Illustrating Plato’s ‘The Allegory of the Cave’
September 28, 2009
Pacquette, Paul G. and Gini-Newman, Laura (2003)
Philosophy: Questions and Theories. Toronto:
McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd. , p.4-63, 117, 440-441
One way to understand philosophy is to draw the meaning of Plato’s story “The Allegory of the Cave” (Philosophy: Q&T, p.8). Plato is a 360 BCE Greek philosopher who focused on metaphysics, ethics, knowledge, and he interpreted the human nature (Philosophy: Q&T, p.7). He believed that ‘the ability to reason is the highest and most important distinguishing feature of human beings (Philosophy: Q&T, p.38). The Allegory of the Cave raises one of the central debates in metaphysics – the area of philosophy that deals with the study of the basic structure of reality (Philosophy: Q&T, p.440).
In the parable, Plato describes a group of prisoners chained in a dark cave. One of the prisoners is released and was forced to climb upward out of the cave into the distant light. Plato then concludes that the prison is the world we see in our eyes; the fire is the sun; and the climb upward is the journey of the mind towards knowledge (Philosophy: Q&T, p.9).
The Allegory of the Cave sdeals with one of the vital discussions in metaphysics: to distinguish between reality and appearance. Just like ontology, it deals with the nature of being and reality (Philosophy: Q&T, p.114). The prisoners symbolize the majority of people. Just like how the prisoners perceive the shadows as real, most people believe that everything they see, taste, hear, and smell is real. They don’t try to question appearances. Their lives are spent unexamined and unreflective. The world of flickering shadows is the world of common sense perception and belief. Unlike this world of illusion, the real world lit by the sun is clear and visible. The light of fire which stings the prisoner symbolizes the truth of reality. Truth...
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