Explain Plato's Analogy of the Cave

Topics: Platonism, Truth, Ontology Pages: 2 (715 words) Published: December 4, 2012
1) Explain Plato’s Analogy of the cave.

Plato was a Greek philosopher who wrote a book called the ‘Republic’. He lived from 428-347 BCE. In this book he described an analogy of a cave in order to explain his theory of the World of Ideas and the Natural World. Plato’s analogy of the cave is an explanation about ‘the truth’. The analogy portrays that in order to find the truth we must question everything. This will be explained further.

In the analogy of the cave, the cave represents the physical world in which all human beings live in. There are prisoners that are chained to the ground, and can only see flickering shadows made by objects in front of a fire, inside the cave. These all have a meaning. The cave and chains represent the physical world that everyone lives in. The prisoners represent the ‘ignorant’ masses (humans) that do not know the truth. The fire and shadows show how the ignorant masses have a limited knowledge of the physical world, and that they see ‘concepts’ that they believe are real. An example of some of these concepts are love or beauty. The objects/puppets are the actual concepts from which the shadows are cast. The cave is the world of appearances and in Plato’s theory when a prisoner escapes from the cave, he can then reach the world of the forms.

Once the prisoner escapes from the cave he reaches the intellectual world of perfection. The world of the forms is unchanging and instead of particulars there are ideals. Plato argued that for everything that exists in the world of appearances (the shadows inside the cave), there is a ‘form’ in the world of the forms. This means there is a perfect ideal instead of a imperfect particular. For example humans are able to recognize beauty in the world of appearances, however we do not recognize beauty as a concept. Plato states that humans that can recognize this unseen reality (world of the forms) will become a Philosopher King. The world of the forms is a perfect intellectual reality...
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