Allegory of the Cave
The mind and allegory of the cave Research Paper
The mind can best be shaped to understand the world through ideas (forms) rather than material experiences and sensations. The highest type of reality is the one that is based on knowledge of forms as illustrated through the allegory of the cave.
The nature of the mind and its relationship to other means of understanding the world
The allegory of the cave proves that man is able to perform his day to day functions without necessarily comprehending his true reality. Within the cave, there are prisoners who have been chained throughout their lives. The prisoners cannot turn their heads and the only thing they can see is a wall. Although there are people who pass behind the prisoners through a roadway, it is never really possible to know that those are the real objects that reflect their shadows against the prisoner’s wall.
Even the echo that permeates from the real people is translated as sound from the shadows. These individuals have therefore interpreted what they see or their material sensation for reality. They have not stopped to think that there could be a deeper meaning behind the shadows. In fact, even the things they identify or name are all related to what they perceive passing before them as shadows and not the actual objects.
Language therefore reflects their perception of reality through the physical. Plato argues that this never really denotes the real meaning. To get to understand what is actually going around us, one needs to go beyond the physical and grasp these things with the mind because that is the only pathway to conceptualizing reality (Brians, 52).
The prisoner who was set free and shown the actual sources of the shadows actually realized that he had been mistaken all along. His reliance on his senses alone was not sufficient to grasp the world around him. This prisoner had to be set free from his old perceptions in order to truly get to know what was going on around him. The same thing can be said about the process of acquisition of concepts.
Physical objects often give mistaken views of what things really are. In order for one to truly grasp how the world works, it is essential for that individual to abandon the old concepts formed through materials and experiences with tangibles. Similarly, in order for the mind to truly conceptualize then it must challenge the status quo. The people in the cave are content with their circumstances. The dim fire light and their state of darkness is what they had come to know.
They do not realize that there is something wrong with their existence. Because they have never been exposed to another kind of existence, they are content with the little they possess. Here, the mind has not been engaged fully and this has resulted in a less fulfilling life (Plato & Jewett, 516).
When one of the prisoners had the privilege of being exposed to the light and after he saw what the sun was all about, he soon found out that their previous life has been a misconception. This individual is therefore more enlightened than his counterparts who are still held in the cave.
He now finds the way of life of the people in the cave to be pitiable and therefore decides that his duty is to get his people out of their state of not knowing. However, most of them do not receive his ideas openly. Some actually despise him and believe that there is no truth other than the one tied to their existence.
Plato was trying to illustrate that the mind has the capability of finding real knowledge but this will always come into conflict with knowledge obtained through material sensations as was the case with the people in the cave. One must be ready to confront these old ideas in order to facilitate true intellectualism and enlightenment within one’s society.
Indeed the process of enlightening others is always an uphill task because this entails dealing with a lot of resistance. Plato was well aware of Socrates life as a philosopher. He even discussed it with his counterpart during an analysis of the allegory. Socrates had engaged his mind to move beyond the senses in pursuit of truth.
When he found this truth, he knew that it was now his duty to free other people from the chains of material perceptions. His society rejected the truth that he was providing them and eventually sentenced him to death. It can be deduced from Socrates’ life that trying to inform others about the truth may rarely be successful. Every single individual must actively engage his mind and seek for it.
It is only after one has fully experienced this transformation that one can really testify to knowing and believing the truth. Here, one can see that the nature of the mind is such that it must interact with different paradigms so as to establish which one represents reality and which one does not. Telling people about truth often entails the use of language. Plato often believed that language is comparable to the shadows that the prisoners saw on their wall.
Individuals who are deeply committed to a certain view often get to that level by experiencing that view using their mind. Material perceptions are quite strong and in order to supersede them, it is essential to really experience reality. The mind works not by hearing the truth but by interacting and gaining an experience with it (Brians, 94).
In the allegory of the cave, the games that the prisoners were playing were used to symbolize the trivialities and cares of the world. Plato believed that the mind often undergoes a transformation once one encounters the light or enlightenment. Consequently, one finds it almost impossible to be put back in the earth and to gauge issues using the same standards that other men who have not seen the light utilize.
In other words, once the mind undergoes a transformation through knowledge of forms, it cannot again go back to the old method of using sensations in order to make sense of the world. These standards often become unacceptable and even pathetic to the person who has been transformed by knowledge. These people are still in mental bondage and their way of life it too far from reality (Warmington, 78).
Plato firmly believed in Socrates ideas yet those very ideas are eventually what led to so many people being angry at him. Socrates often held that the invisible world is where the truth lies and that those who choose to see with their eyes are blind to the truth. He believed that using the eyes – or the senses for that matter – contributed to the obscurity of the world because it was impossible to really know the world through the use of one’s eyes.
On the other hand, Socrates argued that the intelligible is really found in the invisible world. In fact, this philosopher was so bold as to say that the sun lit world of the senses could not be taken as real and good. Those people who believed it to be so were actually putting themselves in a den of ignorance and evil. It is only the few who possess the courage to really get out of this den that get enlightened.
When using the allegory of the cave, Plato was deriving his teachings from these affirmations made by Socrates and this eventually adds gravity to the assertion that the mind can truly gain an understanding of its surrounding only if it surpasses the visible and reaches for the invisible.
Indeed this allegory brings to the fore the issue of spirit consciousness. In order to really know oneself, one must think of the cave as the daily responsibilities and daily life and the life outside the cave as a life referring to the never ending spirit. In this regard, for one to really understand knowledge, one must get to the spirit. However, this is not possible unless one can become a real master of one’s mind.
One must think of the world and the light in it as an illusion and one must find comfort or rely on the transcendental consciousness. The latter refers to an eternal realm that is synonymous to real good. This allows the mind to be at ease and hence allows it to get to the real meaning of life (Plato & Jowett, 520).
The allegory also provides an in-depth explanation of what life is about through one’s influences and exposure. In fact, many stereotypes or religions can sometimes be interpreted as the cave in the allegory. A person who has grown up knowing about a certain religion to the point of becoming a fundamentalist will often close his mind to other alternatives.
This is someone who believes that the only truth that exists out there is the truth that he or she was taught in his or her religion. To this end, the religion becomes like a cave which blocks him from really engaging with the truth. Even though other people might approach such a person and try to convince him about the truth, it is likely that such a person will not accept that truth because he has closed his or her mind to it.
In order for one to be exposed to reality, it is necessary for one to be open to the possibility of there being another realm. Fundamentalist religions often act as caves that close follower’s minds to knowledge and reality. It is often essential for such individuals to open their minds so that they can undergo a paradigm shift.
The allegory of the cave also illustrates how each and every member of society has a certain kind of cave in their mind. This often emanates from impulsive thought processes that get formulated into the mind by one’s sensations. However, once the mind, which is synonymous to the cave, starts allowing reality to permeate it then the cave will start being dismantled.
It is here where the mind will start to build up real knowledge and therefore look beyond certain reality so that it can be fully understood. The point at which one can get to real self actualization will occur when one breaks down this barrier of the cave (Warmington, 201).
Certain underlying truths can only be accessed once the mind tears down these structures and replaces it with truth structures. The cave is usually created by those experiences that people go through and it often closes people off certain possibilities. The truth is very expansive and cannot be contained within the cave mentality.
Plato’s allegory on the mind and its relation to material sensations also provides a way of understanding what real leadership is. When an individual had the privilege of seeing the light, then that person goes back to his former life, that person would genuinely want to bring the other people in his society to par with his reasoning. This kind of leader would take up the responsibility of teaching not because of a quest for power, fame, glory or any other superficial reason; such a person would want to govern so that he or she could make his society a better place.
