Good Example Of Essay On Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave
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The story of the cave, or sometimes called the myth or the allegory of the cave, is a passage in Plato’s Republic in which Socrates gives an account, in the form of storytelling, of the metaphysical and political implications of the human person within the confines of this reality. The cave story is an analogy of philosophical import. It is meant to illustrate the crucial points of Plato’s ontology. For in Plato, the world that we live is not a perfect world, and in effect, we live in a world o shadows that is a mere copy of a perfect world. Plato, in Book Seven of the dialogue, recounts the narrative of one prisoner who is released from his chains after living in a dark cave with his fellow prisoners. The cave is completely dark except for light that is cast upon a wall. The prisoners all face the wall, and they do not turn around. Imagine being in a dark room, facing the wall, and all the chained prisoners can see is the flicker of light on the wall and the shadows of objects that the light creates. This is what it would be like to be in the cave. In effect, Plato is saying, the cave is this world, the world we live where reality is like gazing upon shadows on a wall. What the prisoners do not know is that behind them is a great fire that causes the light to flicker on the wall. Puppets and shapes of all different kinds are in front of the fire that cause the shapes to appear on the wall. Puppeteers hold the objects in front of the fire like what children would see in a puppet show. It is like Plato is saying that not only do we see imitations of reality when we do not use our critical thinking, but we allow ourselves to be manipulated by what we see. It is like when a commuter sees a billboard advertisement on the highway advertising a delicious hamburger. In the image, the hamburger looks so enticing, so the commuter exit the highway to go to the restaurant to eat that burger. However, when he or shes orders the hamburger, it does not look as enticing as the image on the billboard. The world inside of the cave dupes us into believing in a false world.
Also, the analogy of the cave is meant to be ontological and to show that reality has levels. What Plato is saying is that when I see a tree in the park, it is not the real tree in reality, but only a shadow of a more perfect tree. The world we can perceive through our sensory is perception does not give us a full picture of reality. To understand reality is to break literally free from the chains and climb out of the cave. This is what the character in the story does. The person of the prisoner could be thought of as a Socrates-like character or an image of the philosopher himself. The rest of the population in the cave who never try to get out of their shadow world are like those who never try to question reality. Plato makes the point that the prisoner is the only one with the gumption to around and see that behind him is the fire that has caused the shadows to flicker on the wall. The world of the cave, the one in which he has grown up all his life, he realizes, is only the shadow of another world. The thesis of the story of the cave is that the prisoner has to get out of the cave to reach the next ontological level. The cave is like a videogame, where to get to the next level the character has to go through an obstacle. The prisoner has to remove himself from what is comfortable. The cave is like the womb where the baby does not want to be born and enjoys the warmth of the mother. To exit the cave is not easy. Also, adding to this point, returning back to the cave to tell his friends of what he saw is also not easy, and in this way, another connection to Socrates can be made. The other prisoners kill the one prisoner who dared to leave and tell of another world. The rest of the prisoners do not want to be liberated from their ignorance, and in this way, the story implies that most people rather depend on others or depend on their feeling of comfort.
I think for the prisoner who escapes the cave is a rare type of individual — and when we realize that Socrates himself was executed by his citizenry — the effect is even stronger.
When the prisoner does escape the cave, he comes upon the daylight outside the cave, but at first everything is blurry, and he cannot see very well. The point of this detail is to show that when the prisoner does, in fact, make it outside of the cave, he does not immediately understand his surrounding. The point that Plato wants to make is that the journey out of the cave is hard, just as the intellectual journey to understand philosophical truth is also hard. The sun in the story represents the truth, but in order to know the truth one has to adjust their eyes to the sharp rays of the sun. Again, the analogy is like going to the cinema in the afternoon, and after spending a couple of hours in the darkness, coming out into the light hurts one’s eyes. In this way, Plato is saying that realizing the truth is at first comfortable.
So in this way, the cave story makes a distinction between the world of the senses, the world of the darkness of the cave, and the more intelligible world outside in the sun. After the prisoner has adjusted his eyes, he can see the flowers and trees for what they really are and not just the shadows he was exposed to in the cave. In this way, Plato is making an analogy to his theory of forms. The trees and objects lit up by the sun are the forms, while the objects in the cave are copies of a formal reality.
In the world of the cave, reason does not reign. The world of darkness is ruled by opinion and superstition. Going out into the sunlight, for Plato, is the right use of one’s reason. This is what Plato means by the soul. If I stayed home and watched television on my couch and never ventured out into the real world, my soul would weaken and I would lose sight of reality. The soul has the capacity to know the truth, but it has to escape the complacency of the cave. When the soul is only fixated on the shadows it works differently in the darkness than when the soul is lit up by the sun.
In conclusion, the story of the cave is an illustration of how only the few can reach full understanding. These few people are destined to know the truth and it is in their hands to rule. The rest of the world is ruled by their passions and opinions and are in essence duped by the puppets who proffer reality in front of the masses who in their stupidity believe it to be the truth. Plato’s story is like the cook who prepared a bucket of crabs to be boiled. The crab who strains to get out of the bucket is pulled down by his crab friends. No one wants you get to the top. It’s a struggle.
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