Plato (Ancient Greek Philosopher)

(Plato was taught by Socrates)

There are TWO worlds!

  • The world of appearances → physical/unreal

  • The world of reality → world of forms / spiritual / perfect / world of ideas

Allegory- The act of comparing a thing with another that shares similar characteristics to help a person learn about the first thing.

Analogy-When you make a relationship between two or more entities to bring out their similarity

The Cave Allegory:

A small group of people have lived in a cave their whole lives, chained and unable to see anything besides what's directly before them. Above and behind the prisoners is a fire and between the prisoners and fire is a raised way along which runs a low wall.

Men walk along the way and carry above their heads statues and vessels which appear as shadows in front of the prisoners on the wall. Some of the men converse. The prisoners, who can only look ahead, spend their life watching the shadows of objects behind them. Since they've seen nothing else their entire lives, they're lead to believe that the shadows are the real things and that the voices of the men come from the shadows.

The allegory goes to suggest that one prisoner is able to break free and upon turning around, is blinded and confused by the harsh light of the fire. If the prisoner is then dragged up the stairs of the cave, he will be unable to see and attempt to descend back into it. However, if prevented from re-entering, he will adapt to the world around him. At first he will perceive the lights of the night sky, then the shadows cast by the sun and finally the objects themselves in broad daylight. He will see the shadows as what they are, pale reflections of their true forms. He will also realise the role of the sun- the supporter of life and controller of seasons.

If the prisoner was to return to the cave out of duty to teach the others about reality, he would at first be unable to see as he enterers the darkness. When he tells the other prisoners his story and they observe how little he sees, they will be convinced that it is better not to go above ground and even wish to put to death anyone who attempts to free another prisoner.

Symbols in the Allegory:

  • Shadows → Illusions of reality that people interpret without truth

  • Cave → The limits of knowledge (being trapped)/ the world as we see it (distortion of the truth)

  • Outside → The truth / the world of the forms

  • The sun → The form of the good

  • Journey out → A person confronted with the possibility of enlightenment / philosophical journey to truth / philosopher who searches outside the regular to find truth /educational process

  • Return → An inability to believe the illusions once realising the truth / philosophers should lead society because they can teach truth

  • Prisoners attitude→


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