Plato, a Greek philosopher, came up with allegory that explains the human condition. The allegory of the cave is found in his work, the Republic and involves a fictitious dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon. The philosopher imagines certain people chained in a cave with their view on a wall. They are not able to turn their heads and can only see shadows which are projected to the walls by fire which is behind them. They are unaware that they are prisoners because of their present state since childhood. There is a path between the prisoners and the fire. This path is used by people who carry objects on their heads. All the prisoners can see and hear are the shadows of the people on the pathway and the echoes of their voices. The prisoners are unaware that the shadows they see cast on the wall only an illusion and not the real objects. Plato urges that only an enlightened person can differentiate between the shadow and the real object and the echoes from real sound. (Swift).
Esoteric meaning of the allegory of the cave
Plato's allegory of the cave challenges the way ordinary human kind view their environment. He compares the ordinary human kind with the prisoner who is satisfied with his present condition of shadows and his chained state. Plato acts as the philosopher who challenges the human kind to enlighten them by trying to find out what causes the shadows and the echoes. If human kind can dare to break out of their chains and turn their view to the real objects, then they would see the path that would lead them out of the cave. ( chastitygogo).
In the cave the prisioners appear to be playing a game of identifying the shape of the shadow cast on the walls.The prisioners admire and praise their fellow prisioner who is able to predict correctly which shape will be cast next on the wall or which echoe will be heard next.The cave may represent the environment while the chained prisioners may represent the whole population which covers in the cave. The game represent the illusions which ordinary human kind view as a reality.Plato argues that only an enlightened person is able to differentiate illusions from reality Plato's metapor represent how ordinary human kind is unable to differentiate the reality from illusions.
Socrates argues that if a prisoner is freed from the cave and forced to stand up, turn around and walk with eyes lifted up toward the light of the fire, his movements would cause so much pain. If the prisoner is forced to look at the objects congenial he would find these objects less congenial to his eyes and less meaningful than the shadows. His eyes would ache if he looked straight to the light from the fire. There is no doubt that at this point that the prisoner would try to escape from the person who would be liberating him. He would prefer that he turns back and look back to the shadows convinced that this will be more convenient to him. This clearly shows that there is a cost that human kind has to pay a price in order to improve his living condition. If he is not prepared to pay the price, he would give up and prefer to stay in his present conditions.
Socrates argues that if the prisoner could not turn back but dragged forcibly up the steep and rough passage to the entrance of the cave the light of the sun will cause a lot of pain to his eyes. For a moment he will not see the real objects but soon as his eyes will be accustomed to the world outside the cave, he will be able to see the objects that cast the shadows in the cave. He would also see reflection of objects in water more clearly in water and this will enable him understand that the concept of color. If he lifted his eyes upward, he will realize that it would be easier at first to look at the heavenly bodies at night than the sun at daytime. After a while he will be able to look directly to the sun in its position in the sky. The will be able to understand that the sun is the source of light. He will also understand that a shadow is a reflection of an object by light. This clearly shows that if human kind is can only understand what caused the effects in his environment by enlightening himself.
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Socrates also argues that the freed prisoner who has seen the light would not in any way like to return to the cave where his fellow prisoners are held up in captivity. If the prisoner takes up the challenge and return to the cave to enlighten the prisoners then his eyes will have to be adjusted so that he can see the shapes of the shadows cast on the walls. This will take time and he will not be able identify the shapes cast on the wall clearly. Majority of the prisoners will get the assumption that his eyesight was ruined by his adventure. (crystal links).
This explains clearly how human nature resists change. Plato represents the philosopher who is enlighten and has seen the sun. The freed prisoner represent an enlightened person who pities his fellow human kind who are unaware of the truth and decides to take up the challenge and share the truth with his fellow citizens .Plato view these citizens as the prisoners in the cave playing the game of identifying the shape of the shadows.
The enlightened person faces a great challenge. His fellow citizens view him as a person who has lost insight into the future. They ridicule his new way of life and even vow never to embrace his new ideas. They prefer their current status in life and may even try to challenge the enlightened person in the society. Some may even try o imprison him to avoid him trying to spread his ideas to all generations.
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However a few are open-minded and are ready to embrace the truth. They take up the challenge and begin their journey to finding the truth. They represent the philosophical mind who is not only satisfied with what they see but tries to find out what causes their environment to appear the way it does.
Plato's allegory of the cave represent a cruicial part in our present lives. Majority of the youth for instance are faced with adverse problems caused by economic melt down. Majority of them are inclined to think that their present conditions cannot be changed. However some see an opportunity to introduces new ideas to deal with this predicament.Human nature will always resist change but only the few who will embrace change will be successful.
Plato's allegory of the cave can be compared to a movie theater, where the screen represents the wall of the cave and the projector represent the fire which the prisoner view in the cave. The objects reflected on the screen in the movie theater are not real objects but a reflection on the movie screen.The viewers do not see the real objects but a reflection of the objects.The viewers will only need to go behind the scences to see the real objects(Srivastava).
The main aim of Plato's allegory of the cave to challenge human behavior on how their view the challenges that they face in their daily lifes. Human kind tend to be content with whatever their have in life. They are reluctant to find what causes the various issues in their lifes and their do not try to find out how they can make their life better.They resist any kind of idea that would bring change in their life.
However an educated and a hardworking person will try to make his life better by trying to find solutions to his problems. This represent the mind of a successful and a true philosopher.