Plato Uses the “Allegory of the Cave”

Category: Culture
Date added
2021/05/10
Pages:  8
Words:  2472
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Plato was an ancient Athenian philosopher who studied under fellow philosopher Socrates. He would later become one of the most influential philosophers of all time. One of Plato’s most notable works and most famous allegory was the “Allegory of the Cave”. Plato uses the “Allegory of the Cave” as a tool to show us, readers, his views on society and true knowledge.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” could be a critique to Athenian Society and or society in general. Many elements in the “Allegory of the Cave” are metaphors for elements in society. The main protagonist of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is Socrates, and he speaks to a person named Glaucon throughout the allegory. The allegory begins with Socrates telling Glaucon to see human beings as though they were imprisoned in an underground cave (Republic 514a). These humans are in this cave for their entire childhood with their legs and necks in bonds (Republic 514a). This means that they can only see what is in front of them (Republic 514b). Their light is from a fire burning far above and behind them (Republic 514b). Between the fire and the prisoners, there is a road above, along which we see a wall (Republic 514b). There are puppet-handlers set in front of the human beings and over which they show the puppets (Republic 514b). These prisoners represent the members of society who are not enlightened and or people in general. Throughout the allegory, the prisoners, in the cave were constantly being deceived and manipulated. Plato is using the prisoners to show us, readers, that as members of society, we are also constantly being manipulated and deceived. The shadows may represent the general beliefs that people gain from society. During the “Allegory of the Cave” the shadows that the prisoners are seeing are being manipulated to show different images. Plato may be using the shadows to tell us that the things that we believe in are being manipulated and controlled by society. The cave and bonds both represent the aspects of society that hold people back from seeing how things really are.

Tradition is an example of an aspect of society that holds people back from seeing how things truly are. Tradition holds people back from seeing the truth because it encourages people to not think critically. Instead of using logic and reason many people tend to rely on tradition and past events because it is easier to do so. Relying on tradition can lead to deception because society changes over time. Tradition also holds people back from seeing the truth because the truth can sometimes be found in new and improved ideas. A lot of the time new and improved ideas that don’t go along with tradition are automatically discredited. The puppet-handlers represent the people in society who have the power to influence the general public. Examples of the people in society who have the power to influence the general public are politicians and teachers. The main reason why politicians and teachers have the power to influence the general public is that they have very important positions. Teachers can instill values and morals into their students from a very young age. Politicians can create and enforce laws that can dictate our actions and thinking. In the “Allegory of the Cave” Plato is painting the puppet-handlers as deceivers. The puppet-handlers are deceivers because they are making the prisoners believe that the shadows, they are seeing are real. Plato uses the puppet-handlers to show us, readers, that the people in society who have the power to influence the general public, politicians, and teachers, are deceitful. Plato would say that the main reason why teachers and politicians are deceitful is that they lack true knowledge. Plato would consider teachers and politicians Sophists. In this day in age Sophists would be any person who uses clever but false arguments.

In the “Allegory of the Cave” Plato uses metaphors to show us, readers, that people are conditioned to believe in things that are false from a very young age. In the “Allegory of the Cave” Socrates asks Glaucon a variety of different questions concerning the prisoners in the cave. Socrates asks, “Do you think that the prisoners would have been able to see anything other than the shadows cast by the fire on the side of the cave facing them?” (Republic 515a-515b). Glaucon responds by saying “How could they? If their bonds forced them to keep their heads still for their entire lives?” (Republic 515a-515b). Socrates then asks “And what about the things that are carried by? Isn’t this the same with them? “(Republic 515b). Glaucon responds by saying of course (Republic 515b). Socrates then asks Glaucon “If they were to discuss things with one another, don’t you believe they would think that they are naming these things going by them that they see?” (Republic 515b). Glaucon responds by saying necessarily (Republic 515b). Socrates then asks Glaucon “And what if the prison also had an echo from one side facing them? Whenever one of the men passing by happens to utter a sound, do you suppose they would believe that anything other than the passing shadow was uttering the sound? (Republic 515b).

Glaucon responded by saying no by Zeus, I don’t (Republic 515b). This exchange between Socrates and Glaucon shows that the prisoners must believe that the shadows they are seeing are real. The shadows are real to them because they have been exposed to them for virtually their entire lives. The prisoners have not had the ability to see how the real world is. The prisoners also have no choice but to believe that the inaccurate and confused opinions of their fellow prisoners are true. The prisoners being essentially forced to believe in deceptive illusions because of their surroundings and their upbringing is very comparable to how society currently is and was during Plato’s time. From the beginning of time children have been conditioned to believe in certain things at a young age. The things people are taught at a young age are also reinforced as they get older. The things that people are taught at a young age are not always correct. Plato is trying to tell us readers that as a society we are blindly believing inaccurate things because we are conditioned to do so from a very young age. This means that people need to use their own critical thinking skills to find the truth.

In the “Allegory of the Cave” Plato also uses metaphors to show us, readers, that seeing the truth for the first time can be difficult. During the allegory Socrates asks Glaucon to consider what would happen if a prisoner was able to free themselves (Republic 515c). In this hypothetical situation Socrates says that if the prisoner turned around, they would not be able to clearly see the objects that were casting the shadows that they have been watching (Republic 515c). Socrates also said that the prisoner’s eyes would be hurting them because their eyes would be overpowered by the light from the fire (Republic 515c). The prisoner having difficulty seeing the true objects that were casting the shadows is a metaphor. The objects that were casting the shadows represent reality. The prisoner had trouble seeing the true objects because they were so accustomed to seeing the true objects’ shadows. Plato is trying to tell us, readers, that when you are accustomed to believing things that are inaccurate it is hard to see reality. The prisoner’s eyes being overwhelmed by the light is also a metaphor. The light from the fire represents the truth. Plato is trying to tell us, readers, that seeing the truth could be overwhelming and uncomfortable if you are not used to seeing it. Socrates then asks Glaucon what would happen if someone told the prisoner that the shadows they saw before were just allusions, and the objects they were now seeing are the truth (Republic 515d). Glaucon comes to the determination that the prisoner would believe that the illusions were the truth and the true objects were the illusions (Republic 515d). Plato does this to show us readers that people would have difficulties seeing the truth if it did not align with what they have been taught to believe throughout their entire lives.

