Explain Plato’s Analogy of the Cave
Plato (428-348BC) was a student of Socrates and was the teacher of Aristotle. He is said to be one of the most revered philosophers of all time. He produced a lot of work but one of his major works was “The Republic” which was written in the middle section of his life. It is a Socratic dialogue, concerning the definition of justice and the order. It outlines his concepts of the Forms, knowledge of the world, ethics and politics.
Plato was an absolutist and used a lot of dualistic ideas to portray the concepts of Good, Knowledge and Logic. Plato was not a big fan of empirical knowledge (knowledge gained from the senses) as he thought the world we live in goes through a constant state of change. Plato would have therefore agreed with the statement “No man ever steps in the same river twice” (Heraclitus). Purely because although it may be the same river, the water has moved on so it is not literally the same river.
Plato’s Analogy of the cave goes like this;
There is a cave with prisoners trapped inside who have been there since childhood. The prisoners are chained in such a way that they can only ever face in one direction and are unable to move their heads. They all sit facing the back wall of the cave. The only light available to them comes from a fire, which is behind them so they cannot see it. All they can see is the light that the fire produces reflected off the cave wall. Between the fire and the prisoners, still behind them, is a low wall. People move along the low wall, carrying different objects and escorting different animals. As they pass the fire, the objects and the people’s shadows are thrown onto the cave wall where the prisoners can see them. The prisoners see the shadows as being their reality because they have only ever seen these shadows and so don’t know anything apart from that, so they are therefore their reality image. One day one of the prisoners gets dragged out of the cave into the real...
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