Plato: the Analogy of the Cave

From the OCR syllabus, "Candidates should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of what might be represented in the Analogy of the Cave by the following:

  • the prisoners, the shadows, the cave itself, the outside world, the sun, the journey out of the cave and the return to the prisoners.

Candidates should be able to discuss critically the validity of the points being made in this analogy."

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  • Created by: Laura
  • Created on: 01-06-09 17:08



  • Represent ordinary people.
  • Ignorant of the outside word.
  • Accept what they are shown represents modern dependancy on media.
  • Afraid/Unable to accept change.


  • Prisoners are trapped by their own ignorance.
  • Plato believed the body traps the soul.


  • Prisoners percieved reality is made of the shadows.
  • Represent media and art that is created by artists.
  • The puppeteers creating the shadows are the government + artists.
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Outside world

  • Enlightenment
  • The world of the Forms, truth, beauty, justice.

The prisoner must be dragged

  • He cannot walk as he has been sat so long. (We as a modern society are lazy and accept what we are told as fact)
  • The philosophic educator is the one dragging him.
  • It is uphill to reach the light and the outside world, enlightenment is hardwork.
  • Teaching change is hardwork.

The Sun

  • Absolute Good
  • Illuminates the Forms
  • All living beings depend on the Sun, therefore we all depend on 'the good'
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Prisoner's sight

  • Gradually the prisoner learns to distinguish Forms from Images.
  • He gains his sight as he has learnt the truth.

Prisoner's lack of sight on return

  • The prisoner cannot see on his return to the cave, he's been dazzled by truth.
  • He returns to englighten the other prisoners (job of philosophers).
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