Concepts of Knowledge in ‘Allegory of the Cave’

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Concepts of Knowledge in ‘Allegory of the Cave’

This essay will delve into the concepts of knowledge presented in Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave.’ It will explore the philosophical ideas about perception, reality, and enlightenment in the allegory, and how it reflects Plato’s theory of forms and the process of gaining true knowledge. Moreover, at PapersOwl, there are additional free essay samples connected to Allegory.

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Plato’s extended metaphor, “The Allegory of the Cave” focuses on the theme of reality and knowledge to demonstrate that reality is not a definitive concept. Plato brings attention to the people’s increasing ignorance and lack of concern. The true nature of reality is not perceived due to our lack in education. This hinderance prevents us from adequately reflecting on our surroundings. He argues that humans do not understand the complexities of the world and deem what we see true without argument.

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We are so focused on our own sense of reality that we neglect and encourage the ever-growing “shadows” around us.

In order to break away from our own given blindness, we must seek proper education that will enable us to comprehend the true forms of things that make up the world. Until then, we are no better than the prisoners in the cave. The vague and misleading interpretation of the shadows encourage the prisoners to mistake appearance for the reality of the world. As a result, without philosophy, people are not unable to question the real truth. Plato’s theory, the world of Forms, explains that the world we live in is a pure imitation of the real world. Like the prisoners, people are chained to a cave, imprisoned by their five senses and their mind. It is only through philosophical thinking and and proper knowledge in which you will able to see the world in many forms. This would facilitate the process of obtaining a higher understanding of truth which should be one’s ultimate goal. Platonic idealism is embedded into his extended metaphor as he encourages people to break away from materialism and focus on gearing your existence towards a higher abstract reality.

The purpose of education according to Plato, was that it could lead to real knowledge that would be attained through philosophical reasoning. Education however, will not show you the truth of reality but a path toward it. The cave symbolizes our opinions and illusions that are acquired through our senses. Once we free ourselves from the cave only then can we move upwards towards a path or order of knowledge. Plato emphasizes that knowledge will lead to a form of good. With education and dedication it is possible to overcome the blindness. “And if you assume that the ascent and the contemplation of the things above is the soul’s ascension to the intelligible region, you will not miss the surmise, since that is what you desire to hear” (Plato, 517b). Philosophers are the only ones who can truly grasp the incomprehensible and trying to explain these ideas to the public would be in vain because they could never comprehend the Forms. Essentially, we all begin stuck in a cave and with proper education we could attain knowledge that will allow us to reason instead of solely relying on our senses.

Beauty and goodness are embedded with reality according to Plato. People are chained and have no desire to leave their reality because they lack curiosity. It would force them to change themselves which makes being ignorant is easier. The prisoners have only known the cave, shadows, and chains and therefore, it is impossible for them to desire a different reality. They struggle to obtain objective knowledge and inevitably trap themselves within subjective knowledge. The darkness and isolation of the cave symbolizes our closed mindset. Plato argues that “such prisoners would deem reality to be nothing else than the shadows of the artificial objects” (Plato, 515c). The prisoners, as well as us, only believe what they see which makes distinguishing what is real from what is only perceived a conflict amongst oneself.

There is also a conflict to Plato’s metaphor. Once the prisoner is set free, he is leaving the darkness of the cave for the brightness outside. His reality, the one created by the cast of shadows upon the cave’s wall, would soon deteriorate. The sudden glimpse and exposure to the sun causes the prisoner physical pain. Despite being freed from the confines of the cave, Plato also argues that education is a painful experience as it causes discomfort. He is exposed to objective reality and experiences life as it is and not as it appeared to be. He is enlightened upon his release and cannot go back to save his fellow inmates because they would think that he has gone mad which would put his life at risk. The prisoners have become desensitized to the limits and structure of the cave which to them, has always been their reality. As a result, Plato’s, “Allegory of the Cave” exemplifies the concepts of knowledge and reality to justify his rationale for humans being unable to distinguish reality from beliefs.

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Concepts of Knowledge in 'Allegory of the Cave'. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from