Strengths and Weaknesses of Plato's analogy of the cave?

  • -4 votes

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Plato's analogy of the cave?

Posted Tue 9th April, 2013 @ 12:45 by Rana Rashid

2 Answers

  • 18 votes


- Helps us to understand hy there are imperfections in the world.

- Encourages us not to accept things at face value.

- Brian Davies is a theologian who argued the strength of the Forms (not directly the analogy of the cave, but the analogy of the cave does include the theory of the Forms, and is used by Plato to help illustrate his theory of the Forms, so this can still be used as a strength for it.)

Brian Davies would argue that without Forms we would not be able to discuss, argue, agree or disagree on ‘general features of the real world’, such as ‘beauty’ or justice’, because we would have no knowledge or recognition of what these Forms look like, or what their essence is. Brian Davies explained this by creating a hypothetical situation in which we were ‘forced to accept that there are no such permanent, abstract or general entities’, how would we be able to argue if something for example ‘just’ or ‘beautiful’? He continued to explain; “suppose nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Does that mean – that justice is whatever is in the interest of the stronger? 'beauty or justice is whatever I tell you it is!’” suggesting that without Forms the strongest would always be right, and you would not be able to debate, because the Form that is the basis of your argument is no longer there, you would feel lost. So the analogy of the cave’s explanation to the Forms must tell us that there is more to our reality than we think, because why else would we be able to universally recognise the essence of these Forms. So the analogy can tell us why we understand features within our reality.

(Many) Weaknesses

- Impossible to prove Plato's Theory.

- Not everyone will see the Form of Good the same way, it is subjective, not universal like Plato suggests.

- If we are to believe there is a perfect Form of everything, that is to say there are perfect Forms of unpleasent things, and the realm of the Forms is meant to be perfect, unchanging, and eternal, (heavenly), but this world "requires the existence of deeply unpleasent things too, such as mud, faeces, and mucus. The 'Platonic heaven of the Forms' does not sound so heavenly...) (Stephen Law, The greatest Philosophers)    

- Plato "Fails to illustrate that attractiveness of the physical world; the scene inside the gloomy cave hardly represents the delights of the senses" (Mel Thompson) This means that Plato's analogy of the cave is nothing like the world we live in, so we can't relate to it, or understand it the way Plato wanted us to.

- Doesn't help us understand the world we live in.

- Plato implies the senses to be useless, but we have survived for millions of years because of them?

Hope this helped? 

Answered Fri 12th April, 2013 @ 18:05 by Temperance
Edited by Temperance on Fri 12th April, 2013 @ 18:07
  • 2 votes

Thank you sooo much, this has helped me a lot and now I have a better understanding of it too.

Answered Sun 14th April, 2013 @ 12:24 by Rana Rashid