The Allegory of the Cave?? in Different Perspectives

The Allegory of the Cave?? in Different Perspectives

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¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ in Different Perspectives
¡§The Allegory of the Cave,¡¨ written by Plato, is an interpretation of a
conversation between Socrates, Plato¡¦s mentor, and Glaucon, one of Socrates
students. ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ can be interpreted several different ways.
Imagine men in a cave chained up by their necks and legs, forcing them to only
look forward at a wall. An opening behind them lets the light in. Above the
burning fire and chains, there is a road. Have these chained men ever seen
anything else of themselves or others beyond the cave¡¦s shadows made by the
fire? Some people would say the truth is only perceived by the shadows seen
on the walls of the cave. What if one of these men¡¦s chains were taken off and
he was free to leave? Would the man feel pain when seeing the real world?
Would he be confused on believing what is real? Would it make a difference if
the chained man was briefly educated about what he was going to see first?
Perhaps he would understand and not be confused about what is real. Will the
man think what he saw before was much more real than what he sees now?
Questions like these will bring different opinions and meaning to ¡§The Allegory of
the Cave.¡¨ Whose interpretation, if any, is correct when explaining the meaning
of ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨? Does it have mathematical meaning, explain a
vision of the whole world, or is it just a comparison to the field of social work? I
personally feel that ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ is a great explanation of how
people in the world live. People are just like the men chained inside the cave,
people only know and believe what he or she might have seen. Outside of the
cave is the world around us. People are very narrow minded beings, a persons
perception on life is only from their own experiences. When the chained men
are let free is when people finally realize what is going on in the world and not
just what is around them.
¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ can be interpreted with different meanings,
such as Michael O¡¦Leary¡¦s theory of the cave being a place away from the world.
Michael O¡¦Leary believes ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ is Plato¡¦s explanation of the
education of the soul towards enlightenment.

