Plato The Allegory Of The Cave

Plato: The Allegory Of The Cave Plato: Essay, Research Paper Plato: The Allegory of the Cave Within the Allegory of the Cave, Plato expresses his theory of humanity s unconscious resistance to change through a conversation Socrates may have had with a fellow philosopher. In the beginning of this allegory we see human beings in an underground den.

Plato: The Allegory Of The Cave Plato: Essay, Research Paper

Plato: The Allegory of the Cave Within the Allegory of the Cave, Plato expresses his theory of humanity s unconscious resistance to change through a conversation Socrates may have had with a fellow philosopher. In the beginning of this allegory we see human beings in an underground den. These unenlightened humans are chained at the neck and legs, which prevents them from seeing anything but what is directly in front of them. Behind the unenlightened dwellers stands a low wall and a fire blazing in the distance which makes it possible to see the shadows of persons behind them and the objects they carry. The dwellers have been in the den since early childhood and know only what information they gather from the shadows projected on the interior wall. The major points or questions Plato says Socrates conversed about are: whether or not the unenlightened can survive in an enlightened world? what obstacles may be the most challenging to the unenlightened during their journey from the safety of the only world they have ever known out to the outer world of the enlightened ? and how the unenlightened react to the new experiences and visions gained through their journey when placed back in the dark dwelling with those who have never known anything but the world they are in. Right away we see Socrates and fellow philosopher Glaucon discussing the probable experiences or difficulties the cave dweller might face when released from the dark cave. First, there is the issue of the dwellers release and the introduction of light. …compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him…unable to see the realities of…his former state {shadows} then…someone saying…what he saw before was an illusion…will this not make him turn away and want to seek refuge…(1183-4). The dweller has lived in the dark all of his life where the only exposure to light has been to that of the distant fire. Like any other prisoner, he would be curious as to what is beyond his realm; as the saying goes the grass is always greener on the other side even when you are on 02the other side. Next in the discussion is the difference in realities between the unenlightened and the enlightened world. An example might be if one were to describe a chair–they might say that it s something you sit on, but the unenlightened have never seen or sat on a chair. The closest they have come to a chair may have been when a member of the enlightened happened to wander between the fire and the opening of the cave with a chair he was moving. The unenlightened can only see the shadow, which is only two dimensional, and depending on how it is positioned may look nothing like a chair in its shape. The dwellers would not known what to call the shape because they would be seeing it for the first time and in their reality they would then be naming the object. When dragged into the light, however, the unenlightened could shown a chair but would have no clue as to what it is in its physical form, separate from shadow. After some time examining the chair the dweller may see some resemblance to a shadow he saw on the wall some time ago, but he would still insist that the shadow is the true object and the chair before him is an abstract representation of this shadow.

As time went by, the unenlightened would grow accustomed to the light, as well as begin to see the physical objects as reality and the shadows of the past as abstractions of reality. In this same time the dweller would begin to see himself as an object and start to build his own character through becoming enlightened and realizing he is human. The newly enlightened being would then begin to see his past life in the den and the wisdom he thought he and his fellow prisoners had had these as uncivilized, and pity what he had been and those he left behind. And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together?…do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? …he would rather suffer anything than entertain false notions and live in this miserable manner (1184-5). If this now enlightened being went back to the dark den, would he adjust and regress back to his 03original form? At first he would try to explain his experience in the light to the other dwellers. The prisoners, however, would hate the enlightened dweller for the experiences he gained and although the enlightened prisoner would try to share his education with the others, they would not want to know it because it would be beyond anything they could, with their lack of experience, possibly grasp. Over time the newly enlightened would unintentionally regress in order to belong, but hold in his memory his exposure to the outer realm, wishing he never had the opportunity for enlightenment. Near the end of the allegory, Socrates and Glaucon discuss whether it is right or wrong to remove the prisoner, give him an education in order to enlighten him, and then place him back in the dwelling of the unenlightened. We see from their previous discussion that the prisoner, unenlightened , was reluctant to see true objects such as a chair as reality and their shadows as abstracts and would go to great lengths to prove his way of thinking was just. Over time, however, the prisoner would rethink that position and begin to see his earlier way of life as humble and take pity on what he once was. The prisoner, now enlightened would try to educate his fellow dwellers about his experiences, but would be shut out and perceived as a threat to the unenlightened s way of life. Finally, we see the newly enlightened prisoner regressing to where he could again belong. In short, Socrates says only God can judge right and wrong, but states his opinion that the right answers can only be gathered through life experiences, and the more open to new realities one is the better prepared and educated the answer given will be.