The true leader is therefore one who does it out of an obligation rather than selfish needs. In other words, this person will be able to forsake all other material based desires in order to meet the needs of his society. In essence this reflects maturity of the mind. One cannot be in a position where one can change one’s society without forsaking the things that are related to the external.
It is also essential to take note that real change in one’s life only takes place when one has taken charge of one’s reality. Humankind often allows the external to design and create it’s life; this is what makes up what people become. Such individuals will often go through life without thinking through it.
They will take each day as it comes and not even bother taking a conscious decision to take charge of their existence. Through the mind, mankind has the option to take over his existence and this must be a conscious step taken by all who dare (Watt, 152).
One would wonder why philosophers even bother with the other members of society since it has been clearly proven that they will meet resistance stemming from sense related inhibitions. Plato believes that it is a true leader’s responsibility to take on this task because that is the only way that society will get better or it is the only way that the truth can really get to other people.
As an enlightened person, one must be a representation of goodness because the rest of society may not yet be able to comprehend these kinds of concepts. Progress in human development can only be realized by looking at reality in a different way and this is facilitated through the sacrifices of enlightened leaders.
It is also interesting to note how man can resign himself to a life of reality if he does not limit his mind to his perceptions. One’s conception of truth and reality can affect one’s capacity to access education and be changed by it. It can also affect one’s spirituality and one’s ability to reach real spiritual consciousness.
It also permeates public life and the way politics plays out in people’s lives. The mistaken belief in limited perspectives of the sensations eventually permeates in everyday life and therefore makes one’s existence flawed. It all starts with the mind since everything else is as a result of a decision made by one individual.
Human beings have an innate fear of new ideas. This normally occurs because such ideas will expose the limitations in one’s former thinking. In fact, such fears are so intense that instead of questioning the new ideas, humans would rather take the short way out and kill the bearer of the message. Great reasoning naturally offends its listeners and thinking is not a thing that is taken in stride.
The prisoners in the cave were offended by the assertions of the prisoner who had seen the light because ignorance is blissful. This illustrates that when one is bound in the world of sensations, one can ever really embrace knowledge. Such a person will try to question it or may try to resort to other drastic measures. This means that without truly engaging the mind, one can never really be virtuous. One would always be willing to employ radical methods in order to resist ideas.
This allegory is also important in illustrating the difficulties that the mind goes through during transitions from light to darkness and darkness to light. The prisoner who had been removed from the cave soon came to find out that it was going to be very difficult for him to adjust from the darkness to the light. He almost felt like he was being blinded by it.
On the other hand, after studying the sun, the seasons and reality, he also found it very difficult to adjust back to the darkness in the cave. Putting knowledge into his mind is what assisted in these transitions. He was able to get past these difficulties through knowledge. Therefore one can assert that real adjustment occurs when the mind is continually fed with ideas (Watt, 191).
The mind must be truly engaged in order to get to the truth. This may involve loosening one out of the chains that emanate from false beliefs. These beliefs are brought on by one’s experiences with the material sensations. Consequently, for one to get to the truth, one must supersede this superficial existence.
However, the truth is often not told or explained through language, it must be experienced by the mind by specific individuals. Enlightenment also creates good leaders because their minds have already overcome the ignorance and darkness of the visible world.
Brians, P. The allegory of the Cave. NY: Brickhouse, 1998
Jocobus, Lee. Plato the allegory of the cave
Watt, Stephen. Introduction: the theory of forms. London: Wardsworth, 1997
Plato, D. & Jowett, B. Plato’s the republic. NY: Modern library, 1941
Warmington, Rouse. Great dialogues of Plato. NY: Signet classics, 1999
Philosophical Concept of the Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” Explicatory Essay
In the Plato’s parable of the cave, Plato talks about prisoners who were shackled in a cave with their necks tied in one position. He explains how difficult the conditions in the cave are so that the prisoners cannot even see the sunlight. In this case, the prisoners are not allowed to turn their heads, hence cannot see what is happening behind their backs.
Plato explains the presence of bright light that is visible during the day as a huge fire hanging from a fixed point. This is probably sunlight, which enters the cave via its opening. The prisoners perceive the light as fire since they are in a cocoon where they have no freedom to access the sunlight.
According to Plato (516a-516c), the prisoners observe the luggage carried by people passing along the low built wall ranging from carvings made of stone and wood with other artifacts made by people as puppets. This symbolizes the inability of these prisoners to see beyond the wall and compares it with the low curtain that puppeteers put as they demonstrate their puppets.
In his confessions, Augustine illustrates the imagination of Plato as related to God and the creation of humankind. In his thought, people do not really understand the demarcation between men and God. Plato (1909-14) describes the shadow cast by objects as a misery. Saint Augustine, on the other hand, tries to explain that objects created by God are always in doubt. Augustine wonders if the existence of these composite objects can be considered according to their doubtful character in science.
The perception to this is that there are so many objects created by God, which are of doubtful character. These include the Earth itself, the Sun, the Moon and more, so the shadow is cast by objects, which lack full scientific explanation. It has been difficult to belief in the all-powerful God, which makes the story of creation look like a dream.
The Saint Augustine’s confession VII (10) describes the presence of God as light that is cast by sun. In his arguments, Augustine describes the ability to doubt the creation of humanity either by consequents or by fate as similar to the being of sun.
This is because under any circumstances, one can prove or disprove where the Sun comes from either scientifically or by the story of creation. In fact, the same doubt is found in the Plato’s parable of the cave where he illustrates the sunlight as huge fire perceived by the prisoners in the cave.
Augustine believes that no one can ascertain the Mighty being or believe that there is nothing certain. He rather foresees everything what is found on the Earth as deity and fabulous in comparison to the creation of God. Augustine says that whatever is in God’s mind, it touches our own mind like the light of the sun.
This is in reference to the parable of the cave by Plato who describes the prisoners in the cave as if they just see the shadow but not the sun itself. This context is an explanation of how it is impossible to see God just like how the prisoners can only see the light during the day and not the sun, but believe that there is a huge fire, which produces the light. Human beings can only imagine the existence of a mighty power but cannot see it since it can destroy their eyes.
Light is regarded as the correct knowledge of what exactly the mighty being, God, is. It might be quite impossible to conclude if the following belief is right, and there is God. As Augustine suggests, it is not easy to distinguish the moments when one is dreaming and when he/she is awake. While thinking of some of these composite objects, one can be confused as being asleep or awake due to the nature of the thoughts.
According to Descartes’ meditations, the fact of not knowing is as important as knowing. This is as important since the story of composite beings on the Earth remains a point of research by scientists to determine what is not clear. The meditations describe the knowledge as light, which lacked explanation.
In his parable of the cave, Plato describes that it is not important to free the prisoners to discover what they do not know. The prisoners feel comfortable when they can not explain where the light is coming from. When the prisoners are set free from the chains, they experience the ‘fire’ that is so devastating. That is why, if the prisoner remained in the cave, the glare could not make him see the artifacts casting the shadow.
Perhaps, in such a case, It would be better not knowing what is out of our knowledge for it can subject some negative impacts on us. The meditations clearly show ignorance to knowledge as a tool of sleeping well without illusions. They demonstrate the need for an individual to gain objective truth that will help him to have a different view of the world.
Saint, Augustine, Confessions. Henry Chadwick, trans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Print.
Chadwick, Henry. Augustine. New York: Oxford University Press, Past Masters Series, 1986. Print.
Allegory of the cave Essay (Article)
Socrates starts by explaining a scenario to Glaucon. He tells Glaucon to picture prisoners in a cave, chained in a manner that movement is impossible. These prisoners have been in this position since childhood. Not only their limbs are immobile, but their heads are also in a fixed position such that the only thing they can see is the wall in front of them. Behind these prisoners is a large fire.
