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Explain Plato's use of the metaphor of the shadows in his Allegory of the Cave.

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Introduction

Explain Plato's use of the metaphor of the shadows in his Allegory of the Cave. Plato uses this Allegory of the caves in an effort to explain his theory of Forms. The Allegory of the cave is one of his three attempts to explain his all-important theory. Plato uses the Allegory of the cave to show the difference between belief and knowledge, i.e., nothing is what it seems. He uses it to express his theory, his own knowledge of how the mind grows and how everything we know is from what we experience. In the allegory of the cave, which is in Plato's infamous book, the 'Republic', tells the story of prisoners in a cave. Plato creates a story using metaphors so that we can grasp the concept of his ideas more easily. Now in the allegory, he begins to describe the cave. Now in this cave are chained up prisoners; the prisoners represents us. The prisoners have been in this specific cave all their lives and have seen nothing else but the opposite wall and the shadows of passing people. ...read more.

Middle

Plato explains that the sun is a form of the good. This means that he has been enlightened because one can only look at the form of the good once they had been enlightened. Now, the enlightened prisoner wishes to set free the other prisoners in the cave as he can now see everything. When he returns to the cave, he gives the other prisoners the wrong impression as he has toe readjust to the dark cave and so he stumbles around a bit, leading the other prisoners to believe that he has been confused by the outside world. They fear that the outside world has puzzled him and they do not want to be freed. However, the enlightened prisoner tries to tell the prisoners that there is a whole other world beyond the cave walls but unfortunately he uses a language that the others do not understand, i.e., colour, smell, texture etc. as a result the prisoners say that if anyone else tries to free them again. ...read more.

Conclusion

Is there a group of forms which then branch out to each individual, i.e., a form of animals and that summarises all animals in this reality or is there an individual form i.e., a form of a pig, a cow, a sheep. Is there a form for every individual? Plato says that any knowledge we gain through the years is what we are remembering from the time that we were in the world of Forms. He says that the highest form of knowledge is an understanding of the form of good, which he says is an absolute. However this raises a problem, which is quite common in ethics? What is good? How can we gain the highest form of knowledge if we cannot determine what good is? 'How can two equally intelligent and sincere people come up with two separate conclusions of right and wrong. One man's good can be someone else's wrong. When Plato is describing his world of Forms he misses so many points out that it draws a lot of criticisms and any questions he couldn't answer, he dismissed. ...read more.

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