There is the common belief that what we experience as reality is just a mere illusion of the truth. Plato's allegory of the cave in "The Republic" describes human beings as being chained in a cave, such that they cannot move but are forced to face a wall, onto which shadows of puppets and themselves are projected. They are deceived into believing that their reality is composed of these "shadows" when actually, the world of truth is the "light" outside the cave. This analogy insinuates the probability that we have been entertaining "false notions" about life, and all our beliefs, ranging from religion to the sciences, are merely representations of the truth. What is this "light" that burns so bright in Plato's eyes? Are we certain that it exists? Because for all we know, life might be nothing but the cave itself.
Plato appears certain of what the "light" beyond the cave will reveal to the one who has made the journey out. Firstly it will provide a means of illumination that will expose the "real existence" of the world. In the brightness of the "light", everything would be seen in their full beauty instead of the vague impressions shadows create. He would receive accurate information about life and therefore dispense with the need to discern between the truth and the lie. Furthermore, he would also see himself in his own "proper place". He would no longer be confused about his identity, role in society or purpose in life, and could then carry out his duties confidently and effectively. Secondly the "light" itself also symbolizes the "idea of good". Since it is mentioned in the allegory that if one were to act "rationally", he would need to rely on the "idea of good". It ca...
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...tion we receive from life. In this case of the allegory, Plato is working on a whole plane of uncertainty as he is neither able to determine the existence of a different reality nor disprove the credibility of our lives. The world as we know it is indeed imperfect but imperfection should not qualify it as being false.
Should we stop all things and embark on the intellectual ascent to the truth? Philosophically, yes. For according to Plato it would be better to "endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner". However it is questionable if the need for knowledge of the truth (which might not even exist) is great enough to justify a journey in search for it. This is a decision we have to make for ourselves.
Plato. Republic. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. 8 Jan. 2001. http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/writing/ccwp11/allegory.htm.
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