There is fire between the prisoners and the walkway. People pass by this walkway-carrying luggage and puppets of men and animals on their head. Using the shadows cast by the passersby, they take turns to guess the object that will pass.
They refer to the shadows using names of the real object. The passersby make some noise as they pass. The echo of the sounds made by the people walking along the walkway is what the prisoners hear. They do not know that the shadows are representations of real people. They also believe that the echo is sound coming from the shadows. This they believe to be so because it is what they have been seeing and hearing since their childhood.
Pluto then uses Socrates to introduce a new situation. Freedom is granted to a prisoner, and he is allowed to look at the things that cast the shadow shown to him. He does not recognize them; instead, he still believes that the casted shadow is more real than what he sees.
When the prisoner looks at the fire, he turns his head away from it towards the wall to escape its glare. He is then dragged out of the cave into the surface where there is sunlight. At first, it is too much, but then he gets used to it after spending some time at the surface. The prisoners who remained in the cave believed that the released prisoner’s mind was corrupted. According to them, he had lost grasp of the reality they have always known.
Pluto’s creativity and his vast understanding of human nature make him create a scenario that educates humanity by use of an imaginary world. He simply talks about human ignorance and the reluctance to embrace reason. People tend to believe only in things that they have known to be true.
They stick to tradition and culture passed to them from their ancestors. They are afraid to explore the alternative that they do not know. Once introduced to them, they first seek refuge in their initial belief. This is illustrated when the prisoner look at the fire then back to the wall.
Pluto’s analysis of human nature is indeed insightful. Up to date, people stick to culture and tradition not caring to explore the other side of the coin. An example is religion in the world. Humans tend to believe in the religion that they have known since childhood. It is not easy, for example, to convince a Christian to abandon his faith, become a Muslim, and vice versa.
Another example is a suicide bomber who has ever believed, since childhood, that dying for his cause will make him gain favour before the eyes of the Lord. He knows that taking more people with him amounts to greater rewards and will never listen to any reason against this.
Pluto also teaches that once humans discover the truth; they develop a need to stay in it. They develop deeper yearning for more of this truth, and that is when they realise that all along they have been ignorant. When they try to explain this to their colleagues who are still in darkness, they are the ones looked down upon, and regarded as being a danger to society.
Pluto uses the prisoner taken to the surface and brought back into the cave to illustrate this. It is unwise to remain true to perceptions instilled in one from childhood. People should listen to reason and consider all alternatives rather than remaining loyal to indigenous beliefs.
Allegory of the Cave Essay
Plato’s cave represents human knowledge “showing the intellectual journey to truth as a gradual and arduous process”.He likens people with prisoners in a cave whose only perception of realism is a play of shadows spread on a wall that faces them. Everyone has a role to play in bringing change to his/her life.
One has to make a decision of leaving the thoughts that prevent them from perceiving the world from a broad perspective. Only then can they get an understanding of the real world. Plato sums this in four stages. The first stage includes forming an attitude that is based on the reality’s outward appearance constituted by sights and sounds of experience though it takes a while before the human mind distinguishes reality.
The second stage is the ability to recognize the distinction between a deceptive entity of knowledge and the real ones. In this case, the shadows of the carving walls and the true carvings. The use of puppeteers by Plato inside the cave and things outside indicate that empirical discoveries never penetrate the ideal realm of truth thus calling for the need to move outside the cave. The third stage is where people get outside the cave into the sun that tends to cause their blindness.
This sun indicates the light of truth thus causing reality to be foreign to the familiar. This makes it hard to understand the nature of reality that happens to be ideal and not material as Plato later realized. Accordingly, practice and learning are key ingredients for realization of the true form of reality. The fourth stage is where one acknowledges the intellectual light source. Plato realized that the Good does elucidate concepts that help us to understand truth.
The prisoner knew that holding his head high and standing on his dignity would signify victory as far as addressing the masses was concerned. Plato maintains this concept by saying that it is only those that can pull off enlightenment that ought to be leaders of the rest. The prisoner is a leader because he has achieved enlightenment over time and he is well able to lead the rest. He did not resist enlightenment as others did but rather embraced it with open arms.
The allegory of the cave can be compared with Breyten’s ‘You Screws’ which holds that people will always drag you to the pit immediately they realize that the light has finally shone upon you. Breyten having been a prisoner for while who never let his form of imprisonment deter him from advancing in knowledge, is addressing the screws who turned up in large numbers to listen to him as a way of gaining knowledge.
He says that he does not regret much of having been shattered from the world but “I normally resent all attempts at dragging me back particularly when they come from the sentimentally deprived or the vicarious heart-eaters and self shitters who wallow in victimization and heroism by proxy”.
Ordinary folks that have not been enlightened will always misunderstand them that have the intellectual insight. The individual in the Plato at last understands his environment and tenaciously overcomes the challenges experienced in the cave, in this case being its mental incapacitation, through a long and tortuous intellectual journey.
In conclusion, everyone needs to change their thoughts and attitudes to be able to live a worthy life. There is nothing for the free or the slaves since all have opportunities even if they are bloated. Mental imprisonment is definitely the worst situation in life as far as enlightenment is concerned.
Breyten, Breytenbach. “You Screws.” Harper’s Magazine, Feb. 2007.
Plato, Allan. ‘The Allegory of the Cave’, The Republic of Plato. New York: Basic Books, 1968.
Ralkowski, Mark. Heidegger’s Platonism. London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing, 2009.
- Alan Plato, ‘The Allegory of the Cave’, The Republic of Plato, ed. (New York: Basic Books, 1968), 134.
- Mark Ralkowski, Heidegger’s Platonism, (London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing, 2009), 102.
- Mark Ralkowski, Heidegger’s Platonism, (London, GBR: Continuum International Publishing, 2009), 113.
- Breytenbach Breyten, “You Screws,” Harper’s Magazine February, 2007, 15.
Allegory of the Cave: Conception of Education in Plato’s The Republic Essay
Conception of Education in Plato’s The Republic
In striving to progress and outperform the others, people have always attached great importance to accumulating their life experience so that future generations could benefit from it and learn from the mistakes and achievements of the past. Wisdom has been respected as a hallmark of age and experience, and those who possessed it stood high in the social esteem.
The issue of passing on experience from generation to generation was topical already in the ancient times, with Ancient Greece being one of the strongholds of first educational systems. Education was considered then in a broad philosophical context not only as passing on practical knowledge but also as shaping one’s mind and soul for philosophical contemplation and perception of life.
In this respect it is demonstrative to view the renowned allegory of the cave, provided by Plato in his fundamental Socratic dialogue The Republic, as a revealing conception of education. The latter is interpreted by Plato as enlightenment of uneducated mind that once informed should share the knowledge with the rest for the purpose of his/her homeland’s prosperity.
In his allegory, Plato draws a parallel between the general public and people who are imprisoned in a deep and dark cave. It is impossible to turn their heads towards the enlightened entrance to the cave as their necks have been chained since their childhood, so they only can see before themselves.
Behind the prisoners a fire is playing, so that they can see their own shadows and the shadows of one another thrown by the fire on the opposite wall of the cave — in fact, shadows are their reality. Supposing one of the prisoners is freed and let go to the real world, he would at first be struck by the light coming from outside; having overcome pain in his eyes, he then deliberately moves to the open air and at first perceives what he sees there as imaginary, as his only reality so far have been shadows in the cave.
But step by step he is moved forward, conceiving real life, until he is finally brought to the source of life itself, to the sun which would now be the essence of reality and the embodiment of the ultimate truth. Thus, thinking back to his former fellows in the cave, he pities them, for they do not know the truth and lead an existence in a world of imaginary things which they take for real. (Plato 219–221)
Such is the thought-provoking allegory, and the first and foremost association that is evoked by it is that of the process of education. Initially, people possess some basic knowledge relying on their first-hand experience of life. They consider their lives and ideas of it to be perfectly right and correct, since they do not know anything else to compare them with; there are no competing ideas which could shake their convictions.
