Intro to Lit/Crit 1
Plato’s Allegory of the cave
In book VII of the Republic, Plato talks about one of the most famous metaphors known to man, the allegory of the cave. The main role of Plato’s allegory of the cave is to highlight the importance of education and how it ultimately brings man to the ‘Form of the Good’. Plato recognizes the form of the good has the highest level of achievement, because once it is recognized, it is the form that allows one to realize all the other forms. According to Plato we are all prisoners who see the light and understand the world around us because of education.
In the allegory of the cave, Socrates describes a scene in a dark cave with “strange prisoners (43)”, who have lived there their entire lives and never seen the light. These prisoners are tied in such way that allows them to only straight ahead and they cannot look around themselves. Behind them is a wall that has various statues that are handled by other people and due to a fire the statues cast shadows on another wall that the prisoners are facing. The prisoners watch these scenes and believe them to be real because this is all they ever see. Even when they talk to each other, these shadows are all they talk about. Plato describes this as the stage of imagination.
One day a prisoner is freed from this cave and looks upon the fire and statues that were casting the shadows. The prisoner goes through a confusing period of pain and shock because of all the sudden exposure to light. The prisoner realizes that what he has just seen is more real than anything else. He realizes how the stories they saw were just shadows and copies of the real thing. Plato describes this stage in the cave as belief.
After this the prisoner is taken outside the cave into the real world. At first the prisoner is so confused that he only looks at the shadows. But then he realizes where he is and...
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