Analysis of Allegory of the Cave
In “allegory to the Cave,” Socrates presented many different viewpoints on the importance of knowledge. He stressed that once one person steps out of the darkness and into the light, he must mature in his new found knowledge and return to the cave to give its inhabitants a chance at their own enlightenment. Throughout this text, Socrates created arguments that were profound and also some that could be refuted. In saying this, I agree with Socrate’s belief that knowledge is a critical factor in order for a society to grow, though I do not support all of Socrates claims that defend his reasoning.
I accede with Socrates’ belief that it is the freed man’s duty to return to the cave and be a leader for ones to look up to. If this does not take place, then the virtuous man would ultimately be condemning the cave dwellers to “live a worse life when better is possible for them” (519d). Another way that Socrates clearly stated the importance of humbly returning to the cave was by using descriptive imagery in showing an erroneous way of reaching out to its inhabitants.
In doing so he used the image of a released man returning to the cave in the attempt of spreading his knowledge to one of the cave dwellers by “dragg[ing one out of his cave] by force along the rough, steep, upward way and [not letting] him go [until] he had dragged him out into the light”(516a). In using this harsh imagery, Socrates made his point that once freed prisoners return to the cave to spread the news of knowledge, they must have a well developed and clear view of this principle and can not force their peers to see the light.
I agree with Socrate’s statement that forcing someone to make a decision is not the way to go about illuminating them. The decision is their’s to make. One can either choose to gain sight or choose to remain in the darkness. Although Socrates made a strong point that forcing one into the light is not the way to go about things, he contradicted his assertion by saying that the key to opening their eyes and obtaining harmony is through the art of “persuasion and compulsion. ” He goes on to say that in using these tactics, “it [promotes the common wealth by disallowing] such men [to] turn whichever way each wants”(520a).
I disagree with Socrates’ statements because they argue against the act of free will which he previously asserted were the keys to knowledge spreading. Furthermore Socrates is stating a fallacy in his arguments by contradicting himself. I believe that the way to enlighten a man is not achieved through force, but through humble and slow means of establishing a valid point that one can decide upon. Once one returns to the cave however, they need not fret over rejection, but stand firmly knowing that they are simply going back to deliver the message to the lost.
Once knowledge is available for taking, the ones living in darkness have the decision to do with it what they want. It is no longer in the deliverer’s hands. No amount of preparedness could persuade a man without a receptive heart willing to listen. In order for change to occur, it also takes a willing leader to prepare his words with upmost clarity for his audience to learn and take away knowledge from his message. Similarly to the story in Mark where Jesus was rejected once he came back to his hometown of Nazareth, the freed prisoners should return to the cave expecting to have their views rejected by some of their peers.
In the story of Jesus sending out His twelve disciples, He prepared them immensely before releasing them to the public to spread the good news of His gospel. Although they might have been scared to face their peers in fear of rejection, Jesus prepared them to know that this is a must in order to carry out His father’s works. Socrates too impressed upon his readers that once one comes to the light, he must become a transmitter of the message to the others who have not yet heard of this wonder. Socrates claimed that this is “our job as founders to go down again among those prisoners [and] share [our] labors and honors”(519c-d).
Although I side with Socrates’ views on the importance of spreading knowledge with clarity, I disagree with his belief in the ways to which knowledge is acquired. He says that knowledge is gained once someone “turns their head all the way around” (514b). The way he puts this would suggest that you need sight previously in order to “turn around” from darkness and come into the light. But where darkness is, there is no light. Darkness consumed the cave, therefore it was abounding in the prisoners’ midst. Once one acquired knowledge, the light was placed in front of him. This ties in with the story of salvation.
People who were without the gospel, or light, have no clue that there is another world for them to discover. Once the the gift of the gospel is placed in front of them and they decide to take it, they undergo an immediate awakening. They were blind, but now they can see. This assertion is represented in the story passage of John 9:27 when “the man replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! ” This shows that sinners who don’t know the gospel are blind until they accept the gospel, just as how the cave dwellers are blind until they accept and apply the gift of knowledge to their lives.
Socrates had a significant view on what he perceived knowledge to be, the ways to which it is obtained, and the importance of spreading knowledge throughout society in a humble and generous way. His profound insights can be very useful if people would apply these concepts to every day life. If the world accepted and applied the ways that I represented Socrates’ view on knowledge, then I believe that this gift could reach people and unite them in ways unimaginable. Generosity is contagious. It only starts with one person to have the courage and want to better someone and this can start something new in the hearts of the people it touches.
We as humans become so involved in our own lives that sometimes we lose sight of the importance of caring for the well being and growth of our neighbors. This is a selfish trait that we all hold within. It will take humans wanting to lessen themselves for someone else’s greater gain. Once we learn now to practice humility towards others, I believe that knowledge and its borders will become limitless. This can be tied in to the story of the Cave in the text describing the importance of returning to the cave and not hoarding ones knowledge for the advancement of himself, but to share his knowledge to the captives who have never heard the truth.
My interpretation of this gift of knowledge is relevant because if it is spread among peers, it has the potential to create such a unity in society. It would bring a Biblical principle of people living for the bettering of their fellow neighbor into practice. The Bible says to “let your light shine before others” (Mat. 5:16). If we live like this, I believe that we will gain pleasure in God’s eyes and gain the fulfillment that comes from humbling ourselves and acting for the bettering of our neighbor.