As soon as additional information appears, either brought by someone else or acquired on one’s own, the old points of view are challenged, as they are compared to new ones and there emerges doubt as to the veracity and credibility of the old ones. The more information one gets, the more knowledge one accumulates, the more choice one has between multiple options, the more food for thought one receives, and as a consequence, the more doubt and vacillation one experiences.
In the painstaking search for the ‘one-and-only’ truth, one passes a long way through stages of first encounter with new facts or ideas, distrust to them, subsequent interest in them, their careful exploration and comparison to the previous ones, and their acceptance or rejection.
In order to pass through this way successfully and fruitfully without overlooking some important and valuable ideas, it can turn out beneficial to have a wise guide on that way — a person who is experienced and learned enough to help one separate the wheat from the chaff and to direct one’s steps in the right way.
There are multiple things to learn and the ways of learning them are countless, so are the possible interpretations of them and the value and importance one ascribes to the knowledge gained. Assuming that an unprepared mind can easily get lost in the jungle of available information, its guidance is vital for the purpose of shaping a reasonable and systematized outlook.
As such, education can be viewed as streamlining one’s mental energy in the right direction that benefits both the learner and his/her society. And it becomes the task and the social responsibility of philosophers (and, by analogy, educators) to ‘re-enter the cave’ and bring educational enlightenment to the broad public however resisting the latter may be.
Fairly enough, one may ask: why should an enlightened person return back to the cave and risk all the misunderstanding and rejection directed at him/her by the uneducated people? Plato reviews this problem in a patriotic key, claiming that the civil responsibility of anyone who is lucky enough to obtain proper education is to go back from where he/she came and apply the knowledge to enlighten the rest of the nation.
In order to acquire knowledge of higher degree, it is vital not to stop in one’s education and not to rest on one’s laurels but to proceed on the thorny path of wisdom that lies through returning back to the uneducated. Otherwise the once educated person is as useless and shallow as the uninformed ones (Plato 224).
If to someone it may seem unjust that those who have obtained enlightenment are forced to go back to the previous miserable existence, Plato motivates this necessity by the fact that education has been conferred on such people by the state, as a big favor. Therefore, it is the moral obligation and the civic duty to return the favor and sacrifice their own unconcerned existence for the sake of their state prosperity.
Moreover, it is the task of the state governors to oblige the educated people “to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and partake of their labours and honours, whether they are worth having or not” (Plato 225). He claims that good education is not an own merit of a person: it is provided by the state; therefore, the state has the right to claim devoted service and implicit obedience from those who have benefited from it.
Additionally to fulfilling one’s civic duty, the educated people get the chance of furthering their education by enlarging their knowledge. Brought back into the conditions of intellectual darkness, they are able — from the height of their wisdom — to approach such existence at a qualitatively new level, developing new skills and awareness.
Plato’s allegory of the cave is an unprecedented resource for educational inspiration, since together with discussing the importance of pure knowledge Plato emphasizes the necessity of sharing and distributing it among the uninformed. Such unselfish approach to the issue of teaching can be a good example for the modern educators, instructing them on the thorny path of their labor of love.
Plato. The Republic of Plato. Ed. and trans. Benjamin Jowett. Elibron Classics, 2002. Print.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Essay
The “Allegory of the Cave” is among Plato’s philosophical writings that are presented in the form of allegory. The definition of an allegory writing is given as “the type of writing having two levels of meanings: literary and allegorical meaning…where a literary meaning is the content or the subject matter and allegorical meaning is the symbolic or metaphorical suggestion “(BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, para 1).
In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, there is much darkness in the cave and only very little light can be found in this place and it is so hard for a person who is in the cave to see the objects around. In the cave, we have people, around which chains have been tied on their feet as well as their necks, making them unable to move freely. They are prisoners (Cohen, 2006).
This cave forms one world and there is another world outside the cave and between the two, a tall wall has been erected. A large number of people move on the wall carrying various things and their shadows are cast in the cave. Those living in the cave are unable to fully raise up their heads to see clearly but are only able to see the shadows about which they hold a believe that they are real. However, as much as they believe that the shadows are real, this is just their own illusion (Cohen, 2006).
On the other hand, in the outside world, there is adequate light and everything can be clearly seen by people who live their. In case one of the cave prisoners is let out of the cave and allowed to join the outer world, this person is unable to see even a single thing initially because his eyes are not used to the bright light.
However, as time goes by, the person gradually gets used to the light and starts to identify all things in the outer world. Following this, the person comes to a realization that the cave world is not a real world and it is the outer world that is real. He gets to appreciate himself and the memories of those who live in the cave come to him.
He becomes sympathetic and pitiful to those who live in the cave because he realizes that they are living in darkness. What comes to his mind is that is far much better to be under bondage while living in the outer world than being someone honored or a leader while living in the cave.
Although this person does not have the willingness to return to the cave, in case this person is returned to the cave, he can not be able to count anything in the cave because the dazzling of his eyes increases even more. In case he makes some efforts to convince those living in the cave that the cave world is not real and the outer world is what is a real one; these people will have to take away his life because they are ignorant (Meyer, Scheibel, Munte-Goussar, Meisel and Schawe, 2007).
The allegorical meaning is also attached to the “allegory of the cave” since a large number of symbolic ideas are employed in the writing. In symbolic terms, the cave full of darkness and chained prisoners stands for the contemporary world which is filled with ignorance. The tall wall that has been erected between the cave world and the outer world is symbolic of the limited thinking that people in the contemporary world have.
In addition, “the shadow symbolically suggests the world of sensory perception which Plato considers an illusion” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 3). Basing on Plato’s opinion, “the appearance is false and reality is somewhere, which we can not see” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 3).
Plato being a perfect philosopher suggests that the world that can be seen is a photocopy of the “real world” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d,). A photocopy like this is represented by the shadows and there is only a possibility to know the reality when the spiritual knowledge can be employed. The chains is a symbol of “our limitation in this material world so that we can not know the reality to know the reality; we have to break the material wolrd” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 4).
Spiritual reality is symbolized by the outer world which is filled with light and achieving spiritual realized can only be realized by “breaking the chains that are used to tie us” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 4). In addition, lack of being able to see initially when one comes to the outer world is symbolic of the hardships of denying the material wolrd.
The dazzling of the yes when one is returned to the cave is symbolic of a person’s hardship to agree to ignorance after one coming to know the reality. Therefore, it can be said that in “the allegory of the cave”, there has been criticizing by Plato of “our limited existence in the material wolrd” (BachelorandMaster.com, n.d, Para 4).
Overview of the Truman Show Film
The “Truman Show” film is a TV show that focuses on the life of a man known as Truman Burbank. Truman was lawfully adopted immediately after birth by a major TV network “to be the unknowing star of television series, in which his entire life is watched by an audience of millions through an intricate series of hidden cameras” (Philosophical films, 1998, para 1). The main person behind the whole of this idea of the “Truman Show” is someone by the name Christof.
This person sets up an “artificial world”, given the name as Seahaven, in which Truman starts to live. In the actual sense, this artificial world is only a quite big TV set. The dwellers of this artificial world are all actors and it is only Truman who is not aware of this fact (Philosophy and Truman Show, 2010). Truman is the only genuine person in the artificial world; the people he believes to be his mother and father as well as his spouse are people those who are being paid to engage in acting.
All through Truman’s life, the TV network is determined to accomplish the mission of keeping Truman in the dark about the reality by controlling the environment in which he dwells (Clark and Cook, 1998). Even after Truman eventually comes to a realization of the reality and runs away from the “constructed world”, the film as well follows these events (Brearley and Sabbadini, 2008; Castle, 2011).
