25 February 2013
Allegory of the Cave
In his book, Republic, Plato tries to explain justice through different dialogues between Socrates and other people. He explains how to live a just life, what a just society should be, and how just leadership should be taken. One of the arguments he uses to explain justice involves four stages of philosophical education. He describes them through dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon at a dinner party. Socrates uses what is called the allegory of the cave to explain the importance of education and just leadership in society. The four stages he uses line up with a previous conversation about the four conditions of the soul. They correspond with four subsections: the highest of which is understanding, next is thought, then belief, and the last is imaging. Plato’s allegory illustrates the imaging stage first.
The allegory of the cave begins with prisoners at the bottom of Socrates’ cave. These prisoners are bound there, unable to move their necks and legs. Behind them is a fire providing the only source of light for them, but they cannot see the fire. Between the prisoners and the fire is a wall, where there are people that hold up all different kinds of artifacts above it to cast shadows against the wall in front of the prisoners. The prisoners would suppose that the shadows passing in front of them were talking as the carriers talked, and they would have names for all the different things they saw. Therefore, the prisoners would believe that the truth is nothing other than the shadows that the carriers are casting in front of them. This is what the imaging stage is in the allegory.
The belief stage is next. Socrates tells Glaucon to picture what would happen if one of these prisoners were to be freed and turned towards the light of the fire. The light would hurt his eyes, and he would be unable to name any of the real objects that passed by the fire. He would want to...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document