876: Trapped

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Socrates could've saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd just brought a flashlight, tranquilizer gun, and a bunch of rescue harnesses.
Title text: Socrates could've saved himself a lot of trouble if he'd just brought a flashlight, tranquilizer gun, and a bunch of rescue harnesses.


Cueball's brain seems to be unaware it is in his body, and is freaked out by the fact that all the information it receives is through Cueball's sensory organs. The brain has no means of verifying that the information received from the senses indeed corresponds to the actual outside world, and is thus in Plato's cave.

The 911 operator (Ponytail) references Plato's cave. This is a reference to an allegory by Plato in which he creates a world in which prisoners are chained against a wall and know only the shadows that cross the wall and how they create their own reality from those shadows. They would create words for the things they were seeing, but that would only correspond to the shadows and not the physical things themselves. Ponytail mentions that she “can’t send a search-and-rescue team into Plato’s cave,” referencing it as if it were an physical location.

The title text is also about Plato's cave and treats it like an actual cave with prisoners; Randall is saying that Socrates, Plato's teacher, should have just gone into the cave and brought the prisoners out instead of dealing with the extended allegory. The tranquilizer gun is for the prisoners, so they don't completely freak out while being taken out of the cave.


[Cueball is on a corded wall phone.]
Cueball: Hello? 911? I'm trapped!
Cueball: It's dark and I can't see anything except these two distorted splotches of light!
Cueball: Help!
[Ponytail, a 911 operator is in an office, wearing a headset.]
Ponytail: Splotches of light? Your... eyeballs?
Cueball (over phone): I think that's what they are! There's meat everywhere!
[Focus on Ponytail's head.]
Ponytail: ...so you're a brain.
Cueball (over phone): Yes!
Ponytail: Yeah, we all are. You're not trapped. Use your body to walk around and experience reality.
Cueball: But everything's just signals in my sensory cortices! How can I be sure they correspond to an external world?!
Ponytail (over phone): I'm sorry, but we can't send a search-and-rescue team into Plato's cave.

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That's an extremely well-read 911 call operator... -- ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I can't believe I am the first to note the irony.

I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 23:46, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

This is such a satire on the idiotic claim that Autistics are trapped inside their bodies. —Alia (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Dunno, I'm autistic myself, and I see it more as a metaphor for the fact that, as prisoners of Plato's cave, we can never truly understand the functioning of another person's mind, because the 'Empathy' operation of our brains is really just saying "What would I do, with my current cognitive state plus a couple of modifiers?" 19:14, 29 January 2021 (UTC)

Isn't the title text basically pretty much the same as The Matrix (1999)? 21:55, 11 June 2016 (UTC)

Plato's Cave and The Matrix are existential questions #9 and 14 on my list, respectively. There is also A Bunch of Rocks and that we are all androids but don't realize it. That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 13:23, 20 June 2017 (UTC)
Am I the only person here who interprets the "real" idea behind Plato's Cave to be a way to make philosophers feel superior to others? 20:05, 29 November 2019 (UTC)
Is there any part of philosophy that isn't? 19:14, 29 January 2021 (UTC)
While I get where you're coming from (modern "philosophers" tend to be pretty stuck-up), that isn't actually the case here. If I remember my History of Philosophy class correctly, the general idea behind Socrates's, Plato's, and Aristotle's works was that they tried to find a way to classify things, to describe what something really is. Plato, being a hippie mystic several millennia before being a hippie became cool, took this a little too literally. He decided that these "Forms" or "Categories" were what's "really real", with what we perceive being an imperfect reflection of them. ―TheDaleks (talk) 21:11, 17 April 2023 (UTC)