Ancient Greek influences on philosophy of religion

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Plato: the Analogy of the Cave

Plato (428-247 BCE), pupil of Socrates, wrote 'The Republic' -- sums up views in analogy of cave.

  • For Plato, knowledge gained through senses (a posteriori or empirical knowledge) = merely opinions.
  • But that gained through reasoning (a priori) = certain.

The Allegory (story that has symbolic meaning)/Analogy of the Cave makes a contrast between people who see appearances & mistake them for truth & those who actually see truth.

The Analogy of the Cave:

Imagine prisoners in a cave. They are chained to the floor so that they can only see the wall in front of them & the shadows of things passing the mouth of the cave. One man escapes out of the cave. It is a hard journey out of the cave. At first he is dazzled by the 'real' objects which were more real than the shadows he saw in the cave. He then returns to the cave to tell his fellows, but they reject him.

  • Suggests people are 'philosophically ignorant' & are like prisoners. They can only see the shadows playing on the back of the cave. They think the shadows are real.
  • The world outside represents 'Real' stuff i.e. the world of the Forms. The prisoner who escapes = philosophically enlightened i.e. Philosopher-King


    • The cave = world of sight/appearances
    • Prisoners = us, trapped in this world of appearances who believe this all as true. We are like prisoners who are being stopped from realing the Real i.e. the Forms. Prisoners are in a state of Eikasia (lowest level of understanding)
    • Objects/statues = imitations of the Forms
    • Objects carried


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