True reality is not obvious to most of us. We mistake what we see and hear to be reality and truth. This is the basic premise for Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in which prisoners sit in a cave chained down, and are forced to watch images of vessels, statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone cast on the wall in front of them. They have no other option but to accept these views as reality and they are unable to grasp their overall situation: the cave and images are a ruse, a mere shadow show generated for them by unseen men. At some point, a prisoner is set free and is forced to see the situation inside the cave. Initially, that person does not want to give up the security of his or her familiar reality; the person has to be dragged past the fire and up the entranceway. This is the difficult and painful struggle through education, as described by Plato. When individuals step into the sunshine, their eyes slowly adjust to the light and their fundamental view of the world, of reality, is transformed. They come to see a much deeper and more genuine authentic reality, a reality marked by reason. The individual then will make the painful readjustment back into the darkness of the cave to free the other prisoners who are “chained” by their ignorance. However, because he now seems crazy describing a new reality, they reject him to the point of threatening to kill him. This metaphor creates a few relevance’s for us in the “cave” world: The visible world is not the real world because the senses cannot be trusted, the sun is an analogy for the good because good is only knowable through analogy, and education is important but painful.
The visible world is not the real world. This idea is very important to the metaphor because it is basically the whole idea behind it. Because Plato had penetrated a higher state of consciousness he realized the way we see and perceive the world as someone who does not have a clue. He understood that most people see these “shadows” and spin a web of ignorance about it to make them think it is real. All this happens because the senses deceive us, they are not to be trusted. The senses do not perceive actual truth. The eye is very dangerous because we tend to believe what we see, it deceives us the most. The eye has two different forms of vision, the “minds” eyes, and the “bodily” eye. The “bodily” eye relies on sensory perceptions about the world in order to determine what reality is. Figuratively speaking, the cave is a physical world filled with imperfect images. A world filled with distorted images about reality. The “bodily” eye takes these distorted images and regards them as real because it perceives so, then the person becomes chained in ignorance, and they now think these distorted images are real because the eye tells them so. However, the “minds” eye is not active inside the cave because the prisoners are imprisoned in this distorted world which they believe is reality. When finally pulled out of the cave the sudden freedom from these “ignorance chains” begins the enlightenment process. This opens the “minds” eye to not see mere reflections any longer but things in actual form.
Once we understand that the “shadows” are not real but merely illusions cast by real things we can finally surpass illusion, dogma, superstition, and fear to enter into a much higher state of understanding. This is where we understand what the real “good” actually is. This “good” however is only knowable through analogy like in the cave because we cannot find actual “good” in this visible world in which we live in. The sun, as described in the metaphor, is the greater good. It is what brings us to a state of higher knowledge because it simply makes things extremely clear. There is nothing hidden once you have reached the sun, everything is in its ultimate form. The sun, being the ultimate good, sheds light upon the world we are used to living in to see what is really real and what is not. We no longer perceive things to be real; we now know them to be through reason.
Many people want to deny the truth, and many never get to experience the truth. Those who never get to experience it have never broken free of their chains on knowledge. This is because people attach the wrong meanings to things they experience, and tend to think of their experiences as universal and somehow objective even when they haven’t really experienced more than their own narrow field of vision. The dragging out of the cave is the process that rids a person of this ignorance; also it is Plato’s way of showing that education is painful but important nonetheless. Plato lays out the line of knowledge to show the path to understanding. Everyone starts with an imagination; this is the 1st stage of the cave where the prisoners are forced to stare at the reflections on the wall. They begin to generate ideas about what they are seeing. This then causes us to generate an opinion on what he just imagined. Once we have this opinion we go into a state of deeper thinking to make a thought or some kind of sophisticated idea through logic and reasoning to generate an argument about why we think whatever we think. Then epistemology, or how do we know what we claim to know, falls into play. Once we understand what we know through this journey of knowledge then we enter into this state of consciousness to see everything in its ultimate form. This shows the painful and tedious process of education we all must embark on if we want to reach the sun, or the great good, releasing us from this cave of deception.
The conflicting idea of pragmatism generates an argument with the entire metaphor of the cave. Pragmatism in short is the idea that if something has no implicit value on the here and now (present) then it should be disregarded or ignored. This essentially then states Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is completely and one hundred percent flawed because nothing concerning the cave takes place in the “here and now”. How can we take the cave seriously if we can’t even see it happening around us? With this being said the cave has one huge argument going against its’ whole being.
Plato is without a doubt a smart man and deserves a lot of credibility because he was far beyond his time. Plato describes people in the cave as “chained” in their ignorance, which is obvious. These people he is referring to spin a web of non-sense around the images they see being cast onto the wall. Ironically, after Plato developed his line of knowledge I believe he spun his own web of non-sense around that idea thus creating the metaphor. He generated his own “shadows” by thinking he is seeing the world in a totally different view. I am not going to disagree with the line of knowledge and say it doesn’t work or is not accurate, but it is really what everyone subconsciously goes through as we get more and more intelligent. The line of knowledge is the natural way our brain works, Plato just put it into words and called himself better.
Plato contradicts himself by referring to the world we live in and see every day as not the “real” world because of his theory of epistemology. Epistemology simply means, how do you know what you claim to know? There is no way to make the cave valid because it is not something you can prove. Plato cannot take us to this “invisible” world and show us around because it is not a place, it’s a mind state. How can we agree with someone when they contradict their very own beliefs?
Plato alienates the majority of the population by saying that we are all on some lower level on knowledge because we don’t have this great understanding of all things to see everything in the greater form. I think that Plato thinks he understands everything and is in a whole new light because he fully grasps his own idea. Plato is one of the world’s greatest thinkers and definitely deserves acknowledgement, but pragmatism rules his ideas of the cave invalid.