WHY DOES PLATO COMPARE ORDINARY HUMAN EXISTENCE TO THAT OF CHAINED PRISONERS IN A CAVE?
Plato in his famous Allegory of Cave compared the ordinary human existence to that of chained prisoners in a cave. According to Plato, we are all stuck in a false reality in this world like prisoners in a cave. His cave theory still applies today in the sense that the people are influenced and controlled by the world around them. They do not want to realize or seek the truth; instead they wish to live in the comfort zone inside the cave.
THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE: PLATO, REPUBLIC.
Plato assumed the existence of human life in a cave. In his view, human beings are tied as prisoners in a cave and they could only see the shadows of real things and thought that these were the reality. There was a sun illuminating outside the cave and when one of the prisoners is released, he was perplexed as he was exposed to the light for the first time, he felt the pain in his eyes, after that he realized that it was real and tried to understand that reality (truth), he attained enlightment(knowledge). It represents the various stages of human life and the ultimate goal of human existence to attain enlightment. The visible realm inside the cave should be compared to the prison dwelling and the light of the fire to the inside it to the power of the sun.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is very relevant to the contemporary world. We are influenced and controlled by a lot of people, via parents, teachers, friends, relatives and peer groups. For example, the future of a child is decided by the parents. The original dreams of the child are manipulated by them and they decide what their children have to study, what they have to wear, which college they have to join… We are also influenced by a lot of things like internet, mobile, marketing advertisements, video games and T.V serials. We are locked and captured by these myths which are the barrier between us and the truth .They control our lives. For example, if we wish to buy a pen, we go with the guidance of advertisement. We buy what the media advises us to buy. There are false advertisements which are created for the purpose of cheating the customers and earning profits. They make us believe an unhealthy product as healthy. Media provides us misleading shadows and we believe everything we see.
According to Plato, for the prisoners, truth would be nothing but the shadow of the images. We are all admiring the shadows and considering it as truth. Media presents those kinds of shadows; For example, children are glued to T.V, for them, Superman and Shaktimaan are the real Heroes. Some children go the extent of considering them as their role models. Most of the times we fail to understand that they are mere shadows. Some years ago, in a bid to imitate the heroics of T.V hero Shaktimaan, a class VI boy from Bhubaneswar suffocated to death after tying a towel around his neck and hanging himself from a ceiling fan. We are taught to completely believe everything without questioning. We understand things in the way others make us believe. We live with the shadows and we perceive it as the reality. We are living in a world where each and everything is imposed by someone. We failed to look at “what it is”, a shadow or the reality?
According to Plato, the prisoners only saw their own shadows or the shadows of each other which the fire threw on the wall in front of them. We are looking at the identities of each other which the world thrown on us. We identify each other by some stereotypical notions. For example, we are prejudiced that all politicians run only after name, fame and money. Similarly, we stereotype individuals by their state, colour, gender. Usually, we thought that women are weaker than men.
We are now inside the cave of world ,living with the shadows of money, shadows of politicians, technology, media, computer, social networking.., These shadow things give us temporary happiness...
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