Plato's Allegory

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Book VII of the Republic, begins with a description of a group of people who have lived chained and motionless to a wall for their entire lives. The individuals stare at a blank wall as shadows are projected from objects passing in front of a fire that lies behind them. Over time they begin to give names to the shadows that they see and believe these sounds they hear echoing from the walls come from the shadows. These sites and sounds are the only reality that the prisoners know and believe that they see are real. Socrates then poses that one of the prisoners becomes free from his chains and turns to see the fire. The light pains his eyes and only naturally he would desire to return to what he knows. However, Plato takes it one step further and poses that the prisoner is dragged out of the cave. Slowly, the prisoner’s eyes would begin to adjust to the sunlight and begin to see the objects upon which the shadows are based. After seeing the truth and realizing that his life in the cave was a lie, he would naturally feel compelled to free the other prisoners and bring them into the truth and knowledge. Socrates uses the sun to describe how the light from the sun illuminates the prisoner’s ability to see the real object rather than the illusion of the shadow. Socrates uses the sun as an example to depict how the light from the sun illuminates the truth.…show more content…
Just as the prisoner feels compelled to bring his fellow cave dwellers out of the darkness into light, that is what the purpose of education is. Even the ship simile helps to further illustrate this point. The ship is owned by a man hard of hearing, lacking sea-faring skills and who has poor vision. The sailors constantly argue over who should be captain, even though they themselves have no knowledge of navigation. The sailors use force and clever tricks to persuade the ship owner who to choose to captain the ship. None of the sailors even realize there is a craft of navigating a ship. This scenario helps to illustrate that just like in the cave, no one is completely aware of all the real knowledge that lies beyond what they can immediately see. The allegory of the cave given in an argument alone is not a compelling explanation for discovery of true knowledge or understanding. I believe that given all the examples, the cave, simile of the ship, as well as the sun and line analogies the argument is much more clear and concise. Socrates wants the reader to realize that what we can see or hear with our senses is not necessarily what is true or gives us the greatest
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