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Value of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave Essay Sample 

This essay sample shall discuss Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ theory which was written in the work of Plato called ‘Republic.’ This book represents the lack of education on the nature of people. ‘Allegory of Cave’ is a dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon with his mentor Socrates.

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Plato was a great philosopher of ancient Greek and his teacher was also a known philosopher of his time popularly known as Socrates. Plato also taught Aristotle in his later years. Plato is the founder of western philosophy, religion, and spiritual learning and education.

He developed a school of thought called Platonist and Academy which were the first institutions of higher learning in the western world.

Plato’s Allegory of Cave is one of the most influential philosophical concepts in history which has been represented in modern times as well through films like The Truman Show, The Matrix, Dark City, Cube, and The Conformist.

The Allegory of Cave theory was introduced by Plato in concern of the human perception of truth and knowledge.

He claimed that the knowledge we gain through our senses is merely our opinion but real knowledge is gained through the philosophical reasoning of truth. It shows how reality is perceived by humans and what is the reality of the existence of truth.

‘Allegory of the Cave’ by Plato

A hypothetical situation of three prisoners in the cave is imagined by Plato to understand the nature of human perception and its reality.

Prisoners held captive in the cave since childhood 

A cave is imagined where three prisoners are held captive and their legs and arms are tied to big rocks. Their head is tied in such a way that they cannot move it in any direction. They cannot see anything apart from the stonewall in front of them.

These prisoners never in their lifetime have seen & experienced the world outside of the cave. For them, their perception of the world is very limited.

There is a fire behind the prisoners and a walkway is raised between them where people outside the cave walk along this walkway also carrying plants, woods, and animals on their heads.

Perception of reality by the prisoners

When people are walking on the walkway they cast their shadows of themselves and the objects they are carrying on the stone wall opposite of the prisoners.

Prisoners inside the cave assume that these shadows are of real objects and is a reflection of the actual physical appearance of real objects. This is not true and they believe illusions to be the reality.

So, they start playing the game of guessing that which shadow will appear next. If one of the prisoners guesses the shadow correctly then he would be praised by the others for his wisdom and knowledge.

He will be treated as a Master of them even though he himself is not aware of the actual reality.

Escape by one of the prisoners from the cave

One of them escapes from the cave by releasing himself from the bindings. He is in a state of shock on seeing the outside world of the cave and initially cannot accept it to be real.

Initially, the rays of the sun outside hurt his eyes and skin as he is not accustomed to this life. There might be also a risk of blindness on such exposure. But with time he starts getting adjusted to the new surroundings and he can now easily open his eyes in the sun.

First, he sees the shadows of the people on getting his first exposure to light, then a reflection of people, things in the water, and finally could see the physical existence of the people.

He gradually realizes that his former perception of reality was wrong and discovered the reality of nature and felt that their guess game was wrong and baseless.

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Return of the prisoner to the Cave

The prisoner decides to enlighten his fellow prison mates in the cave with the reality of the outside world. They do not believe him and even threaten to kill him if they are forced to be free from the captive.

When they see that the prisoner who came from the outside world is experiencing a problem with his vision as he comes back again into darkness.

They believe that if they too go outside the cave they may also get the same problem and fear getting exposed to the outside real world.

The meaning of ‘Allegory of the Cave’ by Plato

Through this representation of Allegory of the Cave, Plato stated that people who believe in empirical knowledge are trapped in their understanding of reality which may be untrue.

‘Cave’ is the representation of people who do not like to seek the actual reality and make perceptions on the basis of their personal experience and knowledge. It is the superficial reality of the face value.

‘Shadow’ represents the human perception of knowledge. If one believes that what they see in front of them is the reality then he is mistaken as he is merely seeing the shadow of the truth and not the truth itself. It is nothing but an illusionary vision that makes the existence of reality opaque for him.

The ‘Game of guessing’ played by the prisoners and guessing the shadow correctly makes the person a Master of others.

Plato calls it plain stupidity and ridiculous to admire someone for their knowledge of the empirical world that too when he is far away from the actual truth.

The ‘escaped prisoner’ is in the truest sense is a philosopher as he is seeking the truth and reality. He seeks real knowledge without being dependent on his senses.

Only a true philosopher with decades of practice to leave the cave can actually escape it. In his lifetime he experiences nature and exposure to the sunlight for the very first time.

‘Sun’ is the representation of the truth and knowledge. People who seek reality comes out of the darkness of ignorance (Cave) to the light of knowledge (Sunlight).

Even though it may hurt their eyes for the first time but with time they can open their eyes due to the light of the knowledge. He gains wisdom and ultimate knowledge of reality which makes him a true philosopher.

On ‘returning to the cave’ and sharing the knowledge with the other prisoners threatens them. They do not wish to get free from the darkness of the cave which represents people who are scared of knowledge, change, exposure, and philosophy.

They are comfortable to believe their own version of truth and understanding. Fearing the actual reality and the philosophers who are trying to enlighten them with knowledge.

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The above-written sample is on the ‘Allegory of the Cave’ by Plato who was a famous ancient Greek philosopher of his time.

Early Learning Philosophy QQI Level 5, Introduction to Philosophy QQI Level 5, Liberal Arts QQI Level 5, Sociology QQI, Social Studies QQI Level 5, Social Analysis QQI Level 5, Applied Social Studies QQI Level 5 students can read this above sample to understand the philosophical concept of human perception and science.

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