Platonic Dualism in ‘Allegory of the Cave’

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Plato, the founder of many philosophical ideas, founded the concept of Platonic dualism- formulated on his theory of the forms. Plato believed of another world separate from the flawed physical world we live in and know through our senses, a world of ideas. In this world existed the Forms: immaterial substances that distort our perception of what we think we know as nothing more than mere shadows. He also argued that for the intellect to have access to these universal concepts, the mind must itself be a non-material entity.

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Although form shapes matter, the forms were intended to have a more realistic appearance than that of the material world. Hence, the world according to Plato is dual since we live in both a world of matter that we perceive through our senses, and a higher world of the forms experienced by the intellect. For Plato, the visible world around us was not entirely real for it was merely a “resemblance” of that which is “really real,” which exists only in The Forms.

For Plato, the forms were also the original “models” of all the physical objects that we visibly see on earth. Plato would argue that each tree on earth is solely identifiable as a tree because it resembles the perfect tree from the world of the forms. This realm is a place that we were familiar with before we were born and of which is difficult to recollect. Tools and machines create the items we use every day. For instance, let us say one wanted to produce a book. While it takes a device to form the material of the book, the original serves as the form for all the later copies. With this said, for every object on earth, there is a form of that object in the World of the Forms. Thus, for Plato, even concepts have their original versions in the world of the Forms. The body in a way hindered the soul’s ability to clearly see the reality that existed in the soul or forms. This accounts, also, for the ideas we have of how things differ in “degree” from each other. For instance, the idea that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ applies for we find one face more beautiful than another. We make judgments of statements seeming true or false, judgments of people acting good or bad, or situations appearing just or unjust.

Plato would also claim that our daily responses indicate that outside our immediate sense perceptions, there must exist that which is most beautiful, most true, most good, or most just. In a sense, the body hindered the soul’s ability to clearly see the reality that existed in the soul or the forms. Plato is also responsible for the creation of the Allegory of the Cave theory which is a story that supports his theory of the forms. The story concerns human perceptions. Plato asserts that knowledge gained through the senses is simply opinion and that true knowledge stems from philosophical reasoning. In the allegory of the cave, Plato distinguishes between people who mistake sensory knowledge for the truth and people who really see the truth. The story tells of people who live their entire lives in a cave, chained to the wall, seeing only shadows and are unable to turn their heads.

All they can see is the wall of the cave in which behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners, puppeteers walk, puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. Essentially, their whole idea of reality is all an illusion for they think that this is the truth. If one of the men is removed and shown the true reality which seems to exist in the forms, then he will have to adjust to the light and in a sense the truth that he has not yet experienced.

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Platonic Dualism in 'Allegory of the Cave'. (2021, Jun 26). Retrieved from