Plato's Cave Analogy

Plato's Cave Analogy

  • Created by: Courtney
  • Created on: 21-04-12 21:21


Empirical Knowledge: Knowledge gained from the senses. 

Priori Knowledge: Gained from logical reasoning, wholly independent of sense experience. 

  • Empirical knowledge is flawed, appearances are deceptive.
  • The prisoner that escaped, discovered reality and after emerging into the real world outside the cave, his power of reasoning leads him to a philosophical understanding of the truth, priori knowledge.
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Cave Analogy

Written in one of Plato's best works, The Republic, is the analogy of the cave.

There are prisoners chained to the back wall of a cave with the inability to turn around and view anything other than the wall of the cave.

They have been there since childhood meaning this has been all that they've ever seen. This is existence as they know it. 

There is a fire at the back of the cave and inbetween this fire and the prisoners is a walk way where people pass carrying objects such as vessels, statues and figures of animals. Some of them make noises, others don't, The position of the fire leads to shadows being cast on the wall of the cave and the prisoners have spent their lives watching this shadow play. 

One prisoner escapes the cave and after a painful, slow journey, reaches the outside world. The first thing he encounters is the sun.After adjusting to the light, he can see a bright and colourful world around him. 

He returns to the prisoners to tell them the truth about life but none of them listen and continue watching the shadow play on the wall of the cave. 

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The Cave: The visible world, our universe

The Man: The philisopher, perhaps Socrates or Plato

The Prisoners: The rest of humanity, who are unable to understand the words of men who are 'enlightened'

The Shadows and echoes: What we percieve as the whole of reality. i.e. all empirical knowledge

Outside: The eternal and immutable world (true reality) - the world of Ideas that contain the perfect forms

The Sun: Enlightenment or the perfect Form of the Good

The Journey Out: The struggle for Knowledge and battle against bodily desires.

Return to Cave: Socrates' attempt to explain his ideas and philosophy.

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