People say that 'philosophy' (the love of wisdom) started in ancient Greece, with important thinkers such as Socrates and Plato. Philosophy was a way for people to think about and discuss who we are and the world, in a non-religious way. They wanted to use reasoning (thinking skills) to make sense of it all. Socrates felt that asking questions was the best way to understand ideas like 'what really exists'? He believed that all people should have a chance to be educated so he opened his lectures to everyone! The Greek Government didn't like this idea and accused Socrates of being disloyal. So they sentenced him to death! His student, Plato, continued his work. Socrates didn't write anything down. So Plato wrote lots of 'dialogues' using Socrates as one of his characters. Plato uses a clever analogy (using a story to compare one thing to another) called 'The Cave', to show how people don't really understand what reality is like.
A long time ago, some prisoners were confined in a cave and had been there since birth. They didn't know about the outside world. They were chained up and facing a wall while a fire behind them gave off a faint light. Sometimes, people would pass by the fire carrying figures of animals and other things that cast shadows on the walls. The prisoners thought that these shadows were real beings. Then one day, one prisoner is set free and goes outside for the first time. The sun is so bright and hurts his eyes. Someone tells him that the things he can now see are actually real and not like the shadows he saw in the cave. Feeling happy and excited, the prisoner returns to the cave to tell everyone that what they see and understand is just an illusion. There is a bigger and brighter reality outside the cave. But the prisoner is no longer used to the darkness and has a hard time now seeing the shadows on the wall. He tries to free the prisoners but they think that his journey has made him stupid and they don't listen. They stay in the cave.The story represents how many people won't question how things are. Some people can have experiences that give them a clearer understanding about reality and who we are. Many people, who are used to understanding things in a certain way, don't want to change how they see things. Even if these things (like the shadows in the cave) may be an illusion!
When we go to school or university, we are taught that the body and the brain are separate things. That the world can be measured because it is made of materials. Some Scientists and Philosophers (people who think about what reality is etc.) are offering a new way to look at our world and what it means to be human. They are suggesting that instead of the world being made out of material things, it could be made out of consciousness. That's a big word and people use it in different ways! We are all conscious. We are aware of ourselves and other people and things. These scholars say that consciousness is like a big mind that we are all part of. In this big mind is our world and the universe. These big ideas may sound a little unusual. But if we think about some of the ideas offered by children, such as the virtual reality world, it may not be so unusual. Maybe, if we start to think about reality as something that connects us all, instead of separating people, animals and the world, it could help to solve some of our problems!