The Allegory of the Cave
The Allegory of the Cave gracemeakin The Allegory of the Cave (also titled Analogy of the Cave, Plato’s Cave or Parable of the Cave) is presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic (514a-52Ca) to compare effect of education (rtc1L5E[a) and the lack of it on our nature”. It is written as a dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates. narrated by the latter. The allegory is presented after the Analogy of the Sun (S08b-SOYc) and the Analogy of the Divided Line (509d-SI 3e).
All three are characterized in relation to dialectic at the end of Books VII and VIII (531 d-S34e). Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall ota cave all ottheir lives, facing a blank wall The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front Of a fire behind them. and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality.
He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the The allegory ay be related to Plato’s Theory of Forms, according to which the “Forms” (or “Ideas”), and not the material world of change knon•n to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Only knowledge of the R•rms constitutes real knæjledge. l] Socrates informs Glaucon that the most excellent must learn the greatest of all studies, which is to behold the Good. Those who have ascended to this highest level, however, must not remain there but must return to the cave and dwell with the prisoners, sharing in their labors and honors. Plato’s Phaedo contains similar imagery to that of the allegory of the Cave; a philosopher recognizes that before philosophy, his soul was “a veritable prisoner fast bound within his body… nd that instead of investigating reality by itself and in itself it is compelled to peer through the bars of its Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc, without (so far as they acknowledge) any awareness of his realm of Forms, 2. The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this. 3. In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Borms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the caue_ Behind them burns a fire.
Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets. the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Here is an illustration of Plato’s Cave: From Great Dialogues of Plato (Warmington and Rouse, eds_) New York, Signet Classics: 1999, p, 316, 4.
Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality, They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real: they ould know nothing of the real causes of the shadows. S. So when the prisoners talk, what are they talking about? If an object (a book, let us say) is carried past behind them, and it casts a shadow on the wall, and a prisoner says “I see a book,” what is he talking about? He thinks he is talking about a book, but he is really talking about a shadow. gut he uses the word “book! ‘ What does that refer to? , Plato gives his answer at line (515b2). The text here has puzzled many editors. and it has been frequently emended. The translation in Grube/Reeve gets the point correctly: “And if they could talk to one another, don’t you think hey’d suppose that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them? ” 7 _ Platos point is that the prisoners would be mistaken. For they would be taking the terms in their language to refer to the shadows that pass before their eyes, rather than (as is correct, in Plato’s view) the real things that cast the shadows.
If a prisoner says “Thars a hook* he thinks that the word “book” refers to the very thing he is looking at. But he would be wrong. He’s only looking at a The real referent of the word “book” he cannot see. To see it, he would have to turn his head around. & Plato’s point: the general terms of ur language are not “names” of the physical objects that we can see They are actually names of things that we cannot see, Things that we can only grasp with the mind. 9. When the prisoners are released. they tan turn their heads and see the real objects. Then they realize their error.
What can we do that is analogous to turning our heads and seeing the causes of the shadows? We can come to grasp the Forms with our minds. 10. Platos aim in the Republic is to describe what is necessaty for us to achieve this reflective understanding. Bur even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on he Forms. For the terms of the language ove use get their meaning by “naming” the Forms that. the objects we perceive participate in. II. The prisoners may learn what a book is by their experience with shadows of books. ut they would be mistaken if they thought that the word “book” refers to something that any otthem has ever seem may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects, But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same The Allegory of The Cave’ by Plato: Summary and Meaning The ‘Allegory Of The Cave’ is a theory put fomard by Plato, concerning human erceptiom Plato claimed that knowledge gained through the senses is no more than opinion and that, in order to have real knowledge, uue must gain it through philosophical reasoning. he Allegory of the Cave’ by Plato In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato distinguishes betvveen people who mistake sensory knowledge for the truth and people who really do see the truth. It goes like this: The Cave Imagine a cave, in which there are three prisoners. The prisoners are tied to some rocks, their arms and legs are bound and their head is tied so that they cannot look at anything but the stonewall in front ot them, These prisoners ave been here since birth and have never seen outside of the cave. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between them is a raised walkway.
People outside the cave walk along this walkway carrying things on their head including; animals, plants, wood and stone. The Shadows So, imagine that you are one otthe prisoners You cannot look at anything behind or to the side of you – you must look at the wall in front of you. When people walk along the walkway, you can see shadærs of the objects they are carrying cast on to the wall. If you had never seen the real objects ever before, you would believe that the shadows of objects were ‘real. The Game Plato suggests that the prisoners would begin a ‘game’ of guessing which shadow would appear next.
If one Of the prisoners were to correctly guess, the Others would praise him as clever and say that he were a master of nature. The Escape One ofthe prisoners then escapes from their bindings and leaves the cave. He is shocked at the world he discovers outside the cave and does not believe it can be real. As he becomes used to his new surroundings, he reali7es that his former view of realiry was wrong. He begins to understand his new world, and sees that the Sun is the source Of life and goes on an intellectual journey where e discovers beauty and meaning He sees that his former life, and the guessing game they played is useless.
The Return The prisoner returns to the cave, to inform the other prisoners of his findings. They do not believe him and threaten to kill him it he tries to set them free. ‘ The Allegory ofThe Cave’ by Plato – The Meaning The Allegory of the cave by Plato should not be taken at face value. In essays and exams, whoever is marking it expects you to have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the theory You can then use these to think about criticisms and then to torm your own opiniom The Cave In Plato’s theory, the cave represents people who believe that knowledge comes from What we see and hear in the world – empirical evidence.
The cave shows that believers of empirical knowledge are trapped in a ‘cave’ of misunderstanding. The Shadows The Shadows represent the perceptions of those who believe empirical evidence ensures knowledge If you believe that what you see should he taken as truth, then you are merely seeing a shadow of the truth. In Plato’s opinion you are a ‘plebi if you believe this (their insult for those who are not Philosophers)! The Game The Game represents how people believe that one person can be a •master when hey have knowledge of the empirical world.
Plato is demonstrating that this master does nor actually know any truth, and suggesting that it is ridiculous to admire someone like this, The Fscape The escaped prisoner represents the Philosopher, Who seeks knowledge outside of the cave and outside of the senses. The Sun represents philosophical truth and knowledge His intellectual journey represents a philosophers journey when finding truth and wisdom The Return The other prisoners reaction to the escapee returning represents that people are scared of knowing philosophical truths and do not trust philosophers.