How fears experienced by prisoners in Plato’s Allegory of the cave and by Truman in Truman Show similar
It can be clearly seen that the “Truman Show” film bears significant similarities with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The film is full of ideas that are borrowed from “ancient philosophy”. The main themes that can be identified in the film and Plato’s allegory are such themes as total control, deceptive appearances, and looking for truth.
The fear experienced by the prisoners in the cave was similar to the fear that Truman went through in some ways. For instance, in the case where Plato talks of a Freed Man from the cave; this man gets to know the reality when he gets accustomed to the outer world. Though he has no willingness to go back to the cave, the desire and willingness to deliver the others who still stay in the cave out of darkness eventually drives him back (The Hidden Lighthouse, 2011).
On getting back to the cave, the freed man would join the prisoners and narrates to them his experience while in the outer world. The Freed man may encounter much hardships of making the prisoners to actually understand what he is talking about, in regard to the real world.
He would be dismissed by the prisoners and they would proclaim him as having gone mad. As a matter of fact, if this freed man goes on insisting on holding on to his new belief or went on persuading them to leave the cave to go to the outer world, the prisoners would turn out to be hostile to the man (The Hidden Lighthouse, 2011).
The possibility that the idea they have in mind about reality might be a mistaken one makes these prisoners to experience fear. More so, much fear is experienced by the prisoners following the idea that if they left the cave to go to the outer wolrd, they would turn out to be blind and will not be able to see the “reality” they have always known. Plato points out that,
men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that is better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death (Plato, 2008, pg 140).
This explanation clearly illustrates that the people in the cave would prefer killing over accepting to be taken out of the cave to the outer wolrd. They would have to do anything possible to ensure they won’t go out of the cave and this is for the reason that, to them this is the real world and it is a place they feel comfortable and at peace to stay (Linstead and Linstead, 2005).
Considering the case in the film “Truman show”, Truman is absolutely unaware of realities around him. He is not aware that his entire life is under someone’s control. Relating Truman’s situation to Plato’s Allegory, in symbolic terms, chains have been tied around Truman and he is living in a cave and there is the appearance of shadows that he believes are real.
Everyone around him are mere actors that are being paid to act and these people represents the shadows that appear on the wall, seen by Truman which are manipulated by Christof. These actors are being used by Christof to manipulate Truman’s life and to bar him from knowing the truth (Papathanassopouloulos, 2011).
An element of fear comes in when Christof uses one of the actors, which Truman believes he is his father, to instill fear in Truman to prevent him from going away from the “island”. Through his manipulation, Christof assigns the role to Truman’s “father” in which this father pretends to drown.
This event makes Truman to become fearful of water and fears coming closer to water, and thus remaining on the “island city”. By engaging in the manipulation of the world around Truman, the ability to have control over the belief held by Truman of what the reality is, is attained by Christof and he is now able to control him fully (Papathanassopouloulos, 2011).
How humanity relate to the message
As it has been considered above, both Truman and the prisoners in the cave experience some fear. This fear comes about as a result of some manipulation that is carried out by unseen forces by the victims (Truman and the prisoners). The prisoners have been put in darkness and are not able to see the light. Truman is under the manipulation of Christof and is made to believe that there is no any other wolrd. They are under control and made to be fearful to discover any other world other than the one they know as a real one.
Humanity relates to this message very closely. In the real world in which we live, people are used to the world they have been used to and brought up in.
It has to be believed that there can be a better world where there is light since one may be currently living in darkness. Basing on the religious standpoint, we have a group of people who believe very much in material things and do not consider changing their lifestyles to follow spiritual knowledge.
They are in darkness and may stay holding on to the belief that there is no any other world, which can be a world full of light and happiness. They are under the bondage of sin and are not ready to seek out for deliverance because they lives are controlled by some evil powers that they can not see.
Is fear dangerous?
As it has been established above, fear can be very dangerous. This is because, by fearing, one can remain in darkness and fail to see the light or fail to discover the “real world” because he has mistaken the unreal one for the real world. It is good to understand that, it is out of courage and taking a bold move to exploit the outside world that an individual is lifted to a higher new level. The fear experienced by cave prisoners makes them to remain prisoners and to stay in darkness.
The fear experienced by Truman makes him to remain in island “city” without realizing that all people around him are mere actors and outside, there is a whole big world full of opportunities. Therefore, it is important to realize this fact and make the necessary effort to overcome fear and go out to explore. By doing this, one can realize that the current world in which he is living in not a real world and the real world is out there and it is full of light.
Bachelorand Master. Plato (Allegory of the Cave). Web.
Brearley, M. and Sabbadini, A. (2008). The Truman Show : How’s it going to end”. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 89 (2): 433–40.
Castle, R. (2011). The Truman Show Sociology. Web.
Clark, L. and Cook, L. (1998). The Truman Show: Curriculum guide. Web.
Cohen, M. (2006). The Allegory of the Cave. Web.
Linstead, S. and Linstead, A. (2005). Thinking organization. London: Routledge.
Meyer, T., Scheibel, M., Munte-Goussar, S., Meisel, T. and Schawe, J. (2007). Education within a new medium: Knowledge formation and digital infrastructure. New York: Waxman Verlag.
Philosophical Films. (1998). The Truman Show. Web.
Philosophy and Truman Show. (2010). Review essays. Web.
Papathanassopouloulos, S. (2011). Media perspectives fro the 21st Century. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Plato, B. J. (2008). The Republic. New York: Digireads.com Publishing.
The Hidden Lighthouse. (2011). Plato’s Cave Matrix and The Truman Show. Web.
“The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato Essay
The parable of the cave by Plato was an attempt to highlight the importance of education to the achievement of wisdom. Plato compared the parable to the processes that a person goes through as a philosopher.
He argues that once a person has been enlightened to the level of a philosopher, he should go back to the mundane world (the cave) and try to educate his fellow men. The cave or ordinary world is characterized by greed, self-interest, and struggle for political power. The parable is a criticism of people who are enslaved by their senses.
A key theme of the parable is how people are shackled to warped perceptions, unaware of the reality. It is composed of five components namely; the shadow, the ordinary man, the fire, the ascending and the descending men.
The shadow is perhaps the most complex concept to understand in this allegory. It relates to the concept of ‘‘forms’’ one of Plato’s many concepts which have withstood the test of time. He believed that most concepts formed by people through the five common senses do not represent real objects but they are only images or shadows created from distorted perceptions.
The same case applies to the ethics of decision-making and acting in real life, as well as our ideas regarding the truth. What people believe to be right or wrong or true in life is based on limited knowledge and experiences as opposed to complete knowledge.
The ordinary man symbolizes all persons before they have attained complete education. This man perceives nothing apart from the images on the cave’s wall. The images stand for all the things that we have observed in our lives. As the shadows form the set of all the things we have ever observed, they represent the reality to us.
Attaining education entails gaining the capacity to discern everything both in and outside the cave. The purpose of the third component, the fire, is to shine light on the real objects, casting off shadows on the cave’s wall. In this way, the fire contributes to the creation of the realities as perceived by the ordinary man.
Yet another component is that of the ascending man. This is a person who is lucky enough to be liberated from the fetters of the cave in which the ordinary man resides. After his escape, the ascending man ultimately gains a grasp of the real objects and he attains complete knowledge or education.
He realizes that the shadows were only a glimpse of the reality but not the reality itself. The fire gives us a blurred notion of what the real forms look like but, until you emerge from the cave, the only notion that you will have is an ‘‘image’’ of the reality. The last component of the parable is that of the descending man.
