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Plato’s Philosophy: Allegory of the Cave

Introduction: Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave

The Allegory of the Cave must be one of Plato’s most famous hypotheses regarding the mechanics of reality. Set in a form of a dialogue, the allegory represents the reality of people. Who are forced to see solely the shadows of the real objects and, as a result, doomed to being mistaken about the world that they live in (Grigsby 76).

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Though Plato’s idea of how people see the world around them does have a legitimate point, it seems that the characteristics of reality are defined by people’s senses and do not exist outside people’s sensory system; as a result, the idea of cognizing the world solely through logics, while admittedly clever, may possibly lead to no tangible results.

The Allegory of the Cave as a Representation of Reality

With all due respect to Plato and his philosophy, the idea of people misinterpreting the reality because of the faultiness of their senses does not seem as legitimate as it should.

First and most obvious, the very definition of reality is based on the information, which people retrieve from the world around them. In other words, reality as people have identified it consists of the sensations that people receive and the way in which they interpret these sensations. Therefore, it is logical to suggest that, outside of the context of sensations, reality does not exist, since there is no one to sense it.

While Plato seems to have ignored the definition of reality in his work, it bears a huge significance to the outcome of the argument. Seeing that reality can be identified as the projection of one’s values onto the actual neutral situation, considering people inside the cave and their interpretations of the shadows on the walls as a model of the real world and the relationships between people in it is not quite right.

Plato’s argument presupposes that there is the general truth, which remains disclosed from people; the reality, however, seems to have nothing to conceal and is only based on people’s projection of their egos onto the blank sheets of history.

Therefore, “what he previously saw [with his own eyes]” (Plato 515) and which “was more unhidden than what was now being shown [to him by someone else]” (Plato 515) would simply no register on the viewer’s radar, since, deprived of their senses, people are unable to cognize the reality.

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Considering Other Opinions: An Alternative Vision

While reality as a phenomenon can be defined as a combination of the sensations that people receive from the world around them and the way in which they analyze these sensations, Plato’s argument does have a very legitimate point. People are restricted by the five senses that they have, and they often rely on these senses too much without trying to use their analytical skills in order to understand why they see things in a certain way and not in the other one.

Indeed, the opinion suggested by Plato in his timeless argument is quite valid applied even to present-day realities.

For example, as Grinsby explains, modern military conflicts within independent states, which are discussed worldwide, can still be hardly understood by the representatives of other countries, as opposed to the way in which the local residents view the situation: “Still, you might come away with these accounts with the disturbing sense that you still did not understand what really happened in either Afghanistan or Iraq” (Grigsby 75).

Therefore, people do happen to be locked out of the rest of the world and unable to evaluate the situation adequately.

This is, unfortunately, quite a common situation in the present day realm of the globalized society, where powerful states affect the economy and politics of less influential ones with very little idea of what is going on within these small states. Therefore, Plato’s argument still remains viable, yet it raises a range of questions concerning reality perception.

In Search for to Right Answer

The fact that the vision of others does not comply with the vision of an individual or a group of such does not mean, however, that the individual or individuals in question view the reality the right way.

Although Plato’s argument regarding the one-sidedness of people’s opinions and the possibility that people are mistaken regarding their vision of the world around them, the reality that people live in is, in fact, defined by people’s sensory system. Therefore, it would be wrong to locate and define the reality that exists outside of the context of people’s senses.

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The allegory that Socrates suggests as a representation of the manner in which people actually cognize the world is admittedly very clever. However, the concept represented by Socrates presupposes that there is a certain right way to envision the reality and, more importantly, that people have an opportunity to see it, yet this opportunity is restricted by the false assumptions made based on the information retrieved through our sensations.

The philosopher, however, does not mention that reality can be defined as the combination of sensations that people can experience and that there is hardly anything outside of these sensations (Green and Nettleship 191).

To put it simpler, there is no actual red color – there is only a series of responses of a human’s eye to a range of waves of different length; the same can be said about any other aspect of the perception of reality, including such extremes as hot and cold, right and left, or, for that matter, good and evil. Without the agent to be exposed to the effects of various factors, there is no way that the latter can be characterized.


As brilliant as Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is, it still seems to be quite confusing when it comes to the definition of reality, which does not work when the cognition of reality with five senses is not included. On the one hand, by tapping into the theme of humans’ imperfections, particularly, the lack of objectivity in envisioning the world, Plato creates a very powerful argument on the flaws of the human nature.

This argument could be really viable, if reality itself could be anything else but the representation of people’s sensory experiences. In other world, without the sensations, which, according to Plato, make people’s conclusions about the world so erroneous, there would be no way to envision reality.

To put it simpler, relying on senses does lead to making mistakes, yet without senses, there is no universe. People are unable to envision the world without the information that they are used to receiving; the information of any other kind would be either defied or missed entirely.

Works Cited

Green, Thomas Hill and Richard L. Nettleship. Works of Thomas Hill Green. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. 2011. Print.

Grigsby, Ellen. Cengage Advantage Books: Analyzing Politics. Stanford, CT: Cengage Leaning. 2011. Print.

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Plato. “Allegory of the Cave.” Republic. Trans. Thomas Sheehan. n. d. 514–517. 

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