Who said that movies couldn’t be a reference for education? Yeah movies may be funny, scary, heartbreaking etc. , but they always find a way to allow us to make connections. For instance, Groundhog Day serves as a great visual interpretation of Plato’s teaching discussed in “The Phaedo?. ” The main teachings that are showcases in this comedy are; recollection, opposites, indestructibility, reincarnation, and the cave. By illustrating Plato’s teaching in the movie, we are able to see what being human is all about.
Although some may argue that Aristotle embodies the idea of what being human is all about, Groundhog Day uses more of Plato’s teaching that Aristotle’s. The first argument that Plato introduced is recollection. This argument allows us understand how to process of learning works in humans. This same concept is seen through the main character; Phil. Phil uses recollection in many ways throughout the movie. Some examples are when he asks Nancy where she went to school and who her teacher was. The following day he walks up to her and recollecting the knowledge he acquired the day before he pretends he knows her.
Another example is when day after day Phil keeps stepping into the puddle as he makes his way to the parade. On the third day he remembers that there is a puddle and just as he is about to walk into it he stops, waits for someone else to step on it, and calmly jumps over it. Now what exactly does Plato say recollection means? Recollection “is most commonly a process of recovering what has been already forgotten through time and inattention ?. (Plato 12). Since Phil is constantly reliving the same he begins to remember everything that happened “the day before ?.
After repeating the same day over and over again it is kind of hard to forget what happened. So he begins using this to his advantage. He walks over the puddle, he remembers who Nancy was, he gets to know Rita, etc. Without interpretation it is hard to understand what Plato means through recollection. Thanks to Groundhog Day we can see how we as humans use recollection from prior experiences to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes. Much like Phil did to walk over the puddle and avoid getting his foot soaked. Phil also demonstrated the argument of indestructibility very well in the movie.
After repeatedly failing to pass on to February 3rd Phil becomes desperate. He looks for any way possible to get out of this curse. At his lowest point he decides to turn to suicide. Time after time Phil continues to wake up in his bed on February 2nd. How does this show indestructibility? Well in Plato’s argument he states, “The soul is very like the divine and immortal and intellectual and uniform and incorruptible and unchangeable, while the body is very like the human and mortal and unintellectual and multiform and corruptible and changeable ? (Plato 16). Phil’s physical being his body changes over time.
If you pay close attention you can see Phil look more and more tired as the days go by while his soul remains the same. Now one might have to disagree with this example of indestructibility and favor Aristotle’s philosophy. Aristotle states, “separate existence is impossible ? (Aristotle 56). Aristotle states that once the body dies the soul dies as well. One could easily say that the soul and the body died together because there is no clear image of the soul living on its own after Phil’s various suicides. Although this counterargument is very valid as to why Plato is wrong.
Allow me to bring up the Reincarnation Myth introduced to us by Plato in “The Phaedo ?. Every time Phil attempts suicide you can say that he succeeds. We aren’t so sure what happened to his body when he dies and we don’t know what happens to his soul. The only thing we do know is that he reincarnates back to his original body. Therefore his soul must have been alive after his suicide and before his reincarnation proving that the soul is immortal. Next, Phil at one point or another strives to be the opposite of what he was in the beginning. He went from being and arrogant, self-centered news caster to being a man for others.
Now this whole opposite thing displayed in the movie somewhat manages to compare to what Plato tries to say while answering what a human is. Plato states, “Are not all things generated from there opposites? ? (pg 11). According to the movie this is true; he goes from self-center and caring about himself, to caring about others. Plato also states, “If generation were a straight line ¦then you know that all things would have the same form and pass into the same state ? (pg. 12). What Plato is trying to say by this is that if there was no sort of cycle of opposites; good to bad and bad to good, then everything would either be bad or good.
If everything were this way than there would be no way to learn. For example, the whole point of Phil repeating his day was for him to do the opposite he did before; to be good. If there was no opposites or if he were to have never repeated his day than he would have never learned from his mistakes and he would have continued to be bad. Thanks to this idea of opposites, we know that the whole purpose of being human is to try and turn the bad that we did the day before to good. Finally, the last connection to be made from Groundhog Day to Plato would have to be the “Allegory of the Cave ?. The Allegory of the Cave ? mentions many different things. One thing that really connects to this film is when Plato says, “At first he’d see shadows most easily, then images of men and other things in the water, then the things themselves ? (188). Plato tries to explain the process in which humans learn; through a process called progressive learning. We see this method of learning quite a few times throughout Groundhog Day. For example the first day Phil and Rita are at the bar he looks at it as a shadow because he learns what she like to drink.
The second day he comes in and confidently says, “Tequila with lime, gold if you’ve got it ?, but he messes it up by saying “to the grounghog! “? because Rita usually prays for world peace. This day is like him looking at a reflection of what happened the day before. The third day he nails it, He orders the same exact drink and immediately toast “to world peace ?. The third day can be seen as him looking at the object itself. Another reference that can be made to the “Allegory of the Cave ? is how it mentions that “the sun ¦is in some way the cause of all things that he used to see ? (188).
The sun is what caused us to see and it is the source of everything good. The movie symbolically shows this idea of the sun being the source of all good. If you pay close attention you can see that throughout the movie as Phil repeats the same day over and over again. Those days are always dark and gloomy. Suddenly when he finally breaks free of this curse and moves on the February 3rd we see the sun come out and shine through the windows and on the snow. This symbolically shows that Phil has found the “good ? which Plato tends to label as everyone’s goal in life: to reach the good.
So as you can see there are many parallels that can be made from Groundhog Day to Plato’s teaching. Groundhog Day uses Plato’s teachings of recollection, opposites, indestructibility and the cave to visually interprets and answer the question on everyone’s mind: What does it mean to be a human? Although Aristotle does make many great points, they weren’t as strong as Plato’s. Plato’s teaching in “The Phaedo ? and in “The Allegory of the Cave ? serve as two of the best sources in answering what it means to be Human.