This is a person who has escaped from the cave and achieved full education. He then returns to the cave to enlighten his fellow men on what he learned outside the cave. His objective is to show them that what they believe to be real is just a shadow of the reality but the reality itself is different.
This narration is essentially about how Socrates was persecuted by his contemporaries because of his wisdom. The reason why the descending man went back to the cave after having been liberated was to inform his unenlightened colleagues about the beauty of the world outside the cave.
As a result of his bid to educate his fellow men he was put to death. The allegory corresponds very much to our lives today. Despite having very many civil liberties such as the freedom of speech, we have failed to use these freedoms to think positively, basically confining ourselves to a cave.
The sole way of becoming emancipated from this confinement is by being open-minded and by looking at things from all perspectives. We should also heed the counsel of philosophers and take an honest assessment of their views instead of banishing them off-hand.
The philosophers possess knowledge of the world outside the cave. However, the cave dwellers think that the descending man (the philosopher) is insane when he gives them an account of the world as it exists outside. The situation is the same today in the political arena where ordinary people accustomed to the ways of dishonest politicians, often persecute those who seek to change the status quo.
The real mad men, however, are the ordinary men who are ready to discriminate the enlightened people based on warped beliefs. In spite of the persecution, those who are fully educated still feel that it is their moral responsibility to liberate the ordinary people from their ignorance which the politicians use to take advantage of them.
There are many enlightened people in the modern world who become political prisoners because of their attempts to educate the masses about their political and civil rights and liberties.
Why Plato Finds Ascent to the Truth Confusing and Painful
According to Plato, the journey towards enlightenment is long and winding and it involves a lot of painstaking. The inhabitants of the cave have to struggle in order to free themselves and attain full education. The ascending man had to pass through the phase of the ‘‘shadow’’ of reality before entering the phase of intellectual reasoning and comprehension.
He had to be transformed from an ordinary person to an enlightened one and this transformation called for a lot of courage to go against the orthodox, and to withstand the truth as truth sometimes is intimidating. As Socrates says concerning the ascending man, he is likely to experience pain from the glare of light (enlightenment).
The reason for this distress lies in the fact that knowing the truth may at times be disturbing. Other virtues required to obtain full wisdom are curiosity and scrupulousness. For a person to become liberated from the shackles of ignorance, one has to reason beyond the limits of the ordinary world.
This would ordinarily need one to give up some leisure and withstand the criticism of cynics and skeptics who do not see the value of pursuing wisdom. The journey to attaining enlightenment is confusing since there are a lot of false and ill-conceived ideas on what should be the truth. Therefore, it requires a keen intellect to separate the truth from the half-truths and the outright false notions.
My Personal Experience that Illustrates Plato’s Allegory
Many uneducated voters in the developing countries usually elect mediocre politicians who come from their tribes instead of voting for those candidates who are likely to bring the most needed economic development.
When educated persons try to run for political posts, they always lose because politics in these countries are tribal-based as opposed to issue-based. The uneducated voters in developing countries can be equated to Plato’s ordinary men living in a cave as far as political enlightenment is concerned.
The educated persons who attempt to vie for political positions, on the other hand, are like Plato’s descending men who feel that it is their moral responsibility to free their colleagues from ignorance.
Connections between Plato’s Allegory of the Cave & Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue of Two Chief World System Research Paper
Throughout history, the understanding of human nature has been a complex phenomenon. Scholars, philosophers, researchers and the laymen, have been reading different scripts, concerning the real nature of human society and human thinking. Different philosophers, including Plato and Galileo, have offered insightful ideas concerning the actual nature of human mind and the society in general.
The segregation of mankind on knowledge has been provided by these two philosophers. Based on their ideas, rejection of new ideas is the rule in human society. Mankind is always suspicious of new things and knowledge concerning his surrounding.
In regards to Plato’s Allegory of the cave and Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue of Two Chief World Systems, the human society is highly segregated on knowledge and awareness, concerning what is true or false.
A strong connection exists between the ideas of the two philosophers, Plato and Galileo, whereby, the actual nature of human mind and the nature of learning have been exposed. The philosophers and the laymen are living in two distinct worlds, as far as knowledge and understanding of the globe is concerned.
Due to the different levels of knowledge of people in the society, there is a very great challenge in the way people learn. The nature of human kind is always suspicious of new ideas. In this case, people who are ignorant or unaware of their world, always perceive new ideas as crazy, needless, unreal and to some extent, as heresy. In regards to the inferences of Plato and Galileo, people are living in mere darkness of their world.
Little or no concern is shown in seeking new ideas or knowledge. The restrictive structures of the human society also inhibit the endeavors of mankind from seeking knowledge. This is evident through the case of Plato, where he depicts humanity as prisoners in a cave.
This scenario implies the denial of knowledge and the ignorance of people, concerning their own world. These ideas are also evident in Galileo’s inferences, whereby, a huge gap of knowledge exists between philosophers and the layman, concerning the universe (Boyum 547).
The concept of the Cave developed by Plato, illustrates the ignorance of the human society as far as philosophical education is concerned. Plato equates the prisoners of the cave as the laymen who are unaware of their world. Majority of the human society are living in the dark, and are not educated like the philosophers.
This is a huge proportion of the society, which is only dependent on the ideas and knowledge offered to them by the philosophers. According to Plato, the journey out of the cave is only through philosophical education. According to Boyum (547), people pass through different stages in their endeavors of gaining light concerning their world. People in the cave are highlighted as living in the dark and only hear echoes and see shadows.
The concepts of denial, rejection and suspicion, overwhelm people in the cave. As outlined by Boyum (547), everything in the cave is constantly shifting, ephemeral, flickering and impossible to pin.
Basic knowledge is usually unattainable to the laymen, due to their insubstantiality and instability. It is worth noting that the human society is a world of intermediates, whereby, nothing is fixed, and everything is ambiguous (Boyum 547).
The process of philosophical education or learning has been jeopardized by the suspicion between people. Boyum (4) argues that human souls are turned towards particulars, whereby, people seek to judge the just or practicability of new ideas. The need to differentiate between truth and false, is a key phenomenon in the nature of human learning.
In order to move out of the cave, the uneducated persons are usually compelled by the educated to understand. This is the philosophical education whereby, the philosophers share their knowledge with the layman. Due to their ignorance, the laymen who are equated to prisoners in the cave, have no option other than believe the knowledge offered by the philosophers (Boyum 6).
According to Zamir (92), the parable of the cave by Plato, is a nice presentation of the real nature of mankind. The cave dwellers or the laymen are ignorant of what is around them. The sculptures and artifacts presented to the cave dwellers concerning the outside world, are usually ignored by the cave dwellers due to their ignorance.
Unlike the philosophers or the educated individuals, the cave dwellers are not in a position to see themselves or their neighbors. A high level of ignorance concerning self-knowledge as well as knowledge on who they communicate with exists among the non-philosophers.
It is interesting to note that neither the cave dwellers nor the philosophers have command of their knowledge. This is evident from the opposition the philosophers face from cave dwellers, towards their knowledge which is not based on mere intellectualization (Zamir 92).
The concept of the cave by Plato is meant to exemplify the dividing lines in the human society. The misrepresentations, forms and visible realities in the human society concerning knowledge, are depicted in the concept of the cave. Plato conveyed the knowledge that the laymen are like prisoners, since what they hear does not come from what they see rather from shadows and echoes.
The misrepresentations in the society from the few elites, are the source of the sounds people hear. Based on the concept of the cave, people learn from what they see or hear. The ideas of the philosophers, are believed to contribute a lot to the growth of philosophical education. The people living in the dark or the illiterate only belief in shadows they see as reality.
