Imagine a group of people, prisoners, who had been chained to stare at a wall in a cave for all of their lives. Facing that wall, these prisoners can pass the time by merely watching the shadows casted from a fire they could not see behind them dance on the walls. These shadows became the closest to what view of reality the prisoners have. But what happens after one of these prisoners is unbound from his chains to inspect beyond the wall of shadows, to the fire and outside the cave? How would seeing the world outside of the walls of the cave affect his views of the shadows and reality? It is this theme with its questions that make up Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It is in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave that there are several key ideas presented in the allegory. The ideas presented in the allegory can be related back to themes of education and the gaining of knowledge and in ways that can relate back to “us”, the people.
In the Allegory of the Cave, when the prisoners discussed with one another topics such as women and trees among other things, they referred to the shadows they saw dancing on the wall. For them, the shadows were their reality – projected through their imagination. They became complacent and accepting of merely what they saw before them as the truth. But then when one of the prisoners was freed from his chains, free to see things from a new perspective, the prisoner came to realize the shadows were merely reflections – illusions – casted by the real light of the fire, a light that because of direct exposure caused the prisoner’s eyes to cause a period of pain and confusion before his eyes could adjust. The same occurred when the prisoner went outside and saw things lik...
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...ers refusing to receive enlightenment have been socialized by their surroundings and circumstance to view the world according to merely what is around them, and not ever question that world of illusion.
In the end, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave presents various ideas to think on that apply not only to the education process, but to people in general in how they perceive knowledge as well. Is knowledge positive in that it gives oneself power, or is it instead a burden and too much obligated responsibility forced upon oneself? As Rider University’s Department of Philosophy, M. Andrew Holowchak, mentions, “Plato’s allegory has implications for education and ethics: inter alia, foolishness is rife, wisdom is laborious, wisdom to fools appears as foolishness, and, most importantly, wisdom is preferable to foolishness,” (Holowchak 74). There is no one right or wrong answer.
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