The Allegory of the Cave Quotes with Line Number
Next, said I, here is a parable to illustrate the degrees in which our nature may be enlightened or unenlightened.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 1, Line 1
The opening line of this section of The Republic, “The allegory of the Cave,” serves to ground the reader in the subject matter right from the beginning, since the narrative quickly turns to an extended metaphor that could otherwise be confusing or disorienting without this opening line, giving the reader a road map of where they will eventually end up.
In every way, then, such prisoners would recognize as reality nothing but the shadows of those artificial objects.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 13
This line drives home the central point of the allegory of the cave and begins to move beyond the realm of description of the cave itself and into the analytical portion of the essay, as it touches on a higher truth outside of the hypothetical situation itself: the nature of one’s perceived reality. While this does not actually step into that level of commentary, it gestures towards it and paves the way for the second half of the essay.
Suppose one of them was set free and forced suddenly to stand up, turn his head, and walk with eyes lifted to the light; all these movements would be painful, and he would be too dazzled to make out the objects whose shadows he had been used to see.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 15, Line 3
Here, Plato uses a common experience in order to allow his readers to extrapolate beyond that common experience into this more extreme version. Everyone who can see has had the experience of transition from dark to light or vice versa.
This experience allows us to then think how much more intense it would be if we had never known light before this first instance. This discomfort of transition becomes one of the central ideas of the essay.
And if he were forced to look at the fire-light, would not his eyes ache, so that he would try to escape and turn back to the things which he could see distinctly, convinced that they really were clearer than these other objects now being shown to him?
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 17
This paragraph illustrates Plato’s use of defamiliarization, allowing his readers to put themselves in another’s shoes in order to see the world differently. By slowly building up to this point and explaining in detail what the prisoners’ lives were like prior to this, he is able to convince us that something we know to be less real (the shadow) could appear to be more real than the object itself, under a certain set of circumstances.
He would need, then, to grow accustomed before he could see things in that upper world. At first it would be easiest to make out shadows, and then the images of men and things reflected in water, and later on the things themselves.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 21, Line 1
This is the first time that Plato drives home the importance of taking gradual steps toward knowledge and enlightenment. Prior, he had illustrated that an abrupt transition is painful (the problem), but here he transitions to the more positive realm of the solution. This is a smart rhetorical move, since it draws the reader away from the negative and into the positive, which tends to go over better.
Then if he called to mind his fellow prisoners and what passed for wisdom in his former dwelling-place, he would surely think himself happy in the change and be sorry for them.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 27, Line 1
After spending a number of paragraphs focused solely on the freed prisoner, here Plato returns us to the cave. Not only does this give the allegory a sense of cohesion and circularity, but it also serves to illustrate how great the change has been in the freed prisoner, by contrasting him so vividly with those who have remained in the cave.
Would he not feel […] that he would far sooner […] endure anything rather than go back to his old beliefs and live in the old way?
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 27, Line 10
In this quote, Plato brings the discussion of transitions full-circle. After having first elaborated on the pain and difficulty of the first transition from darkness to light, he now asks us to contemplate, using rhetorical questions, what the opposite transition might be like, so that we, along with him, come to the conclusion that it, too, would be just as difficult and painful.
If they could lay hands on the man who was trying to set them free and lead them up, they would kill him.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 29, Line 10
This is one of the more intriguing lines from the first half of the essay, and it gains special significance, falling as it does just before the page break that separates the first half from the second half. The violence invoked here helps amplify the resistance to change that can be a wise ruler’s most strident enemy.
Because the transition from light to dark was so difficult and disorienting, the difficulty in communicating across that transition can be dangerous, even deadly, which ups the stakes of the essay significantly, despite the hypothetical nature of it thus far.
The prison dwelling corresponds to the region revealed to us through the sense of sight, and the fire-light within it to the power of the Sun. The ascent to see the things in the upper world you may take as standing for the upward journey of the soul into the region of the intelligible.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 31, Line 2
Here, we see Socrates begin his detailed explanation of the preceding parable. The straightforward manner of the revelation of what the symbols mean helps lead the reader through the transition, instead of asking him or her to figure it out on their own. This reinforces Socrates’ role as the teacher in this scenario.
In the world of knowledge, the last thing to be perceived and only with great difficulty is the essential Form of Goodness.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 31, Line 9
This line is an important pivot point in the essay, linking the gaining of knowledge and wisdom not only with the difficulty of achieving that wisdom, but also to morality,something that has remained implicit in the narrative until now. There was no discussion of the morality of keeping prisoners in a cave or suddenly releasing one and forcing him into the light. Instead, what came before was purely illustrative, and what follows will begin to touch on the role of morality, especially through responsibility of the enlightened.
So far as I understand, I share your belief.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 32
This response from Glaucon again highlights the hierarchy at work in the exchange. Despite the efforts Plato (through the character of Socrates) goes through to invite readers into the conversation, there is still the sense, as we see here, that he is a purveyor of wisdom, and Glaucon, speaking for 17 reader, can acknowledge the limits of his own understanding, which is also an important part of gaining wisdom.
[…] the soul of every man does possess the power of learning the truth and the organ to see it with; and that, just as one might have to turn the whole body round in order that the eye should see light instead of darkness, so the entire should be turned away from this changing world until its eye can bear to contemplate […] the Good. ”
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 37, Line 4
This is an essential element of the Platonic Socrates’ conception of enlightenment. By saying that everyone has the capacity for gaining enlightenment, he further draws his reader into the conversation, implying that she or he, too, is just as capable as Socrates himself.
This democratization of the capacity for enlightenment levels the playing field and helps subvert the hierarchy of teacher/student or wisdom/ignorance.
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.
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 39, Line 5
This is another intriguing tangent that Socrates throws into the discussion but does not fully explore. This idea that knowledge can be used for good or for harm helps set up the need for not only wisdom, but also responsibility in a leader. A good ruler must have both.
Shall we not be doing them an injustice, if we force on them a worse life than they might have?
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 46
This is one of Glaucon’s only significant contributions to the dialogue, pushing back slightly against Socrates’ assertion that sacrifice is indeed a necessary part of leadership. This line plays an important role in the Socratic Dialogue, allowing Plato to play devil’s advocate and represent a point of view his audience may well possess, in order to acknowledge it, and then refute it, an important step in rhetorical persuasion.
The life of true philosophy is the only one that looks down upon the offices of state; and access to power must be confined to men who are not in love with it. ”
The Allegory of the Cave, Paragraph 53, Line 9
This is one of the most important traits of the “philosopher king,” and something which Plato explores throughout The Republic. This, one of the final lines in the essay, helps transition the essay back toward the discussion of the ideal ruler and how one can best be suited to rule, and succinctly summarizes the points that have come before: that a ruler must be both wise and be a ruler out of a sense of duty, rather than ambition.