Cave and Apology

Topics: Plato, Knowledge, Socrates Pages: 5 (1784 words) Published: May 8, 2006
Socrates was a philosophical man who lived his life asking prying question in order to guide others to the truth. This manner along with his knowledge and other traits led him to be put on trial for failing to recognize the gods represented by the state, creating new gods, and corrupting Athens' youth. Soon after the trail, Plato wrote an account of the speech that Socrates used to defend himself, titled The Apology. In order to clarify the ideas communicated in The Apology, Plato, a close friend of Socrates, took the liberty of creating a dialogue between his brother, Glaucon, and Socrates. This dialogue found in The Republic, is known as The Cave Analogy, further explained the reasoning behind Socrates' beliefs and actions. Overall, the cave represents real knowledge in the world compared to the fallacies society presents. The inside of the cave signifies a bell jar, encouraging naivety and ignorance, while the truths of the outside world linger just on the other side of the cave walls. The enlightened men walk around the perimeter and only through them can prisoners of the cave escape to freedom and truth. Via The Cave Analogy, Plato attempts to prove Socrates' points made throughout The Apology by demonstrating that Socrates is one of those enlightened outsiders who has successfully escaped from the cave, therefore making him capable of leading other unaware men remaining in the cave out as a result of educating them. Plato titles his account of Socrates' speech The Apology, however, the modern understanding of the word is far from the objective of the speech. The Greek word "apologia" translates into a speech made in defense, meaning Socrates was not apologizing for his actions, but supporting his so-called crimes. Socrates defended himself, saying that his wisdom was intended to be shared with others. He explained, "the unexamined life is not worth living" (Plato, The Apology, 38a). He had attempted to spread his knowledge through reflective questioning aimed at the wise and believed that to be the real reason he had been put on trial. After the trial and Plato's recounting of Socrates' speech in the form of The Apology, Plato further clarified his friend's ideas through a passage in The Republic titled The Cave Analogy. The Cave Analogy has many parts to it; the main picture is a group of prisoners who have been held hostage their entire lives inside the cave walls. Although there is an entrance to the cave, they are unable to see it because of how they have been trapped. As objects pass the entrance they cast a shadow on the wall of the cave that the prisoners are fixed watching. Outside, the sun is shining, but there is no evidence of the sun inside the cave as the shadows seen by the prisoners are cast on the wall by way of fire. Due to the fact that the captives have never seen the outside world, the shadows on the wall are erroneously viewed as reality. "At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows" (Plato, The Republic). Even with proof, these men are incapable of grasping the concept of what is real, as it is nothing they have ever known. He references a prophecy given by the oracle at Delphi to Chaerephon, a friend of Socrates. Chaerephon had inquired about Socrates' wisdom. "He went to Delphi at one time and ventured to ask the oracle…he asked if any man was wiser than I, and the Pythian replied that no one was wiser" (Plato, The Apology, 21a). Plato describes that Socrates was perplexed, as he was sure that he had no unique or focused knowledge, but knew that the oracle could not be wrong. Aiming to understand the oracle's statement, Socrates began questioning Athenian men who were considered to be very wise. The politicians made him realize...

Cited: Plato: Five Dialogues. Trans G.M.A. Grube and J.M. Cooper. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. 2002.
The Collected Dialogues of Plato: Republic. Trans. Paul Shorey. The Collected Dialogues. Eds. Edith Hamilton and. Huntington Cairns. Bollingen Series 71. New York: Pantheon, 1961.
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