|Title:||Allegory of the Cave - Plato|
|Posted On:||2006-11-05 12:31:06|
Imagine prisoners who have been chained since childhood deep inside a cave. Not only are their limbs immobilized by the chains; their heads are chained as well so that their gaze is fixed on a wall.Listening To:
Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which shapes of various animals, plants, and other things are carried. The shapes cast shadows on the wall, which occupy the prisoners' attention. When one of the shape-carriers speaks, an echo against the wall causes the prisoners to believe that the words come from the shadows.
The prisoners engage in what appears to us to be a game - naming the shapes as they come by. This, however, is the only reality that they know, even though they are seeing merely shadows of images. They are thus conditioned to judge the quality of one another by their skill in quickly naming the shapes and dislike those who begin to play poorly.
Suppose a prisoner is released and compelled to stand up and turn around.
His eyes will be blinded by the firelight, and the shapes passing will appear less real than their shadows.
Similarly, if he is dragged up out of the cave into the sunlight, his eyes will be so blinded that he will not be able to see anything. At first, he will be able to see darker shapes such as shadows and, only later, brighter and brighter objects.
The last object he would be able to see is the sun, which, in time, he would learn to see as that object which provides the seasons and the courses of the year, presides over all things in the visible region, and is in some way the cause of all these things that he has seen.
Once enlightened, so to speak, the freed prisoner would want to return to the cave to free "his fellow bondsmen". Another problem lies in the other prisoners not wanting to be freed: descending back into the cave would require that the freed prisoner's eyes adjust again, and for a time, he would be one of the ones identifying shapes on the wall. His eyes would be swamped by the darkness, and would take time to become acclimatized. Therefore, he would not be able to identify shapes on the wall as well as the other prisoners, making it seem as if him being taken to the surface completely ruined his eyesight. The other prisoners would then not go to the surface, in fear of losing their eyesight. If someone were to try and force a prisoner to come to the surface, the prisoner would become murderous, and kill whoever tried to force him to come to the surface.
I read this allegory over a year ago for college and I feel like only now, after thinking about it in depth, as me, I finally understand.
The people chained in the cave is society. We are only able to see non-representational symbols (shadows) and most people tend to see this as reality. Light represents truth, and sometimes that truth can be overwhelming and burn your eyes... like staring into the fire will allow you to see the objects casting shadows... it's like... you have to make askew all that you know, and see complete darkness before you can finally understand. The sun is ultimate truth... and the people are afraid of it because of its intensity. Once you get out of the cave, you can choose to go back and help the others, but if they believe what they live is real, then there is no helping them. Every individual has to believe that the sun is out there... while we are chained in darkness.
I want to absorb the sun! LET'S DO IT
Constant Struggle by Mystic Roots