The Allegory of the Cave Essay Topics
1. “The allegory of the Cave” is split into two basic sections (the dividing line falling between paragraphs 30 and 31): the first being the allegory itself, and the second being Socrates’ explanation of what the allegory means.
Sometimes there is a one-to-one correlation (the cave and fire and outside world correspond to the visual world, the sun, and higher knowledge, respectively), but in other places the second part moves beyond the ideas first begun in the allegory itself. Where do you see this happening, and how does the allegory help lead to these deeper revelations?
2. In the allegory, ignorance is represented by prisoners who are restricted in their movements and thus kept from knowledge. In what ways do you think ignorance is a matter of one’s own will, and in what ways might it be imposed upon one through no fault of one’s own? Based on quotes from the essay, how might Socrates answer this question?
3. Later in the essay, Plato has Socrates intimate there is some danger inherent in gaining knowledge and wisdom, should that knowledge be used for evil, saying, “Wisdom, it seems, is certainly the virtue of some diviner faculty, which never loses its power, though its use for good or harm depends on the direction towards which it is turned” (paragraph 39, line 5). Using other quotes from the essay, expand on this idea of the ways in which knowledge can be dangerous. How does this relate back to the allegory of the prisoners in the cave? How can it be applied to the idea of the ideal ruler?
4. Scholars have noted that the modern equivalent of the fire-lit shadow puppet show in the first part of the essay might be television or movies, where, like the shadows, we are presented with an image in lieu of the true object or person. Expand on this idea: in what ways are the shadow puppets and TV analogous? In what ways are they dissimilar? Using Plato’s explication of the meaning of the puppet show, what might he say about TV?
5. Based on this essay, compare and contrast “knowledge” and “wisdom. ” What parts of the essay deal with knowledge, and which with wisdom? Which does Plato seem to focus on more, how can you tell, and why do you think this is? What conclusion can you draw about knowledge and wisdom based on specific quotes from the essay?
6. Choose a symbol used in this essay, especially in the first part, which describes the actual allegory, and track it through the rest of the essay. How does it grow and/or change in meaning or substance as the essay progresses? What can we learn about the chosen symbol by the end?
7. Find another example of an allegory by searching the internet and compare and contrast that allegory to Plato’s. What techniques are similar between the two? What is different about them? Which do you feel is the more successful, and why? Be sure to use ample evidence from each to illustrate your points.