What is Allegory of the Cave?


Sometimes ignorance is bliss. But what if mankind had remained ignorant about the truth and wisdom of life? History would have been different and there would have been no trace of civilization or culture. Thanks, to great philosophers like Socrates and Plato, humanity today is at much higher level than it ever was.


Allegory of Cave is a famous excerpt from Plato’s Book VIII, The Republic. Plato was the disciple of Socrates and at one time was aiming to enter politics. But the sudden death of Socrates changed his life forever. He instead became a teacher of philosophy and opened a school at the outskirts of Athens, the capital city of Greece. Plato was both a writer and teacher. Allegory of Cave is one of the most renowned teachings in philosophy and the best works of Plato.  He presents his philosophical beliefs in this book which basically say that the world  we see is not the real one but only a copy of it. The real world can only be understood through an intellectual mind. A teacher can only open a student's mind by guiding him to to realizing what is important and letting the student understand this difference. Plato also believed that the educated and the intellectual have a responsibility to the society and in a good society the intellectuals are the ones who should rule.


Philosophy of Allegory of Cave

Allegory of Cave mostly covers the need of education to understand this world better. It reveals that due to ignorance people are still away from the reality of life, truth of wisdom. Plato through these excepts want to teach to his followers that although initially the truth can be frightening, once you start treading on the path of truth and wisdom, life becomes more meaningful and happy. Here the cave is the trappings of ignorance in which man has settled his life thinking it to be the most inevitable truth. Plato used the medium of Socrates in Allegory of Cave to put forward his own thoughts. His philosophy was more inclined towards salvation. Plato through these narrations explains how only a truly enlightened person can govern the Kingdom properly.


The humans depicted in Allegory of Cave are slaves who are chained and are observing their own shadows on the walls of the cave formed by the fire. Here the slaves are ignorant humans, the cave is life.  Through this portrayal, Plato intended to reveal to the whole mankind that they have been confined to a smaller sphere due to their limited wisdom. The day they will break the chains of slavery, they will be free from living in their own shadows and learn the truth.


Such visions and words of truth from Plato were criticized by many intellectuals in those times which resulted in closing of the first teaching institute in the western world formed by Plato.

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