Explain Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Topics: Perception, Knowledge, Epistemology Pages: 3 (853 words) Published: September 29, 2011
Explain the Analogy of the Cave in Plato’s Republic.

Plato uses the analogy of the cave to illustrate the varying degrees of human nature between enlightened and unenlightenment. The varying degrees in enlightenment refer to the varying degrees in which we understand reality. For Plato, the highest degree of knowledge, or enlightenment, is the perception of the “essential Form of Goodness” Plato splits the varying degrees between enlightenment and illustrate epistemology.

The stage furthest from enlightenment occurs when the prisoners, in the analogy of the cave, can see only a shadow of an imitation of reality. This occurs when the prisoners in the analogy are bound in a cave preventing any movement and the only light in the cave is provided by a fire burning behind them. Between the prisoners and the fire is a parapet. On the surface the parapet, puppets are being manipulated and the prisoners can only see the reflection of the puppets and can hear only their echoes. Plato’s belief is that what the prisoner’s are experiencing they will mistake for reality. The fact that the prisoners’ sense experience is altering their understanding of reality is crucial in understanding Plato’s views on Epistemology (the philosophical consideration of how we know thongs). Plato is arguing that sensual experience can corrupt how we understand reality.

In Plato’s analogy, the next degree towards enlightenment occurs when one of the prisoners is allowed to stand up and turn around. The prisoner turns round and sees the artificial objects which are creating the shadows. Plato suggests that the prisoner would think that the shadows are more real than the artificial objects he can now see. This enhances Plato’s view that sensual experience distorts our view of reality. The prisoner’s long term sensory experience of the shadows has tricked him into believing that the shadows and echoes are the true form of reality and, as a result, the prisoner is unable to accept a purer...
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