In Plato’s allegory of the cave we explore truth, reality, and the perception of this reality.
How many of us question the reality others perceive to be the true; while never questioning our own?
Do our subjective Biases cloud our judgement?
Without complete knowledge of the world around us how can we ever be sure that our reality is what we believe it to be?
This is a summary of the allegory of the cave where we explore what Plato was trying to tell us through this allegory.
Plato frequently used parables and allegories to communicate his arguments and to make points. The Allegory of the Cave, which appears in the Republic, was written by Plato to develop his ideas on reality and knowledge.
It was designed to show the dichotomy between opinion and belief, and the real and the unreal. The story is told in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Plato’s brother Glaucon.
In the allegory, Plato has Socrates narrate that there were a number of prisoners chained together in a cave for a great period of time.
There is a fire behind them, and between the fire and the captives are people carrying objects. The flames cast shadows on the walls before the prisoners who think that they are real.
So, the prisoners mistakes shadow-play for reality. One day one of the prisoners’ escapes, and see the fire and realizes that what he understood to be real was only shadows.
He then explores the world outside the cave, and understands the nature of reality for the first time.
The prisoner realises that the other chained prisoners need to know this, and that this would encourage them to escape the cave.
On his return to the cave, the prisoner was half-blind because his eyes were not used to the sunlight.
None of the prisoners would believe him and now think that he is blind. They refuse to try and leave the cave, and continue to believe that the shadows that they see is reality.
In the dialogue, Plato has Socrates state that if the chained prisoners were freed, they would kill their liberators.