The shadow makers or opinion makers compel the cave dwellers to belief or act in a certain manner and belief it to be truth. In this form of world, people belief whatever enters their mind regardless of its source or nature. People in the cave come to learn from shadows and echoes, and have no power to differentiate between illusion and reality, truth and false, genuine and pseudo or legitimate and phony (Miles 900).
Among the three divisions of people, including the illiterate, semiliterate and literate, the literate are perceived to be the most knowledgeable. The illiterates and semi literate depend on the knowledge and ideas offered by the literates or the philosophers. The educated are referred to the erudite of the world, and help in passing knowledge to the other sphere of the society.
It is worth noting that the elites or the philosophers have been liberated from the caves of ignorance. The path of gaining knowledge for this group of people is not much easy, whereby, they pass through different challenges. By gaining knowledge, the philosophers were able to move from the cave of darkness to the brightness of the sunlight (Martin 6).
In regards to the ideas of Galileo Galilei concerning the two chief world systems, the human society is clearly segmented on knowledge. The laymen and the philosophers live in different worlds of knowledge. As evident in the case of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue of Two World Systems depicts the lines dividing the human society.
The lower segment of the society which composes of the illiterates, has little or no understanding, about the world they are. Despite being the majority, the uneducated have no idea about their society. This is contrasted to the massive knowledge and awareness of the philosophers or the elites, concerning the world. In his book, Galileo has explicitly demonstrated the knowledge gap in the human society.
Based on the dialogue between Salivati, Simplicio and Sagrado, the ignorance of the uneducated concerning their world is demonstrated. Galileo has been able to highlight the darkness, in which the layman live in. The submissive nature and innocence of the laymen to believe what is taught to them by the philosophers, is demonstrated (Galilei 53).
Based on the insights offered by Galileo, the suspicion and rejection of people on new knowledge is evident. Despite the eager of people to receive new ideas, they are usually skeptical of what is taught to them and always undermine it as heresy, needless, unreal and crazy.
This is very evident in Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue of Two Chief World Systems, whereby, Copernican theory is accepted and Ptolemaic theory is rejected. It is worth noting that the line between truth and false is never clear in the human society, thus challenging the authenticity of the ideas offered by philosophers (Galilei 1).
A point worth of consideration is that people can live in their level of imagination or level of perception, and still be satisfied with their lifestyle. People always know and are willing to know that what they imagine or perceive is the truth. This poses challenges in philosophical education, whereby, people are not ready to adopt ideas offered by their colleagues.
Though the point of change from darkness is painful and usually overwhelmed by denial, one usually finds it rewarding and adopts it. People who have broke the chains of ignorance and moved to the brightness of the sunlight, find life rewarding.
This makes it impossible to move back to the lower stages. In light with these scenarios, people in the lower segment are more eager to believe what the philosophers have for them than vice versa (Jerry 98).
The discussion has clearly shown the real human nature, which is overwhelmed by knowledge segmentation. The society is divided into different lines, based on the knowledge and awareness of people. The un-educated, who form the majority, are believed to be in a cave of darkness and have no understanding about what happens outside the cave.
This is in contrast to the educated or philosophers, who have been liberated from the chains of darkness and have massive understanding about their world, themselves and their neighbors. Both Plato and Galileo have offered insightful ideas concerning the different worlds in which people live, based on their ignorance or knowledge.
The path of learning is not easy, since each person has confidence and satisfaction in what he/she imagines or perceives. This has made it difficult for people to adopt new knowledge, due to the overwhelming rejection, suspicion and denial on new things.
The difficulty in differentiating truth and false is a great challenge in human learning, which in this case, contributes to opposition on new ideas. With this analysis, it is evident that a strong connection exists between Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Galileo Galilei’s Dialogue of Two Chief World Systems, concerning the nature of humankind.
Bøyum, Steinar. “The Concept of Philosophical Education.” Educational Theory 60.5 (2010): 543-559. Print.
Galilei, Galileo. Dialogue Concerning the two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican. London: University of California Press, 1962. Print.
Galilei, Galileo. Dialogue concerning the two Chief World Systems. Webexhibits, 28 May 2012. Web.
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Miles, Groth, and Elizabeth Shaw. “The Essence of Truth: On Plato’s Cave Allegory and Theatetus.” Review of Metaphysics 58. 4 (2005): 900-901. Print.
Zamir, Tzachi. “The Face of Truth.” Metaphilosophy 30.1 (1999): 79-94. Print.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – Philosophy Essay (Critical Writing)
In analyzing Plato’s allegory, what is of paramount importance is the philosopher’s theory of knowledge. That is, whether what we purport to know and accordingly assign names to, are real objects or mere forms of reality. In the allegory of the cave, Plato presents a scenario where human beings are tightly chained that they are unable to turn their heads around and are dumped in a dark cave with only source of lighting from the cave’s opening.
Fire is kept blazing above and behind them; in between the hostages and the fire, there is a raised way and a long wall on which puppeteers show their puppets (Plato, para. 1). The hostages thus see the images of these puppets on the wall as people, animals, and objects and that of themselves cast by the fire. Talking amongst themselves, Plato supposes that the hostages use language to name the shadows that they see cast on the wall and they are convinced that the shadows are real objects.
However, after their release, they are blinded by the immensity of light outside the cave so much so that they encounter difficulties to change their mindset about reality hence preferring to get back to the cave. This paper attempts to establish the veracity of Plato’s claim that appearance is not reality and that what people call reality are shadows of real objects.
Appearance and Reality
Plato’s contention was the gross ignorance displayed by the hostages through naming the shadows of themselves and of marionettes cast on the wall as though they were real objects. Having been held hostage since their childhood, the prisoners had not been exposed to real objects that they purported to name. Plato, in line with his theory of knowledge, managed to some extent, to argue out the pertinence of his theory.
Put in such a condition, one would be at difficulties to discern whether what one sees are images of real objects or are real objects in themselves. In life, it is always easy to lapse into this trap of equating appearance with reality. For instance, people who are colorblind often mistake one color for another, maroon for red, or pink for red. Similarly, a desert mirage can be mistaken for a water body from a distance but in reality is a bare desert. Plato therefore was not far from the truth surrounding the existence of things.
Plato had discovered this mishap and endeavored to bring it to our consciousness through his allegory. He argued that it was foolhardy for the hostages to assign names of real objects to the images that they saw cast on the wall. Eventually, the hostages were unfettered and they realized, perhaps to their amazement, that what they thought were real objects and accordingly assigned names to, were just but images/shadows.
The puppets were statues of real animals and people, and the shadows were of their own! If, for example, they gave a name ‘donkey’ to a statue resembling a donkey, what name would they ascribe to the real donkey? Definitely, it would be utter embarrassment for them and they would retreat to the cave where they are complacent with what they know, however skewed.
In most cases, people get very uncomfortable when their mindset is challenged. A case in point is the historical Copernican revolution that posited that it is the earth that goes around the sun, not vice verse as upheld by the Church. Copernicus was blinded by this ‘Platonic light’ and retreated to the Church’s position until Galilei Galileo challenged it finally (Kuhn and Copernicus 34).
Nevertheless, as Aristotle would say, there are no shadows without real objects. That is, Plato abstracted his ideas from the real things, hence shadows point to reality – appearance is harbinger of reality (Heidegger 5). By dismissing the shadows and images in toto, as espoused by the hostages as reality, Plato missed the point owing to the heralding concept of appearance.
To get ideas that are universal, immutable, infinite, et cetera; particular, mutable, finite objects must be used as sources of abstraction. The hostages in the allegory were not misguided, after all, by the images/shadows that they saw for they gave them a glimpse of reality. When in ordinary circumstances, a person sees an image of an object, say of a Military Drone fighter jet; s/he will have a modicum of knowledge about the real object because it is its replica, albeit a miniaturized or enlarged version.
