Philosophy in Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’

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Philosophy is a cosmology, a crisis, and a critique. A cosmology is the assumption one makes about the universe, their worldview, what is subjective, and what is objective. A crisis is made up of the moral choices one makes, what is right or wrong, choosing between life or death, and is based judgement. Critique analyzes how one structures their argument, further expanding the problems presented. Philosophy is the love for wisdom as it is the purpose for forming critical thoughts.

Philosophy emerges from the crisis of cosmology, as seen in Plato’s Apology.

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For example, Socrates is a result of the contradictions of democracy. Socrates questioned the knowledge of the Athenian citizens, political authority, and his own conviction. He even claims, “for the unexamined life is not worth living for men, you will believe me even less” (Apology, 38). Additionally, Socrates claimed to have had no knowledge about the universe or what should happen in the political world. His philosophy of questioning the world around him emerges from his crisis of cosmology due to his contradictions in democracy of not providing answers to these problems. Socrates taught people to question, however, he contradicted himself because everyone’s beliefs are unknowable, therefore why would their votes decide what is right or wrong for the well-being of the state? Socrates did not want to make laws but he wanted to make the people pay attention. He was constantly criticized by society. However, he was aware of his own ignorance. Socrates was both the worst and best democrat based on his crisis of cosmology.

Contrasting the Apology, which is more historical, the Republic discusses justice as the “cornerstone idea of cosmology” from different points of view. Cephalus and Polemarchus critique their cosmology of justice. Cephalus and Polemarchus are seen refuting the dogmatism and relativism of Thrasymachus. Cephalus, a rich patriarch, believes in paying off debts, giving people what they deserve, telling the truth, and how not always following the law, but making sure the proper duties and responsibilities are fulfilled, is necessary. Polemarchus, a soldier, has the similar view of defining justice as giving one what they deserve. He believes that justice is doing good to your friends and doing bad to your enemies. Thrasymachus, a sophist, believes that justice is the advantage of the stronger and is the advantage of the rulers. Cephalus and Polemarchus shared the same dogmatic view of justice: right and wrong are seen as objective facts and cannot explain themselves. Thrasymachus, on the other hand, believed in personal relativism, where everyone should be just in order to accomplish any contribution. Philosophy is seen as critiquing cosmology in the Republic because Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus all have different interpretations justice as an objective fact.

Lastly, philosophy constitutes its own cosmology. In the “Allegory of the Cave”, Plato builds a philosophical cosmology and turns a critique on cosmology, with the topic of education and the truth. The “Allegory of the Cave” discusses human perception. Plato claims that having knowledge based on one’s senses is the same as having an opinion. In other words, one must gain knowledge through philosophical reasoning. In the “Allegory of the Cave”, there are two types of people: people in the cave, mistaking sensory knowledge for the truth and people outside the cave, who can really see the truth. He provides an extended metaphor for the nature of education. Plato is telling us about how humans struggle to see the truth; however, this allows for critical thinkers in society. He attempts to explain how education is the “is to not give people the truth, but to dispose us towards the truth; Not all education needs to be the truth but can be seen as capacity building” (Lodhi). Philosophy constitutes its own cosmology, as seen in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” because he is establishing how philosophy is not a fact, but a direction of the orientation of the good. The overall metaphor of the “Allegory of the Cave” is that once you come out and see the “sun” (education), one must go back in the cave and tell everyone.

Philosophy is a cosmology, a crisis, and a critique. It is not a fact, but a direction of where the good and bad appear. By contrasting the portrayal of philosophy in the Apology and the Republic, the relationship between philosophy and cosmology can be examined. Socrates contradicting democracy demonstrates how philosophy emerges from the crisis of cosmology. The critique of justice by Cephalus and Polemarchus shows how philosophy critiques cosmology. And lastly, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” reveals how philosophy constitutes its own cosmology.

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Philosophy in Plato’s 'Allegory of the Cave'. (2021, Jun 30). Retrieved from