Allegory of the Cave Summary Plato’s Allegory of the Cave presents an enthralling concept that holds strong to this day. In the allegory three main ideas are illustrated : that we have been conditioned to a definite reality since birth, we scorn being brought into the ‘light’ of knowledge, and that we (as a society) reject anything that contradicts the notions of our preconceived reality. Clever Plato took these ideas and weaved them into an intriguing story of prisoners trapped in an underground cave, and then what happens when one of them was enLIGHTened.
Surprisingly it applies in many ways to our society in modern times, nowadays no one questions what is true and what is false. It’s exactly as Aldous Huxley feared, we’ve become lost in a sea of information which debilitates us to gain conscious understanding of information. We’ve been raised in a society of ‘don’t question it’ which leaves the people vulnerable to the people carrying the statues across the fire, creating our sense of reality. When we are first brought into this cave at the beginning of the allegory, it contains prisoners bound by chains in such a way as to force their heads to stare at this wall.
It continues to tell us that they’ve been this way since birth, and that a massive fire behind them that allows them to see shadows broadcast onto the wall, periodically people go be the fire with statues of people and creatures which cast shadows onto the wall and this ‘shadow world’ is what the prisoners consider their reality. They are all content with this knowledge and nothing changes until one of the prisoners is set free. The prisoner, once he’s set free, is blinded by the fire the moment he turns his head to face the fire.
He looks back to the shadows which he identifies as reality, and looks back and forth between the fire and the wall until he finally accepts that the fire may be more ‘real’. His enlightenment is continued as he’s forced up the stairs and forced into the sunlight to view the real world. He begins slowly only identifying shadows at first and slowly progresses until he’s able to identify the sun, and contemplate the sun as an idea and not just as an object.
He continues learning about this new reality until he is fully convinced. Remembering his former companions he grows full of pity for them, knowing that they don’t share his knowledge of what is ‘real’ and what is a mere shade of reality. With this thought in his head he heads back to the cave. Once he’s back in the cave his eyes are full of darkness and he’s unable to see things as clearly as his companions, for he had grown accustomed to the reality of light, because of this his former companions made fun of him.
They knew he wasn’t as adept to their reality, which they perceived as being the right one. Seeing what happened to their former companion when he was taken into the light, they decided that they’d never ascend because if they ascended they’d lose their sight of ‘reality’. With that the enlightened one left, knowing that his companions were lost in blissful ignorance, and he could do nothing to convince them for fear of death.