In the “Allegory of the Cave” Plato also uses a metaphor to show us, readers, that being forced to see the truth could be troublesome for people. Socrates asks Glaucon what would happen if a prisoner was pulled out of the cave (Republic 516a). Socrates also asks wouldn’t the prisoner be annoyed being pulled out of the cave by force (Republic 516a). Plato has Socrates ask these questions to Glaucon because he wants us readers to conclude that the prisoner would not enjoy being pulled out of the cave by force. The prisoner not enjoying being pulled out of the cave by force is a metaphor. The cave represents the aspects of society that hold people back from seeing how things really are. The outside of the cave represents the truth and reality. A prisoner being pulled out of the cave allows them to see the outside world. Plato is trying to tell us readers that people don’t like being forced to see the truth. People are normally not willing to escape the aspects of society that are holding them back from seeing the truth. This is because they have been so accustomed to them. Plato also uses metaphors to show us, readers, that seeing the truth could be difficult at first, but overtime you will get accustomed to seeing it. Socrates asks Glaucon would the prisoners be able to see the sun when they left the cave for the first time (Republic 516a).

Glaucon responded by saying that the prisoner wouldn’t be able to see the sun immediately. Socrates then says the prisoner would eventually get used to seeing the sun (Republic 516a). This exchange shows that the prisoner would eventually be able to see the sun clearly after being initially blinded by it. This is a metaphor. The sun represents the truth and the real world. Seeing the sun for the first time is just like seeing the truth for the first time. When people see the truth for the first time, they get overwhelmed and want to turn away from it. When you see the truth for the first-time people rather go back to what they are accustomed to. However, the more you are exposed to the truth the easier it is to grasp. After you obtain the truth you can see that you have been deceived for your entire life. Plato also uses a metaphor to show us, readers, that a person finds true happiness after they become enlightened. Socrates asks Glaucon would the prisoner be happy and have pity for his fellow prisoners after clearly seeing the sun for the first time (Republic 516c). Glaucon responded by saying yes (Republic 516c). The prisoner that is happy after seeing the sun for the first time represents an enlightened person after they see the truth for the first time. The prisoners left behind in the cave represent the members of society who are not enlightened. Plato is using this exchange between Socrates and Glaucon to show us that he believes that the key to happiness is being enlightened. Plato is also using this exchange between Socrates and Glaucon to show us that enlightened people should pity the people who are not. Enlightened people should not feel like they are superior to unenlightened people.

In the “Allegory of the Cave” Plato also uses metaphors to show us, readers, what the lives of philosophers and the enlightened are like. Socrates asks Glaucon what would happen to the prisoner who could clearly see the sun when they went back into the cave to free their fellow prisoners (Republic 516e). Glaucon concludes that the enlightened prisoner would have trouble adjusting to the darkness of the cave (Republic 516e). The prisoner having trouble adjusting to the darkness of the cave is a metaphor. Plato is trying to tell us, readers, that when you become enlightened and see the truth it is hard to go back to seeing the illusions that you were previously accustomed to seeing. Socrates also asks Glaucon how the prisoners in the cave would react to the opinions of the enlightened prisoner (Republic 517a). Glaucon concludes that the prisoners in the cave would laugh at the opinions of the enlightened prisoner and attempt to kill the enlightened prisoner (Republic 517a). The prisoners in the cave laughing at the opinions of the enlightened prisoner and attempting to kill the enlightened prisoner is a metaphor. Plato is trying to tell us, readers, that when you are enlightened your opinions will be laughed at by people who are not enlightened. Unenlightened people laugh at the opinions of the enlightened because they don’t want to believe that the ideas, they were conditioned to believe in are incorrect. Plato is also trying to tell us, readers, that when you are enlightened, unenlightened people may want to kill you because they think your opinions are ridiculous. Plato most likely wanted to get this point across to us readers because his mentor Socrates was executed in 399 B.C because of his beliefs.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” coincides with his theory, the doctrine of forms. The doctrine of forms says that there are two realms. These two realms are called the Realm of Forms and the Realm of Corporeal things. The Realm of Forms are eternal, unchanging, transcendent, and perfect. The Realm of Corporeal things are the constantly changing visible, sensuous, physical world of particular objects in time and space. In Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” the outside of the cave is the Realm of Forms. The outside of the cave represents truth and reality. In the “Allegory of the Cave” the sun is compared to the idea of the good (Republic 517c). Just as the sun gives light to all the existing things in the world and allows us to see them, the idea of the good allows us to see the world of forms.

Plato was an ancient Athenian Philosopher who studied under fellow philosopher Socrates. He would later become one of the most influential philosophers of all time. Plato uses the “Allegory of the Cave” as a tool to show us, readers, his views on society and true knowledge. Plato was able to shows us, readers, that he believes that people are conditioned to believe in inaccurate things from a young age, that seeing the truth for the first time could be troublesome for people, and much more in the “Allegory of the Cave”.

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Plato uses the “Allegory of the Cave”. (2021, May 10). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/plato-uses-the-allegory-of-the-cave/

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