Plato: the Allegory of the Cave, from the Republic Summary

The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato represents a metaphor that is to contrast the way in which we perceive and believe in what is reality. What is reality exactly? What may we see that others may not? These questions can be simply answered with one word: ignorance. Ignorance is what may hold us back from seeing the big picture. In his story, Plato establishes a cave in which prisoners are chained down and forced to look upon the front wall of the cave.

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Behind the prisoners, lies a bridge, a fire and others whom may cast shadows on the wall that the prisoners may perceive to be reality. The general point thus far of the allegory is that the general terms of our language are not “names” of the physical objects that we can see, such as a desk. We may look at it and see a desk, but what is it really? A piece of wood that is merely attached to metal and a chair?

They are actually names of things that are not visible to us, things that we can only grasp with the mind. This is said to be described as “imagination,” by Plato. When we are unaware of reality, we become to feel uncomfortable and tend to not open our minds because we are merely in our “comfort zones. ” Once we step out of our ignorance (the cave) and see that our “reality” (the shadows) is not true reality (the sun), the ultimate stage of thought has been achieved, and that is “understanding. ”


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