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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Essay on Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Plato is one of the greatest philosophers of all time. He has many ideas on human behavior and the truth about the world. In his famous book “The Republic”, he presented a lot of ideas from what he thinks justice is and to what is the world of forms. The Allegory of the Cave which can also be found in the middle part of the book is one of the popular theories Plato has ever argued.

Plato's allegory of the cave is a hypothetical situation which is depicted by a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon. Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine a cave that is inhabited by people. The people are prisoners and their hands as well as their legs are shackled by chains. In addition to that, the movement of their faces is also limited in such a way that they can only see the wall in front of them. There is a fire on the ground. Between the fire and the wall is a space for which objects can pass. The shadows of these objects fall directly to the wall which the prisoners can see. The prisoners only get to see the shadows and consider them to be the real things. (Plato) Even if they only see the shadow of a book, they will consider it as to what a book looks like. There will be times when a prisoner can break free and see the real things. He will be overwhelmed by the things that he can see in the real world. He will find out true reality as well as the beauty of the real world. However, there would be others who will persuade him to come back to the wall due to the fact that the prisoners are contented with what they see in the wall and consider the shadows to be true.

In the present time, we can still see the significance of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. The people today are still chained to a wall which represents the media as well as the stereotypes. We believe everything that we see on movies, television, books, and magazines along with the internet are the true representation of things in the world. Everyone seems to easily believe what they see and hear from all kinds of media. We also tend to cast out stereotypes with people. For example, we say that blondes are not intelligent or one race is better than another one. Like the prisoners, people are chained to media and prejudice. What we need to do is break free and sees things the way they really are in the real world. We need to find out the truth and not just readily accept things presented to us.  (Heidegger) When we get past these then we will able to learn more and gain more knowledge about the real things. People should not be afraid of what they do not know. Instead, it should inspire them to gain more knowledge about reality.

Plato by way of his illustration in the allegory of the cave draws attention to the significance of looking further than observation and assumption. He wants to promote a search for enlightenment. This means that we have to have an open mind when it comes to understanding or accepting things we do not know or seems unusual at first glance.

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