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He sees it as what happens when
someone is educated to the level of a philosopher (O¡¦Leary). O¡¦Leary also
explains that Plato contends that the men must ¡§go back into the cave¡¨ or return
to everyday world of politics, greed, and power struggles. ¡§The Allegory of the
Cave¡¨ also attacks people who rely upon, or are slaves to, their senses. The
chains that bind the prisoners are the senses (O¡¦Leary). Even though O¡¦Leary
has a reasonable explanation as to why he believes what he does, which
includes solid evidence, his interpretation may not necessarily be correct. The
shadows might not be what people rely on as the truth. The cave might not be
an interpretation of a persons¡¦ sheltered life from the true reality. Michael
O¡¦Leary might be correct about the meaning, but at the same time Plato could be
trying to explain something else.
¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ can be also interpreted by using metaphorical
imagery. Socrates, in Book VII of The Republic just after the allegory, stated
that the cave was our world and the fire was our sun (Jerry H. Gill 1). Major
assumptions inherited within the metaphorical imagery were made by Plato.
Plato also says that the ¡§path of the prisoners was man¡¦s souls ascent to
knowledge or enlightenment¡¨ (O¡¦Leary). Plato helped introduce our world of
sight with an intellectual world of opinion. A persons¡¦ world of sight allows a
person to ¡§see¡¨ things that are not real, such as a perfect circle. Plato calls this
higher understanding of the world ¡§abstract reality¡¨ or the intelligible world
(O¡¦Leary). He compares this abstract reality with the knowledge that comes from
reasoning and final understanding (O¡¦Leary). Abstract reality is a reasonable
explanation on Plato¡¦s ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨. Using abstract reality is a
form of looking deeper into the real meaning and using symbolism to explain
what is there.
On the reality or physical side, our world of seeing, in the stages of a
person¡¦s growth, first recognizes images (the shadows on the cave¡¦s wall) then
objects (the models the guards carry). O¡¦Leary states ¡§to understand the
abstract really requires the understanding of mathematics and finally forms of all
things (the world outside the cave)¡¨ (O¡¦Leary). Using mathematics to have an
understanding can help to explain the situation. According to Alfino Flores, ¡§The
shadows of mathematics are what many students have dealt with for years;
Regression tendency in many teachers and students; Parallel of Plato¡¦s ¡§The
Allegory of the Cave;¡¨ How the cave is a mindset in mathematics; How math
teachers must convey real, live, mathematics and still deal with standardized
tests¡¨ (O¡¦Leary). Mathematics problems can be interpreted in many different
ways, just like the cave can be. In mathematics, a problem can be solved in
different ways which may conclude different solutions. ¡§The Allegory of the
Cave¡¨ can be read by different people and interpreted with different meanings
just like a mathematics solution. A persons understanding of the physical world
is mirrored in a person¡¦s mind by his or her ways of thinking (O¡¦Leary).
Imagination comes first and is then unfolded by a persons real beliefs. Then,
opinions give knowledge through reasoning (learned through mathematics).
Finally, the realization of forms is mirrored by the level of understanding in the
ways of thinking (O¡¦Leary). The answer to the struggle for knowledge is the
reasoning skills learned though mathematics as they are applied to
understanding oneself.
The men who are chained up are only able to see shadows of what they
believe is reality; however, can they really perceive it as reality if they are only
seeing a two dimensional picture in front of them? In ¡§The Allegory of the Cave,¡¨
Plato suggests that our ordinary understanding only shows us shadows of the
real, absolute world of unchangeable forms, the world of being, and not
becoming. ¡§Many philosophers, mystics, and others have held a similar belief:
that there is higher state of consciousness, an enlightened view, when the ¡¥doors
of perception have been cleansed,¡¦ compared to the world which we ordinarily
perceive as a world of shadows¡¨ (Christian Wertenbaker 1). A shadow is a
two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional object. Between the three
dimensional object and the two-dimensional picture, information is lost causing
only a dark outline of the original object. Given an adequate number of
shadows, a person can perceive the picture and reconstruct a resemblance of
the original solid object by once again using mathematical reasoning.
Wertenbaker states that in Plato¡¦s view, reasoning, seems to have the primary
role in perceiving the world above the shadows (2). The shadows may be what
is seen but there is always something further than the shadows, which is the
truth.
In Plato¡¦s cave the men can only see the shadows on the wall that are
formed by the object and caused by the unknown. A person living in this
situation would only presume that the shadows made up the real world. He or
she would not realize that other objects truly exist, or that the shadows on the
wall reflect the reality of the world never seen. The person¡¦s beliefs about what
actually exists in the world would not correspond with what really exists (Frederic
G. Reamer 1). Some social workers worry that too many associates, especially
those with a skeptic bent, may be living in Plato¡¦s cave. Reamer states, ¡§That is,
staunch advocates for, and practitioners of, empirically-based approaches labor
under the distorted, incomplete impressions cast by the measurement tools
currently available. (1)¡¨ The shadows show a rough approximation of what really
takes place in a social worker¡¦s environment of troubled individuals and families
in defenseless communities and organizations.
Being a social work major and having seen what happens in real life,
social workers can be compared to ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨. Social Workers
go into the field understanding that the people they are helping and working with
are living in severely bad to the ultimately worst situations one could possibly
think of. These people know what kind of situations their clients might be living
in, but the social workers are living in a cave just like the men in ¡§The Allegory of
the Cave.¡¨ Social workers are literally chained up and only see the shadows
made by actuality. The shadows are what a social worker may deal with at work.
For example, they way help a battered woman escape from her husband. The
social worker might feel pain for this woman, but in reality outside of the cave
this woman has severely been hurt and is the only one who knows what pain she
or he is really feeling. This can cause a social worker to not pursue his or her
full potential in helping the woman because he or she has only seen the
shadows and can only help from the little bit they have seen. Another example
is that a social worker might be working at a shelter making sure that families are
provided with food and money to stay healthy and have a home. A social worker
may interview these families and guide them to obtain a source of income for
food and shelter, but he or she really does not know what pain and suffering this
family has gone through. Being chained and only able see the shadows like a
social worker handicaps the profession from helping these people to the full
extent.
¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ can be interpreted in many different ways.
The different authors helped show that aspect. Plato¡¦s ¡§The Allegory of the
Cave¡¨ showed mathematical meaning, many visions as a whole, and a
comparison to the social work field. Even though these things do not deal with
each other they all can be seen through ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ from
mathematical reasoning of how things can be seen differently by different
people. After researching the different meanings of ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ I
came to realize how one story can mean so many things. Even though I still
believe that the cave is a person¡¦s own perception on things and outside the
cave is the world; I can see how Gill believes it has a metaphorical meaning and
O¡¦Leary¡¦s reasoning for ¡§The Allegory of the Cave¡¨ to be way of thinking. Also
Reamer belief that social workers are in cave because they do not experience
the same things that their clients do is a well thought out theory but I do not
believe it is correct a hundred percent. Not just social workers live in a cave, the
whole world is in a cave, blocking the real truth of what is around outside of the
cave.


Work Cited
Flores, Alfinio. ¡§The Shadows of Mathematics.¡¨ Arithmetic Teacher April 1993
Vol. 40 Issue 8 : 428.
Gill, Jerry H.. ¡§Re-exploring Plato¡¦s Cave.¡¨ Philosophy Today Spring 1994 Vol.
38 Issue 1 : 98.
O¡¦Leary, Michael. WWW.mv.com/lpusers/oleary/cave/.
Reamer, Fredric G.. ¡§The Place of Empiricism in Social Work.¡¨ Journal of
Social Work Fall 1992, Vol.28 Issue 3 : 257-60.
Wertenbaker, Christian. ¡§Toward a Vision of the Whole.¡¨ Parabola Summer
1997 Vol. 22 Issue 2 : 54-62.
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