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Explain Plato's metaphor of shadows in the analogy of the cave.

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Introduction

The Analogy of the Cave Luke Hodgkinson a) Explain Plato's metaphor of shadows in the analogy of the cave. In the analogy of the cave Plato puts forward the theory that a group of men (representing the vast majority of mankind) are captured at birth and chained in a cave, so they can only look at a wall. Behind them, the captors build a fire and then walk in front of the fire on a road running perpendicular within the cave so that shadows are cast on that wall. The captives can only see the shadows on the wall, for their heads are fastened so that they cannot turn around. The captors carry by various birds, animals and objects, making noises whilst doing this, and the prisoners think the shadows are making these sounds, and start giving names to the different shadows, believing they are the real objects, for they know nothing of the real objects. The captives compete with one another, and try to remember the order in which the shadows will appear, These shadows represent the illusion ...read more.

Middle

When his eyes are fully adjusted, he can see the world of forms in its full, and begin to understand it, using his intelligence. Finally, when he can stare directly into the sun, he will understand the true form of the good. Plato believed that our world as we knew it was based on forms, but what we saw were the shadows cast for us, and these shadows we see are the impermanent and changing particulars of the physical world, all based on the pure forms of the real world (the permanent world), which we are shielded from by the constraints placed upon us, and the blinding light that would deter us should we ever escape our constraints. However, according to Plato, we are perfectly content with the false world of change we are viewing on the back wall of the cave, as it is all we know about, and should we be freed, we would be utterly unwilling to be shown the real world, because of the uncertainties and the blinding light. ...read more.

Conclusion

He disregards the emotions and feelings of the masses. He fails to see the deeper side of those he regards as incapable of being helped, or ever escaping from their constraints, and holds a certain belief that their life is hardly worth living, under such false pretentions of reality. This could be seen as a rather elitist and arrogant point of view, but this is nothing if not expected of Greek philosophers, as they were the highest of the high in society, and regarded themselves even higher. Finally Plato's argument that man would sooner abandon reality and return back to the comfort of the physical world than accept, or believe the real world, is again a rather pessimistic view of the curiosity and desire for knowledge and understanding that we as humans must satiate. He seems to believe that we have no desire for knowledge whatsoever, and are not only content in our ignorance, but utterly intent on protecting it. For this I see him as overly pessimistic, and rather vainglorious. ...read more.

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