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Plato's allegory of the cave

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Plato's allegory of the cave Plato's theories about reality involve the allegory, in which Plato expresses something of his beliefs about learning, and his beliefs about the relation between the world of appearances and the world of Reality. Plato suggests that there was a difference between intellectual knowledge, gained through reason, and the knowledge gained through using the senses. He thought that knowledge gained through the senses was no more than opinion, because the senses can be mistaken; but knowledge gained through philosophical reasoning was certain. Plato's philosophy is his Theory of Forms, sometimes called the Theory of Ideas. He believed that, as well as the material world in which we live and which we experience, there is also another, eternal world of concepts or Forms. This eternal world is more real than the world we experience through the senses, and it is the object of knowledge, not opinion. ...read more.


The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this. In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the theory of forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up the puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, which pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. The prisoners therefore mistake appearance for reality. They think the things they see on the walls are real. Though obviously they are wrong and Plato's point is that they would be taking the terms in their language to refer to the shadows that pass before their eyes, rather than to the real things that cast the shadows. ...read more.


Likewise, we may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same level as the things we perceive. Also referring back to the perfect form, the form of good in the story 'the cave' is the sun as the good illuminates the other forms. The allegory of the cave overall, suggests that people are 'philosophically ignorant', and are like the prisoners chained to the floor of the cave. They can only see the shadows playing on the back of the cave. They assume that these shadows are in fact the whole of reality. The world outside represents the world of the forms. The prisoner who escapes is like the person who achieves 'philosophical enlightenment.' Plato's, forms are sorts, kinds or types of things. They were not created, and they do not do anything. They are simply 'there'. The forms are timeless, unchanging and beyond space. The created world, by contrast, is made of contingent, imperfect, 'stuff', which has been subjected to change and also decay. Harriet Overfield 12W ...read more.

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