Philosophy - Plato's analogy of the cave

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Plato (428-347 BC)

Plato was a pupil of Socrates  in Athens (Ancient Greece). Socrates was sentenced to death in 399 BC for challenging the accepted view of the world and the most basic assumptions.

The Analogy of the Cave

Plato wrote the anaolgy of the cave in his 40s. He was living in Athens at the time which was a time where the city was in decline, he wrote the analogy to give them another view of how to live a better, more ethical life. 

When giving the anaolgy, Plato wants us to understand:

  • The relation between the different worlds, material, physical and the higher world of the Forms. 
  • The way in which material, physical concerns can blind people to what is really important
  • The ignorance of humanity when people do not engage in philosophy
  • The potential for true knowledge
  • That there is another world which from where we are now we cannot see, however, we can reach which will give us englightenment
  • The initial difficulties of grappling with philosphy 
  • The injustice of the death of Socrates

The Analogy

Plato describes a scene of a cave where a group of people are sitting deep in a cave facing the back wall. They've been here since childhood and are chained to prevent them from ever leaving, or to look around to see anything. The prisoners represent ordinary people who have not yet found true knowledge. They have been deceived by what they see into believing there is nothing beyond the shadow play, which for them is the full extent of reality. He goes on to talk about a fire which is the only source of light in the whole cave. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a walkway where there is also a small low built wall along the walkway. He says that because of the postition of the fire there are shadows produced onto the wall which are made by men passing by holding objects such as…


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