Philosophical Questions

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- Philosophy Essays
Plato
An allegory, by def inition, is a f igurative mode of representation conveying a meaning other then the literal. An allegory is ref erred to as a f igure of language but it does not need to be expressed this way. It can be expressed in pictures, sculptures, and other f orms of art. T he “Allegory of the Cave” is of that used by Plato within his work, The Republic. T his work is examined by his student Socrates and is f ound to be related to Plato’s “Metaphor of the Sun” and “analogy of the divided line.” Plato’s Republic tries to illustrate the degrees in which our nature can be enlightened or unenlightened. Plato in a discussion with an acquaintance by the name Glaucon, urges him to imagine the condition of men living in a sort of cavernous chamber underground, with an entrance open to the light and a long passage all down the cave. Here the men have remained since childhood, chained by the leg and by the neck. T he men cannot move and can only see what is in f ront of them. At a high distance up there is a light of a f ire burning behind them, between said f ire and the prisoners there is a parapet built along it. T his is used to hide the perf ormers who show their puppets along the top of the parapet. Behind the parapet, there are a number of people carrying various artif icial objects, including f igures of men and animals in wood or stone and various other materials. T here objects are projected above the parapet. Some of the persons are talking while others remain silent. According to Plato the prisoners conf ined would see nothing of themselves or others except f or a bit of the cave shadows carried past. T hey would also only speak in ref erence to said shadows. In every way, the prisoners would recognize reality as nothing but the shadows of those artif icial objects. Plato then asks us to consider what would happen if one of the prisoners was released f rom their chains and set f ree. T hat prisoner would be f orced to have to stand up, walk upright, and walk with his eyes directed towards the light. All these movements would be painf ul to said prisoner. T he prisoner would also be dazzled by all that existed in this “outside world” to notice what objects had been making the illusions and shadows all along. If someone told him that what he had f ormerly had seen was a meaningless illusion and was actually now nearer to reality then bef ore, it would be extremely dif f icult f or the prisoner to believe. If someone actually showed him the various objects being carried and told what each of them was, the prisoner would be perplexed and would probably believe that most of the objects shown to him were not real and what he f ormerly saw was. Plato then goes on to detail what would happen if the prisoner had to look at the f irelight itself . According to Plato, the prisoner’s eyes would ache and he would try to escape to the things he could see distinctly. T he prisoner would then be convinced that they were clearer then those other objects being shown to him. Plato also addresses what would happen if the prisoner were to be dragged away f orcibly up the steep and rugged ascent and would not be let go until he f aced the sunlight. T he prisoner would be so af f ected by his treatment that he would suf f er pain and conf usion. T he prisoner would then be blinded by the light of the sun and would not be able to see any of the objects he was told were now existent and real. T he prisoner would need to grow accustomed bef ore he could see things in the “upper world.” He would have to start small, viewing things such as shadows and ref lections bef ore he viewed more complex images such as that of sky, the light of the moon, and the stars. T he prisoner would then move on to view the Sun and contemplate its existence. From examining it, the prisoner would then conclude that the Sun produces the seasons and the course of the year and controls everything in the visible world, and moreover it is...
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