Another critique that can be made with regard to Plato’s allegory and concept of appearance and reality is his arrival at the names of real objects yet the hostages had been in the cave since childhood. Plato imposes these names on his hostages as though they had experience some clairvoyance.
Plato, consequently, fails to acknowledge the concept of a priori knowledge that is independent of corporeal objects, something that is evident in the hostages’ repository of knowledge. In order for a person to know anything without the influence of the phenomenon, a priori knowledge is necessary and Plato only concentrated on a posteriori concept of knowledge. Therefore, he failed tremendously to deliver a conclusive writ on the acquisition of true knowledge (reality) as opposed to illusions of reality (shadows/images).
Plato’s allegory endeavors to categorically dichotomize appearance from reality. Arguments have been advanced on this course such as the biological phenomenon of color blindness, the mirage effect, and most forcibly the Copernican revolution and Galileo’s excommunication from the Church for asserting the new paradigm that hitherto eluded it.
Nevertheless, some rebuttals have been equally advanced against Plato’s standpoint regarding the allegory. For example, Aristotle founded the realist school by arguing that Plato did abstract his ‘forms’ or ideas from the existing objects. This can be construed to mean that these forms, as were seen by the hostages, point to the reality and are a basis of knowledge for those encountering them for the first time.
Heidegger, Martin. Phenomenological interpretations of Aristotle: initiation into phenomenological research. Indiana, USA: Indiana University Press, 2001.
Kuhn Thomas and Copernicus Nicolaus. The Copernican revolution: planetary astronomy in the development of Western thought. New York, NY: Harvard University Press, 1957.
Plato, “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave” From Plato’s “Republic, Book VII, 514a-c to 521a-e. 2011. Web.
Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and “You, Screws” Essay
The ‘Allegory of the cave’ and ‘You, Screws’ are two metaphors that different authors have used to show some similarity in the way people think and limit themselves to view the world and reality as though they are shattered from the rest of the world or landed in a prison. Plato succeeded to create a wonderful piece of art that denotes how people are ignorant to the extent of not being aware of their own surroundings.
It portrays a humanity that has failed to be wise, so nobody can achieve anything, and as a result, people are stuck in the darkness of their ignorance. This is so because they have time, and there are a lot of chances for them to change the things for better, and it is a matter of realizing what is at their disposal to make the best way out of the difficult situation.
Irrespective of the status that one may have, Plato brings out a fact that it is possible to succeed and join the elite of the society. The same sentiments are echoed in “You, Screws” , the author of which understands that everything is exposed, and everyone can get it. The story features a man who has been imprisoned for seven years for charges of terrorism.
The thing that two articles have in common is a theme of prison. However, the authors depict different types of prisons. Plato portrays a prison as a mental state, i.e. the inability of human beings to perceive light or rather the real situations with different circumstances that occur in the world and gain some experience to become more wise.
In “You, Screws”, the author talks about a real (physical) prison where some of the prisoners are taught to act as leaders to the rest. These poses a question for a reader whether it is a physical or a mental prison that hinders a person from achieving something in his/her life.
As far as Breyten is concerned, people will always drag you to the pit the moment they realize that you has finally been enlightened. Breyten was a prisoner on his own, and he will never let imprisonment deter him from advancing in knowledge. Thus, he addresses his article to all screws who decide to listen to him as a way of gaining knowledge.
He says that he does not regret much of having been shattered from the world but “I normally resent all attempts at dragging me back particularly when they come from the sentimentally deprived or the vicarious heart-eaters and self shitters who wallow in victimization and heroism by proxy” (Breytenbach 15).
This is what is echoed in Plato’s allegory of the cave. The thing is that ordinary folks that are not enlightened will always misunderstand those who have an intellectual insight. The character in Plato’s story at last understands his environment and tenaciously overcomes the challenges experienced in the cave, which are his mental incapacitations in his long and tortuous intellectual journey.
Plato’s Cave represents human knowledge “showing the intellectual journey to truth as a gradual and arduous process” (Plato 134). He compares people to prisoners in a cave whose only perception of reality is a play of shadows on a wall that they face them. Everyone has a role to play in bringing change to his/her life.
One should do his/her best trying to avoid the thoughts that prevent him/her from perceiving the world from a broad perspective. Only being able to face challenges and difficulties, people can get an understanding of the real world. Plato classifies this process in four stages.
The first stage includes forming an attitude that is based on the reality’s outward appearance constituted by sights and sounds of experience though it takes a while before the human mind distinguishes reality. Breyten understands that in order for one to stay in darkness having no power over his/her own destiny, he/she needs to continue closing the eyes and avoid noticing some crucial facts.
He is aware that purpose is an intention, and everybody has the ability to achieve his/her goal using the circumstances that the life may present to him or her. The prisoner goes through these stages, and that is why it is possible for him/her to address people though an ex-convict.
The second stage requires the ability to recognize the difference between a deceptive entity and knowledge and the real ones. In this case, the scary shadows on the walls are the true carvings. The puppeteers and the things inside and outside the cave described by Plato indicate that empirical discoveries never penetrate the ideal realm of truth, thus calling for the need to leave the cave.
The third stage starts when people get outside the cave and see the sun that seems to tend to blind them. This sun is the light of truth, thus the reality turns out to be dangerous and as much fearsome for the prisoners as the shadows on the walls. This makes it difficult to understand the nature of entity that happens to be an idea, a concept, and something nonmaterial as Plato later realizes.
Accordingly, practice and learning are the key ingredients for realization of the true form of reality. The fourth stage begins when one acknowledges the source of the intellectual light. Plato realizes that the Good elucidates the concepts that help us understand the truth.
The prisoner knows that holding his head high and standing on his dignity will signify victory as far as address the masses concerned. Plato maintains this concept by saying that only those who can achieve enlightenment should be leaders of the rest. The released prisoner is a leader because he overcomes his fears and difficulties and gains the necessary knowledge, thus he is able to lead the rest.
He does not resist the enlightenment as the others do but rather embraces it with open arms. The prisoner described in “You, Screws” takes a leadership position in the United States after being released from the ‘dark’ world or rather a prison. This comes in line with Plato’s allegory of the cave since it is only after setting free, the prisoners are able to get a real picture of their world outside the cave.
Plato’s belief that only the enlightened grasp the invisible truths lying under the apparent surface is reflected in “You, Screws” when the prisoner achieves a leadership position in the United States that happens to be a foreign, unknown, outside world for him. He understands that all are equal living in the same place and excluded from the outside world with the same walls.
This indicates that it is upon everybody to act with bravery to achieve whatever a person needs without immersing in apathy considering that one is doomed or cursed. Actually, everything is exposed to everybody to get it.
Breyten knows pretty well that there are always warders and prisons to govern and control the society by those who are above the law. In this case, the aspect of not progressing is nullified. This is what Plato calls the escape from the limitation of the cave. He maintains that everyone should be lifted up to look at the Mountain meaning that everybody ought to be enlightened even if it calls for the rest to give hand.
Additionally, Breyten is aware that there is no chance to escape the fears of existence, except by maintaining dignity and being responsible for each person’s actions. From Plato’s acknowledgement that the truth is in a way embedded in people’s minds, Breyten calls for the prisoners to become useful to their societies through employment. Thus, everyone needs to change their thoughts and attitudes to be able to live a worthy life.
There is nothing for the free or the slaves since all have opportunities even if they are bloated. Mental imprisonment is definitely the worst situation in life as far as enlightenment is concerned, so one should fight to the last breath to set free from that cave.
Breytenbach, Breyten. “You, Screws.” Harper’s Magazine Feb. 2007: 15-20. Print.
Plato, Allan. ‘The Allegory of the Cave’, The Republic of Plato. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1968. Print.