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Explain Plato's allegory of the cave

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Explain Plato's allegory of the cave. Plato's allegory of the cave starts begins with the description of prisoners in a cave; they are kept in a cave with no natural daylight, they are chained facing a wall and cannot move or look around. These prisoners have always been like this and no nothing else. Already from Plato's description we get the idea of a group of people with very limited knowledge, having grown up in these surroundings they are ignorant to anything else. The fact that they are prisoners suggests they are trapped into living like this and kept from other knowledge. The allegory then continues with a description of a fire at the back of the cave, on the opposite wall to the prisoners, they cannot see the fire or anything else behind them, in front of the fire is a run way on which models and shapes of objects are taken across, the shadows of these objects created by the fire projects onto the wall the prisoners are facing. The shadows are hazy, with unclear outlines; they aren't even the shadows of real objects, just models and shapes of them. The prisoners see these shadows, and given their lack of knowledge of anything else assume these shadows are real, that the shapes on the wall are the realities of their world. ...read more.


complicated, so seem less favourable to their original ideas and thus cause confusion and maybe distress as the person has been forced to examine what they thought was reality. The prisoner is then forced up a steep and rocky incline to the daylight outside, it is bright and his eyes are still not adjusted, the journey will be painful. His journey upwards is very symbolic of the journey we go on in our minds when we start to ask philosophical questions, the fact that it is not an easy journey shows how you cannot go from ignorance to wisdom is one step, but that it will take a while and the path their may not be easy. Once the prisoner is outside he will not be able to take in everything he sees, much like a person receiving a wealth of knew information, it will take him a while to 'digest' his surroundings and make sense of them. Plato's point here is that this world of truth and real reality is so different it takes us time to adjust from our previous mistaken existence. In time the prisoner will be able to look at the ground, trees, objects and see himself in water. Eventually he will be able to look at the sun and see it as the basis for all life. ...read more.


The chained prisoners personify the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' and it could be said that their chains are influences of society which stop us from questioning but also represents that people are scared of big changes. The cave could also be a useful allegory to explain Plato's world of Forms; the shadows of the cave represent the falsities of this world, the imperfect, transient and changing qualities, whereas the outside and daylight are the perfect Forms of justice, truth, beauty etc which are unchanging. People think that what they can see visually is reality when in fact it is, according to Plato, what they cannot see that is actually reality. The fact that the prisoner who has been outside cannot convey what he has experienced to the others shows how we can only describe through experience and that you have to go on the long, arduous journey yourself The prisoner who is freed could also represent Socrates, who tried to inspire thought among the people of Athens but was killed for turning people against the ideas of the normal Greek gods and corrupting the young. Nowadays we could compare the cave to technology and the media, many peoples opinion's are narrowed by what they see on T.V or read on the internet, and so they do not look 'outside' to find knowledge themselves but accept what they read on a screen, like shadows on a wall. ...read more.

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