The Allegory of the Cave

Topics: Platonism, Sun, Allegory Pages: 5 (2009 words) Published: April 27, 2011
An allegory is a kind of story in which writer intends a second meaning to be read beneath the surface story. One of the most important allegories ever to be gifted to humankind is Allegory of the Cave. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is one of the most potent and pregnant of allegories that describe human condition in both its fallen and risen states. The Allegory of the Cave is Plato's explanation of the education of the soul toward enlightenment. It is also known as the Analogy of the Cave, Plato's Cave, or the Parable of the Cave. It is written as a fictional dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon at the beginning of Book VII of The Republic. The allegory of the cave:

Plato illustrates his dualistic theory his famous allegory of cave. Plato asks us to imagine a dark scene. A group of people has lived in a deep cave since birth, never seeing the light of day. These people are bound so that they cannot look to either side or behind them, but only straight ahead. Behind them is a fire, and behind the fire is a partial wall. On top of the wall are various statues, which are manipulated by another group of people, lying out of sight behind the partial wall. Because of the fire, the statues cast shadows across the wall that the prisoners are facing. The prisoners watch the stories that these shadows play out, and because these shadows are all they ever get to see, they believe them to be the most real things in the world. When they talk to one another about “men,” “women,” “trees,” or “horses,” they are referring to these shadows. These prisoners represent the lowest stage on the line—imagination. A prisoner is freed from his bonds, and is forced to look at the fire and at the statues themselves. After an initial period of pain and confusion because of direct exposure of his eyes to the light of the fire, the prisoner realizes that what he sees now are things more real than the shadows he has always taken to be reality. He grasps how the fire and the statues together cause the shadows, which are copies of these more real things. He accepts the statues and fire as the most real things in the world. This stage in the cave represents belief. He has made contact with real things—the statues—but he is not aware that there are things of greater reality—a world beyond his cave. Next, this prisoner is dragged out of the cave into the world above. At first, he is so dazzled by the light up there that he can only look at shadows, then at reflections, then finally at the real objects—real trees, flowers, houses and so on. He sees that these are even more real than the statues were, and that those were only copies of these. He has now reached the cognitive stage of thought. He has caught his first glimpse of the most real things, the Forms. When the prisoner’s eyes have fully adjusted to the brightness, he lifts his sight toward the heavens and looks at the sun. He understands that the sun is the cause of everything he sees around him—the light, his capacity for sight, the existence of flowers, trees, and other objects. The sun represents the Form of the Good, and the former prisoner has reached the stage of understanding. However, the man remembers the other prisoners still trapped in the cave. He returns to them and attempts to convince them that what they are seeing are just shadows of real things. They do not believe them and become so enraged by his foolish claims, that they kill him. Preferring the shadows, they have always known to the uncertainty of a completely new reality. For better understanding, the matter of the cave an imaginative picture of that cave is added here:

Picture: Plato’s cave Most of the humankind the allegory suggests dwell in the darkness of the cave. They have oriented their thoughts around the blurred world of shadows. The goal of education is to drag every man as far out of the cave...
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