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Discuss Plato’s Parable of the Cave.

Plato’s parable of the cave, also known as the “allegory of the cave, opulently describes beneficial metaphors and elaborate imagery about knowledge, ignorance, truth and lastly enlightenment.

The allegory of the cave appears at the beginning of Book VII of Plato’s The Republic, which in itself is principally a study of justice, government and leadership. In The Republic, Plato describes a cave containing individuals confined to the cave floor, bound by shackles. They are unable to move their heads and stare incessantly at the cave wall directly in front of them. The prisoners cannot see one another. Behind the prisoners burns a fire projecting images of objects, animals and individuals carrying various objects onto the wall of the cave. The prisoners are also aware of conversations occurring behind them. The shadows (skiai) on the wall of the cave are believed by the prisoners to be real. This is the reality of the prisoners – their truth, their knowledge of the world.

The analogy continues and one of the prisoners frees himself from the chains. Now that he is unshackled he is able to rotate his head, see the entrance of the cave, look and walk towards the fire. The newly liberated captive finds this agonizing and is overwhelmed by the light of both the cave and as he leaves the cave the sun. He has spent his entire life in almost complete darkness, with limited capabilities, and minimal movement.

The freedman is now faced with the chilling realization that his entire life has been limited by his experiences of the cave floor. His life has been lived in the shadows and he has been aware of only the reflections of reality and truth.
“These prisoners represent the majority of man, the multitude of people who remain all their lives in a state of ignorance beholding only shadows of reality and hearing only echo’s of the truth” (F. Coplesto, 1985, pg 161).

The prisoners represent us – humankind. Plato attempts to alert humans to the possibility that our senses may be deceiving us and that a greater reality exists in the light of truth – out side the cave and our own knowledge. For most of us this reality is beyond our sight and only an extraordinary life-changing event may give us a chance to view this truth – this new reality. The cave challenges individuals to reflect on the possibility that there is a reality...

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...n there senses and search for truth. Plato describes the danger of accepting the world as we see and sense it with out challenge and critical thought.
Although over two and a half thousand years old Plato’s message still resounds in a world preoccupied with consumerism and self gratification.

Reference list

1) Copleston F, S.J. (1962) A History of philosophy Book one. Image books.

2) Foster M. M.A, PH.D. (1942). Masters of political thought. George G. Harrap and CO. LTD.

3) Hare R.M. (1991). Founders of thought. Oxford University press.

4) Jackson R (2001) Plato the beginner’s guild. Hodder and Stoughton.

5) Magee, B. (1998). The Story of philosophy. A Dorling Kindersley Book

6) Mcinerny R M (1963). A History of Western Philosophy from the beginnings of Philosophy to Plotinus. Henry Regnery Company.

7) Robinson D and Groves J (2000) Introducing Plato. Icon books UK, Totem books USA.

8) Scott-Kakure D, Castagnetto S, Benson H, Taschek W and Hurley P. (1993) History of philosophy. Harper Perennial.

9) Solomon R C and Higgins K M. (1996) A Short history of Philosophy. Oxford University press Inc.

10) Weil, S. http://rivertext .com
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