Plato's Analogy of the Cave

The Analogy of the Cave

Plato's cave analogy emphasizes the difference between the appearances of the world, which is represented by the cave, and reality, which is represented by the outside world. Plato starts off by describing a group of prisoners who have spent their entire lives chained up in a rear end of a cave, facing the wall unable to turn around. The prisoners can only see some shadows on the wall in front of them, these shadows are created by a fire that burns behind them. Between the fire and the prisoners is a wall, in which puppets walk on top of, these are the shadows. For the prisoners, the shadows are real because they are unable to see what is happening behind them and it is all their senses have ever experienced. If one of the prisoners was to be set free, he would be blinded by the fire and unable to see the puppets, he would make it out of the cave towards the sunlight and start to see real objects and real animals. Then he would see the sun for what it really is. He would then turn around to see the shadows in the cave and realise that they aren't real. If he went back to tell the other prisoners about his discoveries, they wouldn't believe him because to them, nothing can be more real than their own opinions and senses, if he tried to force the truth to the others he would be killed.

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Analysing the Analogy of the Cave

Plato's analogy of the cave is a way of emphasisng the difference between the apperance of the world which is represented by the scene of the cave and the reality which is represented by the outside world. The prisoners who are chained up, unable to see anything but shadows believe that the shadows are real, in the same way that our senses convince us that there is nothing beyond what they experience. The shadows represent the the illusion that is created by our senses, and our senses cannot access reality. The prisoner setting himself free from the cave and illusion that came from his senses by using his mind to gain knowledge, in order to experience true knowledge. Much like the prisoner, we are frightened by reality as it is so much greater than previous experience. The sun represents the most perfect of all realities, which Plato calls the Form of the Good, our ultimate goal is to gain knowledge because this will enable us to understand everything else. The return of the prisoner represents what happens to the philosopher who tries to englighten other people about his discoveries. The prisoner ends up getting killed for trying to force the others towards the truth, this represents the death of Socrates, Plato's teacher who was sentenced to death for this.

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