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Explain Plato's analogy of the cave.

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Introduction

Explain Plato's Analogy of the Cave Plato's analogy of the cave is from his book "The Republic", a work about how society ought to be organised for an idealist utopian world, how humans should behave and what the world really is. A. N. Whitehead is famously quoted as saying "all philosophy is footnotes to Plato" i.e. he wrote the most influential writings and has, according to some, shaped all subsequent ideas, including that of Augustine, the Christian philosopher who was highly influenced by his work, and Bertrandt Russell, philosopher and author of 'A History of Western Philosophy' suggests that Plato, as opposed to Aristotle, "had the greater effect on subsequent ages". "The Analogy of the Cave" summarises some of Plato's key ideas and conveys the importance of reasoning and logic, precedent over empirical knowledge or opinion. It is written in dialogue form between the two characters of Glaucon and Socrates, the latter being Plato's teacher, who was persecuted for his philosophical ideas. The Cave is one of three allegorical stories, relating to his Theory of Forms and conveying Plato's ideas through symbolism as opposed to straightforward statements. ...read more.

Middle

Such is the soul in the body". Empedocles, an earlier philosopher and poet wrote that "we have come under this cavern's roof" in reference to the soul being captured. This is significant because it shows how this idea of soul entrapment has coursed through the centuries, and is a direct link to Plato's cave analogy. The cave traps the prisoners, preventing them from seeing the real forms, or from being enlightened. They are restricted only to particulars that participate in the form, the physical world. One of the prisoners is freed however, and dragged up the cave along a rough path to the sunlight. This journey out of the cave represents philosophical learning and discovery, realising that one's former beliefs were wrong, and this is why it is described as a difficult journey.. Although the prisoner tries to flee back to the shadows, "he will suffer sharp pains, the glare will distress him", his eyes adjust to the world around him, and he sees the sun, "his eye is turned toward more real existence, he had a clearer vision", representing enlightenment, knowledge, wisdom and the true form of good - the source of all other forms. ...read more.

Conclusion

The prisoner sees nothing in the darkness at all to begin with, due to their recently enlightened state, and the prisoners find the idea of not seeing their safe and comfortable world after being outside rather threatening. The do not want their ignorance disturbed, they find that 'ignorance is bliss', and threaten to kill anybody who tries to free another prisoner. This is symbolic of how the philosopher tries to educate yet the narrow minded do not understand and the philosopher is seen as an outsider, considered mad. It is allegorical to the persecution of Socrates, made to die by drinking hemlock as he refused exile after his trial for "corrupting the minds of the youth of the city [Athens]" through his philosophical teachings. Plato wished to educate others so that leaders of the country would be great and learned, knowing and desiring the world of forms and not just of power and fame. He felt the only ones fit to rule society where those who created rules by reason, not relying on the senses but with knowledge of good, truth, justice and beauty. He believed that only the enlightened should lead. ...read more.

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