The analogy of the Cave

The story inside the cave and the philosopher (prisoner) that walks out to see the form of the good (the light)

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History of Plato

Philosopher= Philo- Love and Sopher- Wisdom or knowledge

Plato: The Analogy of the Cave- Plato [428-347BC] to make an analogy it is to compare one thing with another that shares similar characteristics. In Plato’s cave he presents a fictional story that invites us to compare with ‘real life’. It is a teaching aid to help us come to an understanding of the human condition and mankind’s slow and painful journey from ignorance and captivity to enlightenment and freedom.

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The story of the Cave

Story- A cave with prisoners facing forward chained up looking at a screen of shadows made by a fire that burns behind them. 1) When a prisoner (the philosopher) stands up and looks behind him there is a change of light (he is overwhelmed), takes a while to adjust feels pain and confusion. 2) The prisoner walks up the ramp to the sun light he tries to run back to the shadows but sees the sun for what it is, the source of all life and indirectly the source of the fire and the shadows in the cave. 3) The prisoner returns back down to the realm of the shadows to teach the others of his experience. 4) When back in the cave, he is unable to see clearly in the realm of the shadows. 5) The other prisoners began to hate the truth the prisoner brought and convinced it is better to stay underground

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Representations

v The Cave- The physical/material world we live in and mistake for reality

v The Prisoners and Chains- Mankind is imprisoned in its limited view of reality (Humanity)

v The Shadows- Imperfect copies of the real forms, these move and flicker (constantly changing) Knowledge gained through our senses.

v The Statues- forms the shadows of which people mistake for real things- Idols

v The Journey out of the Cave- Once freed the philosopher wakes up and begins to see the truth behind this world of appearance is illusion. By contemplating the forms, he ascends into the light.

v The Sun- The Form of the Good, which illuminates and sustains all lesser forms and gives value to them gradually the prisoner, learns to distinguish Forms from Images. He gains his sight as he has learnt the truth. All living being depdnds on teh sun therefore ‘the good’

v The Return-You long to tell others of your wisdom and enlightenment and help them from their ignorance and suffering. Go and live with them and teach

v The Reception- People do not always welcome being told they have it wrong. They persecuted the philosopher. This is the same as what happened with Christ and Socrates.

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