Allegory of The Cave or Plato’s Cave
The assigned quotation comes from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It is a famous passage from the beginning of Book 7 called The Republic. Plato was born and lived in Athens, Greece around the time period of 427-347 BC. Plato was a very well-educated and influential philosopher. He was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle who believed in absolutes.
Plato felt that knowledge of archetype, especially The Good, can only be attained through the use of reason- and most people do not do this. Plato also believed that most people make bad decisions based on emotion, misinformation and immediate self-interest since they do not use reason, can be easily manipulated by others such as demagogues. His philosophies include education, interaction and human nature which all are expressed through his choice of metaphors, symbolism and imagery in his allegory.
The Allegory of The Cave is a theory that focuses on human perception. Plato believes that education is having the ability to view things in different perspectives and that knowledge is gained through philosophical reasoning and how we interpret situations. Plato’s allegory describes how he views society and shows how humans are in a state of ignorance and corrupt. Plato also demonstrates how when we perceive what is actual reality, we then cannot think beyond the traps of our own mind because that would mean change and accepting what we believed to be true, was wrong. He implies throughout his allegory as if there are many things out there that we do not know about. Particularly the governments doings. That if we rely on our own perceptions, we will know very little about its existence. I believe he tries to tell society that we are all prisoners of our own senses and how humans are fearful of change and what they do not know. These are the many reasons for the composition of the Allegory of The Cave.
Plato begins by having Socrates ask Glaucon imagine there being a group of prisoners who have been chained up their entire lives in a cave. The prisoners are chained so that their legs and necks are fixed ahead, forcing them to stare at a wall in front. This is keeping the prisoners from looking around at the cave, at themselves or one another. They are kept there with no sunlight, just darkness. They are facing a wall and unable to move or look around, just able to see what is in front of them. Behind them is a fire, and behind the fire is a wall. Shadows of everyday objects are projected onto the wall in front of them so that is all that they know and are able to see.
The prisoners have no knowledge of other life outside of the cave. The prisoners think this is a what a normal life is because it is all they have ever experienced. Reality for them is a puppet show on the wall of the cave which is created by shadows of objects and figures. This is Plato’s way of explaining how the only way to learn is to go beyond the boundaries set by the law or oneself.
The story goes onto tell how one of the prisoners gets broken free of the chains and forced to see the sun which is an analogy of the fire that he could not see behind him. The fire represents enlightenment; recognizing one’s ignorance. The light from the fire hurts the prisoner’s eyes and made him want to go back to what he knew; looking at the wall. From taking a Philosophy class, I looked deeper into Plato’s Allegory. I find that the other captive’s reaction of the prisoner returning represents how people are scared of thinking outside of what they have always known or thought to be true. I believe the Socrates are explaining to the students how we can be blinded by what were allowed or just allowing ourselves to see.
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