Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Analyzed and Depicted
Have you ever wondered if the human race has only experienced a small percentage of our vast worldly spectrum?Have we been so consumed in our daily agendas that we have been oblivious to the various theories and ideas presented before us and disregarded them as merely extraneous?The great philosopher Plato, widely acknowledged for his unparalleled ability to recognize the dynamics of complex concepts, pondered these propositions with great delicacy.His speculations produced one of the most thought provoking theories that we have ever been exposed to.He called it, The Allegory of the Cave.This allegory was first presented in Plato’s much exalted work, The Republic (380 BC). Plato depicts a world in which humans live in the desolate seclusion of a cave.
He often refers to these humans as”prisoners” although their apparent ignorance prevents them from realizing this.The prisoners are bound by chains in such a fashion that they are forced to stare directly ahead of them at all times.How they survive without essential physical needs can be viewed as indifferent for the sake of understanding the allegory.The cave is illuminated by a slow burning fire positioned in the rear of the cave.There is a raised walkway located in the rear of the cave as well.
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People walk behind this walkway yet in front of the fire carrying objects “of men and other living things”.The people are concealed behind the walkway so that only the objects are visible. Those who have a general understanding of how shadows are formed will recognize that the desired effect is to cast vivid shadows of the objects onto the wall positioned before the prisoners.Plato goes on to describe how these misguided prisoners quickly exclaim the names of the objects as they appear on the wall.Keep in mind this is all they have ever known.As their abilities gradually strengthen, it becomes something of a sport.
Whoever has the fastest recognition skills is quickly regarded as superior and of greater intelligence than the others.One day, a man enters the cave and releases one of the prisoners.He instructs him to liberate himself from the theoretical and literal chains that bound him and exit the cave.At first, the prisoner does not comply, fearful of the unknown world that may await him.He would much rather exist in the comfort of what he knows than be forced to potentially experience something that contradicts his current convictions.
The prisoner is then dragged out of the cave against his will.He is exposed to the sunlight for the first time, which consequently creates a burning pain in his eyes.After his eyes adjust, he is bewildered by the beauty and elegance of this new world.He is allured to a river and other natural attractions, and implores his new surroundings with innocence and vigor, just as a newborn child would.The former prisoner is brimming with the excitement and passion of his newfound realizations.
Unfortunately, the brevity of this passion is disheartening.The man returns the cave to inform the others of his discoveries.He attempts to notify them that what they see on the wall is not reality, but only a fraction of it.There is so much more that the world has to offer.He tells them that those images on the wall can be explored with sensory capabilities that are being suppressed and unused in the cold face of dormancy.The other prisoners reject his claims with adamancy.
To be concise, Plato informs the reader that if the prisoners were not in bondage, they would have reached out and killed the man.They were so uncomfortable with the information presented before them that they would rather eliminate them completely with little to no consideration.They story concludes with the former prisoner’s realization that although he has become enlightened with a wealth of knowledge, he must not become conceited and reject the ways of those who are blinded of his understandings.Although disappointed, he reasons with his peer’s rejection and sympathizes, for he too was once faced with the fear of the unknown. The Allegory of the Cave possesses a beauty and craftiness that can only be found in generational works.I emphasize the generational aspect of this piece because as an audience member of the 21st century, it was refreshing to find that the same intended concepts can be applied to the present day.
Plato’s articulation of his ideas is simply magnificent.Excuse my curtness as I claim that the majority of humans are innately stubborn.For better or for worse, it is in our nature.We can be very proud at times of our ideas and beliefs, which often leads to a fierce defensive standpoint of them.While there is nothing wrong with this, it generally leads to our lack of acceptance of other ideas.This concept is commonly referred to as tunnel vision, and can even be described as one being narrow minded.
Plato’s ability to articulate this in the manner that he did is beyond impressive.He simplified a subject that has infinite variables into a compact model that can be applied to the reader’s discretion.For instance, my initial reaction to the allegory pertained to if we humans are experiencing the same thing.Could it be possible that such an advanced society could be overlooking pertinent details and indications?Although it may be hard to grasp, Plato suggests that our busy lives and overwhelming schedules may be restricting us from realizing even greater discoveries.What if we have unexposed potential just as the prisoners in the cave do?Could we be on the verge of astronomical discoveries, or will we continue to be shackled by our ignorance and lack of ingenuity.
The liberated prisoner’s pain when he is first exposed to the sunlight is symbolic of the pain that new information inevitably brings.It is symbolic of having what you have perceived as reality for your entire life rendered false.The most intelligent beings are not those who neglect the ideas of others but those who are open minded and are patient enough to acquire an almost omniscient understanding before they make decisions.These decision could encompass something trivial like one professional sports team being better than the other or whether or not there is life on other planets.Regardless of the circumstance, being open to other suggestions can only benefit the thinker.I say thinker because only one who is willing to allow for their ideas to be attacked from all angles and make changes accordingly is a true intellectual thinker.
So, will you forever live in the darkness of the cave, or will you have enough audacity to liberate yourself and explore unknown realms?The unknown is scary, without question it is, but not knowing, is even scarier.