Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher. Although he travelled to Italy on several occasions, he spent the better part of his life in Athens. Having been born in a noble family, Plato had the benefit of acquiring the finest education as reflected in his collection of philosophical works that reflect tragedy and politics of his time (Jackson 17). His writings explore themes such as equality and beauty.
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They also discuss aesthetics, cosmology, political philosophy, and language. This paper highlights one of his philosophical writings, namely ‘The Allegory of the Cave’, whose key ideas include the nature of the world and its occupants, the organization of the society, philosophy, and the essence of reality.
The Main Ideas in ‘The Allegory of the Cave’
A cave in ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ is a symbolic representation of the nature of the world and its occupants. Plato provides an analogy of how people live in the unreal world by describing a situation in which citizens live in a cave never to enjoy anything that the other world has to offer. An opening is located at the top of the cave. A shadow is cast following the burning fires. People who live in the cave are chained.
This situation makes them only able to see the wall. Hence, they are not able to turn around. In case an object passes by the fire, a shadow is transmitted on the wall. Thus, they can only see it, but not the real object. Hence, the only thing that they comprehend to exist is the gloominess of the object (Plato 657). Luckily, one of the people in the cave gets off his chains and manages to wander in the exterior of the cave (Plato 657).
What he sees astonishes him. When he reports to the rest of his chained colleagues about what he has seen outside the cave, they think that he is mad. They indeed plot to murder him (Plato 659). This scenario suggests an idea that people fear coming into terms with reality.
This primitiveness of majority of people serves to advance and/or promote ignorance. Thus, it is dogmatic for a rational thinking being to trust the majority of people and their collective contention.
The ‘Allegory of the Cave’ vividly describes the world of philosophy. In the philosophical work, Plato not only offers symbolic description of predicaments that people find themselves into, but also proposes their possible salvation (Kreis 1). The salvation advocated by Plato is influenced by the theory of freedom of mind as advanced by his teacher, Socrates. According to Plato, the manner in which the world is revealed to people is not a real copy of it.
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Majority of people live in the unreal copy, which is characterized by various class systems. Since the world where people live in is unreal, it is inappropriate to trust most of them. They have their minds trapped by unreasonable norms of various class systems. This claim is evidenced by Plato’s theory that is advanced through the article.
He asserts, “Universe ultimately is good if an enlightened individual has obligations to the rest of the society, and that a good society must be the one in which the truly wise are the rulers” (Kreis 1). Philosophically, the wise are the people who have freedom of thought and people who do not open their own minds to prejudice in search for what is real and accurate beyond any reasonable doubt.
This claim suggests the idea that people should only depend on the conviction of their minds when choosing on what is appropriate to do and/or not to do. Believing in other people’s conviction implies that one is upholding a universally acceptable way of thought. This move is not acceptable since the world is not real. Hence, everything that it presents to people is open to doubt.
The main ideas of ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ can be understood well by considering the organization of the society. A society comprises class systems such as guardians, rulers, and workers. These categories are equivalent to the three aspects of the heart, namely coherent, spontaneous irrational, and the less cogent aspects. Each of the elements has different roles in the society.
The ruling class is made up of people who stand out in the society as the most intellectual and gifted. Just as the rational component of the soul is the chief decision maker based on reason, rulers are charged with the role of giving directions to the rest of the class states (Jackson 53). Surprisingly, this class is composed of the fewest number of people in the population.
Although, they may be well equipped in making decisions for the society, ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ raises the idea that people should doubt them at least until convinced by reason that the decisions are right. This notion is analogous to the many people who remain chained on the wall as one of their peers gets an opportunity to interact with reality.
‘The Allegory of the Cave’ teaches people to respect their ability to see the reality. The unchained man in the cave should accept his new status and strain to prove otherwise to those who have not yet experienced the reality. They need to distinguish it from illusions such as shadows of real objects as cast on the cave’s wall.
Perhaps, in a world of rulers and the ruled class, many people are incapable of seeing the vices executed by irrational rulers who act in disguise (Kreis 7). Analogous to the unchained man in the cave, when one comes into the realization of the nature of the disguising rulers, he or she needs not to criticize the person (Jackson 39).
Rather, the idea raised by ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ is that such a person needs to critically investigate and reason through the insights provided by the person who has already seen the reality. Such an individual also possesses knowledge.
In conclusion, the paper has confirmed that Plato’s ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ is a must-read piece of work, especially with reference to the present-day world that is dominated by people who have individualistic interests. The study has revealed that people live in illusions and darkened caves. In fact, individuals who seek to enlighten others are seen as adversaries. Hence, they become victims of other people’s ignorance.
Plato was born in an era when compliance was vital to fit in a society. This conformity impaired the rationality of people. Hence, they could not perceive the reality. This experience has been reflected abundantly in ‘The Allegory of the Cave’.
Jackson, Roy. Plato: A Beginner’s Guide. London: Hoder and Stroughton, 2001. Print.
Kreis, Steven. Plato republic, Book VII: The Allegory of the Cave. London: Hoder and Stroughton, 2000. Print.
Plato. Republic VII: The Allegory of the Cave. Princeton: Princeton University Publishers, 1982. Print.