Allegory of the Cave

Essay by aperkoCollege, UndergraduateB+, November 2008

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Allegory of the CavePlato's "Allegory of the Cave" is a wonderful example of society's role in our lives. A brief summary of the parable is as follows: A group of men have been chained by their legs and necks in a cave since childhood; they can not turn their heads and can only see what is in front of them on a cave wall. There is an entrance open to the light outside, and a long tunnel running through the cave. There is a fire burning above them somewhere, and a screen in between the fire and the prisoners. There are other people in the cave, the puppet masters who move objects so that they appear on the screen to the prisoners; the prisoners can not see the puppet masters. The cave and the objects that cross the cave wall are all that the prisoners know of reality.

The shadows have shaped the men's views. Plato then asks us to consider what would happen if one of the prisoners was set free, and dragged outside into the "true" reality. He would be able to see the real objects, not the shadows, as well as see the puppet masters. How would the man react to what he now sees? Would he become enlightened to the true reality, or would he believe that what he is seeing is an illusion and that what he has seen in the cave to be a more true reality than the outside world? If indeed the man had become enlightened, and went back inside the cave to set free the other prisoners and to tell them of the true reality, what would the other prisoners do? Plato says that the other prisoners would, "laugh at him and say that he had gone up...