Platos Analogy of the Cave

Topics: Epistemology, Truth, Plato Pages: 5 (1782 words) Published: October 25, 2012
Explain the Analogy of the Cave in Plato’s Republic.
Plato was a Greek Philosopher, who was a student of Socrates. The Analogy of the Cave in Plato’s Republic was written as a dialogue between Socrates and Plato’s brother Glaucon. In the Analogy of the Cave, Plato describes the prisoners who lived an isolated life in the confined space of a cave. Plato’s Analogy explains a philosopher’s journey to knowledge and the difficulty that he faces along the way and the prisoners in the cave who have not embarked on the journey to true knowledge and are living their lives, only seeing what is on the surface, and what they want to see.

The Analogy relates to Plato’s Theory of Forms, which explains how the forms possess the ultimate reality. The World of Forms is the unseen world in which everything is constantly evolving and changing. The Analogy however, is the attempt to enlighten the prisoners and explain the philosophers place in society. He uses the story to explain the need to question everything like a philosopher does in order to distinguish between the unreal, physical world and the real spiritual world lit by the sun. The sun is the ultimate good and Plato gives the name of good the demiurge.

The cave is a symbol of the world; it represents the World of Appearances based on what people see by their senses. It is an illusionary physical world in which people are trapped by ignorance and false truths. It is a world where people ignore the truth and are unenlightened. The prisoners are in this illusionary world where they think that what they are seeing is reality however it is not reality at all. In the cave there are shadows of truth and echoes of reality. It is filled with illusions. It is a world of senses where the prisoners have gained empirical knowledge which is flawed. Plato thinks that the prisoners’ situations are no different from ours, as we do not see the forms clearly, only the physical world. Plato believed that everything exists in its true, perfect form outside of the cave in the world of the forms. The Cave; the physical world imprisons a person by stopping them seeing the forms. The cave represents a world where everything comes to an end and will eventually die, however in the world of forms nothing will die or end. Everything is transcendent and evolving. People who leave the cave gain true vision and see reality. The cave can also represent the body in which our souls (the prisoners) are trapped. Our souls constantly yearn for the World of Forms in which nothing ever decays. The cave may also represent society and the prisoners cannot see the world for what it really is as they are trapped in the claws of society.

The prisoners are humans who have a lack of knowledge and are oblivious to the truth and reality. They are in an illusionary world. The prisoners are mankind or at least human thought and existence. They are chained mentally by culture; trapped in society and physically around their necks and feet, which means they are not able to move around. This means that their minds cannot wander elsewhere and they remain fixed on the shadows/their reality. The chains also represent humanities inability to become enlightened and our consciousness. Their reality is the shadows of truth and the echoes of reality. They have never seen true good, true reality; the sun. They represent human beings like us as they are ignorant and oblivious to the truth and the world of forms. Their minds are full of ignorance and false impressions. They have beards which show that they have been there since childhood, and that the darkness is all they know. The prisoners sit facing the wall and have spent their lives watching the shadow play. For them the appearance seems real, as they have never seen anything else. We have sympathy for the prisoners as they have been misguided and are oblivious to the ultimate good; the demiurge. They are people who accept everything at face value and never question or try to...
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