reflects the basic ideas of the Q Continuum for us mere mortals (though they don't try to fool the humans into thinking it's real, it at least suggests that there is more to reality than they're capable of handling).
* In the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' episode [[Recap/SupernaturalS02E20WhatIsAndWhatShouldNeverBe "What Is And What Should Never Be"]], Dean struggles to recognize that the Wishverse is not real and was only a fantasy created to allow the djinn to drain his blood.
* In ''Series/{{Babylon5}}'' G'kar tries to use this idea to explain a point of his philosophy. When his acolytes don't get it he just gives up and starts spouting nonsense metaphors.

[[AC:TabletopGames]]
* ''TabletopGame/MageTheAwakening''. Reality itself is the "cave," a "fallen" portrayal of the limitless wonder of the Supernal Realms. And even for those who manage to break the ropes and turn around to look at the way out, there are demiurges guarding the mouth of the cave, and a trench before you can even get to them.

[[AC:VideoGames]]
* The Plant setting in ''MetalGearSolid2''. The level is blatantly patterned on the workings of ''MetalGearSolid'', though the player is likely to dismiss it. We later learn the game is a FalseFlagOperation devised by Raiden's handlers to emulate the [=MGS1=] crisis: a nuclear threat, soldiers in revolt, two [=VIPs=] to rescue, a scientist who knows about Metal Gear's weak point, and various traps which are copy & pasted from the previous game. As a metaphor, the entire plant is just camouflage which crumbles away when Raiden discovers it.
** Raiden's private life can count as one. The government goes to especially cruel lengths to control him, even modeling an employee's looks based on his psyche profile and paying her to act as his girlfriend. Even his career is a hoax.
* ''FinalFantasyTacticsAdvance'' - The cave is the world created by the magical book.
* ''VideoGame/OracleOfTao'' has this as the punchline of the original story. Ambrosia is so worried that she might be having a DyingDream, or [[TomatoInTheMirror not be real in the first place]] that she freaks out when God explains the true nature of reality. [[spoiler:She's actually the ''only one'' who exists.]] Oddly enough, things get more interesting ''after'' this happens, and there's an entire PlayableEpilogue based on this new reality.
* ''StarOceanTillTheEndOfTime'' reveals that the entire universe is a simulated reality and, consequentially, everyone in it is an AI program.
* ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}'' has this in the form of Tranquility Lane, a VR simulation of a 1950's cul-de-sac neighborhood in which Dr. Stanislaus Braun, depicted as a girl named Betty, repeatedly tortures, kills, and resurrects the residents. The Vaults themselves may qualify for the residents who were born there and have never seen the outside world.

[[AC:WebComics]]
* [[http://www.arthurkingoftimeandspace.com/0255.htm This strip]] from the {{webcomic}} ''Webcomic/ArthurKingOfTimeAndSpace'' has Plato actually ''doing'' this.
* [[http://www.daisyowl.com/comic/2008-07-06 This]] strip from ''Webcomic/DaisyOwl'' has a fly trapped in one.
* ''Webcomic/{{Tailsteak}}'''s comic [[http://www.tailsteak.com/archive.php?num=32 The Sixth TV]] is an unusual take on the cave, and indeed begins with a quote from Plato.
* ''Webcomic/TowerOfGod'' : Baam's cave.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Sinfest}}'' the [[http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=2823 tour of Hell includes this cave.]]

[[AC:RealLife]]
* Several physicists have suggested ontologies that Plato would have been proud of:
** Cosmologist Paul Davies, along with a good number of other scientists, philosophers and theologians, believes that the universe is nothing more than a very powerful quantum-digital computer. He even proposed an experiment that could be performed pending developments in computer engineering.
** Max Tegmark thinks that only math exists, and that what we perceive as real, is nothing more than equations tricking themselves into thinking that they exist in a real world.
** And probably weirdest of all, after considering the [[http://www.scientificamerican.com/media/pdf/197911_0158.pdf philosophical consequences of the violation of Bell's Theorem]], Bernard d 'Espagnat concluded that the Laws of Physics are nothing more than the shadows of a panentheistic god.
* Pythagoras believed that numbers were the true nature of everything. This became an empirical theory by Issac Newton, who would codify how to use mathematics to describe physics.
* In a very real sense, we don't perceive anything but shadows. You think you see other people, but that's just Electromagnetic waves stimulating your retina. What you hear is just molecular vibrations. What you feel is just pressure picked up by your nerves. Humans do not have one single sense that ''directly'' perceives how we interpret the data we receive from the environment. ''In other words, YouCannotGraspTheTrueForm of everything around you, and what you see is just an illusion created by the brain trying to make sense out of everything.''
** Also the fact that we're all living ''slightly'' in the past. All signals take some time, an incredibly small amount of time, but still, for the brain to interpret after they're received, and even take time to reach the observer.
** More significantly, it would take a very long time to perceive all the tiles in your bathroom in the level of detail you believe you see them in. Your eye looks at one or two in detail then perceives the whole wall in low quality and your brain just assumes that those vaguely tile-like blobs look the same as the tiles you saw in detail. Most optical illusions exploit weaknesses in this step.
* The Balinese believe something very similar to this. Everything we see and experience is a reflection of the real world. The sacred theater of Bali includes ''wayang'' (reflection) plays using flat puppets made of leather behind a lit screen, so all you see is their shadows.
* Some Native American tribe believe this also. To get into the real world, you have to dream. Crazy Horse was one of many holy men known for the ability to be in both worlds at once.
* The [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_in_a_vat Brain In A Vat]], a concept where, if your brain was floating in a vat of life-supporting fluid, and wired up to a supercomputer designed to simulate reality, processing output from your brain and responding with appropriate input, there would be absolutely no way at all for you to determine that this was the case.
* When "Young Earth" creationists have attempted to explain how we can see the stars, when many of them are so far away it would take more than 6,000 years just for their light to reach us, one of the answers given is that God simply created beams of starlight ''already on their way to us''. By this logic, for the next 99,994,000 years until we start seeing "live" starlight from the Andromeda galaxy 100 mly away, we'll just be looking at a projection of it. Even more fun, every supernova we've ever witnessed comes from a star that ''never'' physically existed, there's just been a beam of light traveling towards us for thousands of years to point out where it ''would'' have existed if it had...
** Which is at least logically consistent. If you believe God created adults, the product of a childhood that never existed, it's reasonable to assume the stars were created at a certain age, with the light having traveled from them as far as you'd expect light to travel from a star of that age.
** The idea is occasionally referred to as ''Last Thursdayism'' since if you accept the concept there's no way to tell when the real world begins and the fake one ends.
* The color magenta is something your brain makes up when it sees red light and purple light at the same time. There is no "magenta" wavelength.
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