The Allegory of the Cave Essay

The Allegory of the Cave Essay

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The Allegory of the Cave


Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is the most comprehensive and far-reaching analogy in his book, The Republic. This blanket analogy covers many of the other images Plato uses as tools through out The Republic to show why justice is good. The Allegory of the Cave, however, is not the easiest image that Plato uses. First, one must understand this analogy and all of it’s hidden intricacies, then one will be able to apply it to the other images Plato uses such as the Divided Line, or Plato’s Forms.

As Plato begins his story, he describes a dark cave. Contained inside of this cave are many people who are tied up into seats, unable to move. For their entire life, these people have been tied up without even being able to rotate their heads. They have chains that bind their hands to their seats. They have never seen anything apart from the wall directly in front of them. Their entire lives have been spent watching the wall and communicating with each other about the things they see on the wall.
Behind these chained people is a large fire. This fire burns bright and allows shadows to be cast onto the wall. Below this fire is a small trench where the others of the cave lie. Here they hold up puppets and objects, casting shadows onto the wall. They essentially create the reality that the chained down live in, however, those chained down do not know this. They know only of the shadows on the wall and these shadows interactions with each other. If they see the shadow of a book, they will say to one another, in their own language, “look at the book on the wall.” They will not know that it is only a shadow, an image of the real object that is held up behind them to cast the appearance of a book onto the wall. The...


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... the mind.
The man, as he is walking back in the cave, understands now that what he has seen is the truth. He has seen the forms of the objects he only saw shadows to before. When he is back in the cave he tries to explain to the others that there are forms of the shadows they see on the wall. These forms are what truly is, but they reject him. The journey of this man is likened to that of all philosophers educated in the forms, Plato says.
The Allegory of the Cave has many applications to both Plato’s writing and life in general. It describes the education of a philosopher, as well as how others look on the philosopher after he has gained the knowledge of the Forms. It also describes what it is like to see the forms. After understanding the forms, what once were objects, real things, become merely shadows. One sees everything as it truly exists, as it’s form.

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