An Analysis of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the Importance of Light in Discovering Truth

An Analysis of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the Importance of Light in Discovering Truth

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In The Republic, Plato introduces a philosophy that transcends the exclusivity of the contemplative and the active lives. He defines the ultimate truth as “aletheia”, which literally translates to mean “unhidden” or “that which does not remain unnoticed”. Through his use of the term and his allegory of the cave, Plato makes the strong implication that philosophers must actively seek to discover the absolute truth, rather than relying on traditional methods of contemplation and the persuasive tone of rhetoric to prove its existence. To better explain his reasoning, Plato constructs a metaphor between the sun and the ultimate good. He argues that “the soul is like the eye” in that it requires an exterior force to establish clarity of vision (Book VI p. 25). When the ultimate good illuminates an idea with truth and reason like the sun illuminates an object, the soul understands with clarity. When an idea is not illuminated, the soul perceives nothing clearly and retreats to the ignorance of an unenlightened opinion. Plato extends this metaphor throughout his writings and succeeds in relating the complexity of the intellectual world to the tangibility and familiarity of the visible world. In this way, Plato allows for a complete understanding and, by only suggesting his position with figurative language and dialectic, he encourages Glaucon and the reader to come to their own realizations of the ultimate good, thereby achieving “aletheia”.
Plato introduces the importance of sight and light by comparing the commonalities of the physical realm with the ideals of his higher, philosophical realm. Through a series of linear questions, he comes to the conclusion that the sun is “to the visible world in relation to sight” as “good i...


... middle of paper ...


...e light and reason be understood.
An important point in Plato’s definition of true knowledge, Plato makes the distinction between truth and the ultimate good. In the allegory of the cave, “truth [is] literally nothing but the shadows of the images”, a subjective quality that depends opinion and perspective (Book VII, p. 2). The ultimate good, however, exists universally, independent on the “use of images as in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas themselves” (Book VI, p. 27). By blending the clear, discrete definitions for these terms with the uncertainty of dialectic, Plato succeeds in introducing his revolutionary ideas with clarity while also allowing the reader to consider the truth in these ideas rather than encouraging their blind acceptance.

Works Cited
Plato. The Republic. in the Course Reader.
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