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Allegory of Teh Cave

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By rickO
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Unit 2 Assignment
HU250-04 - Humanities and Culture
Rick OMahony
Kaplan University
24 June 2014

Unit 2 Assignment
“The Allegory of the Cave”, the 7th book of Plato’s, The Republic”, can be interpreted in many ways. Depending on the point of view of the reader, the message can describe the trials and tribulations of man in general to the roadway of life and all of the detours along the way.
The first entry of the allegory has Socrates describing a cave in which there are prisoners. The prisoners have limited sight since they are chained at the neck and legs and can see in only one direction. There is light from a fire which allows the prisoners to see shadows on the wall form passing men.
My interpretation of this starts at the beginning. Actually one line which speaks of the prisoners; …here they have been from their childhood… (Plato (interpretation by Benjamin Jowett), 2012)
I feel this is the interpretation of man from his birth. The cave represents the town or village of birth for the person (prisoner). The prisoners are the people born into and raised in this village. The chains around their neck and legs are the limits of the village from which the children have yet to venture past. The wall represents the village limits which is the barrier to the world. The fire casting shadows tells of merchants that come to the village to trade. The children (prisoners) see these people briefly with little or no interaction with them. This represents a world beyond the village limits (the wall); …men passing along the wall, carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials… (Plato)
These men give the children a glimpse of things beyond their boundaries; there are sights and wonders not available to them in or around their village. …had an echo which came from the other side… (Plato)
The echo would be the tales told by the traders as they stopped by the village. The tales that would build an interest in some of the village children to wonder what actually is beyond the limits of their village. By now, the child (prisoner) has grown to an age where he can make a decision to stay or explore. The decision is made to leave the village, to venture into the unknown world and explore the shadows and echoes heard for a lifetime; …At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and be able to walk and look towards the light……..he will suffer sharp pains… (Plato)
The decision to venture into the world breaks the chains of confinement. The pains come from walking out into a new world; it is difficult at first (painful). The pain indicates freedom. This is something the child is not used to, independence. Making decisions on his own. It is time for the child to put all of the teachings to use; …further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, - will he not be perplexed? (Plato)
It is now, when the child is leaving the village to venture and explore the outside world that all of the teachings through his life must be remembered. His instructor(s) will include his parents, teachers, relatives, friends and others who have shared experiences with that child since birth. The longer he remains in the outside world and the further he travels, the more the child becomes accustomed to it. …He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. …he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun of the light of the sun by day? (Plato)
Along with becoming accustomed to the outside (upper) world, the child, now growing into adulthood, begins to see the sins of the world. The child is gaining knowledge (good and bad) of the world. This is far more knowledge than those who chose to remain behind. The venture has pity on those that chose to stay behind. It would be evident that those who chose to leave the village and explore the world are now wiser than those who chose to stay behind. When those children that chose to venture into the world return to the village, they will tell tales of their adventure. Some will share their knowledge; others will boast. Those that boast would be shunned (put to death) by the remaining villagers. …he went up and down he came without his eyes; …..let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death. (Plato)
Those that returned would be shunned for implying they were now better than the ones that stayed behind. While the child is making his way through the world, he learns many things. One such thing is that differences can be settled reasonably: …he is compelled to fight in the courts of law… (Plato)
With the experience gained with further education and life in general, the child is able to participate in a judicial system; either rendering or using the system. Not only can he render or use the system, he can fully understand it. There will be many times in the child’s life that he will meet others who have ventured from their own village (cave); …either from coming out of the light or from going into the light… (Plato)
The child will have a decision to make. Will he aid the former prisoner or hinder their experience into the new world? Destiny begins at birth. Not all prisoners (children) are born with the same capacity to gain knowledge and/or enjoy the pleasures of life. However, all children are capable of learning; …the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already;… (Plato)
Once educated in the ways of life and institutions, that child, now a scholar, may be obligated to lead. Whether it be at the state level or within an educational institution, to teach those that are now venturing out of their caves to the outside world. The elders will teach the young, the brightest of the young should lead. …founders of the state will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be the greatest of all-they must continue… (Plato)
At some point the child/scholar must return to share his knowledge. It is not only duty, but an obligation of destiny. Power will and can corrupt people. The best leaders are those that allow the people to dictate laws and policies; …the State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the worst… (Plato) Once the child is educated, that child, now an educated adult, should perform his duties and take his place as a leader of the State or of the village. They should leave their administration better than the one they accepted. The wisest of the wise – The Guardians – are those that have administered the best for the people. They should be exalted to a position higher than politics. For once they have experienced many of life’s pleasures and disappointments; for once the prisoner (child) has risen from low to high, then that person will be a true philosopher. …passing from a day which is little better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?... (Plato) I would compare event from my life to that of leaving home for the first time. Before entering into the United States Navy, I had barely ventured outside of my hometown of Davenport, Iowa. The shadows illuminated by the flames were the television, radio and newspapers. This is how I learned about events occurring outside of my hometown. We did not have internet and cable television was still in its infancy. I was a prisoner with the chains around my neck and legs. When I entered the Navy, the pains I endured were homesickness. This was the first time I had ever been away from home; especially so far away (Norfolk, Virginia). After returning home from the Navy, it was now time to get a job. For the first time in my life I had to feed and clothe myself as well as make sure I had a roof over my head. My parents and the Navy had did this before. Then, there was marriage, children and the permanent move from Iowa to Georgia. The flames went dim; the shadows went away; the pains of the binding chains were no longer. I was well into adulthood and responsible for everything I never thought about being responsible for before adulthood.

Plato (interpretation by Benjamin Jowett). (2012). The Allegory of the Cave. The History Guide. Retrieved from

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