Allegory of the Cave and the Internet

On the internet you can find many things, and if it is used correctly, many of them can expand our knowledge. In the Allegory of the Cave, when talking about the Sun, it represents the absolute truth. This may be about the possibility of an Internet of the mind, a worldwide network of connected brains in which they could download and exchange emotions. This has been happening for a long time through music, movies or any good play. Any of us empathizes with the protagonist of some story, and shares their emotions and makes us feel part of that story too. Which leads us to what the value of the Internet. For humans, the Internet is analogous to the Sun that Plato describes. It enlightens us, yet it is limited to our collective human perceptions in regards to knowledge.

However, the idea of ​​an Internet of the mind would go much further. Not only would it be about empathizing with the emotions of the other, but we would feel them, live their same emotions. Imagine that with a simple download we could for example, feel the emotions experienced by a person who practices extreme sports, or what soccer players feel when they score a goal in a World Cup, or even the emotions that every single person lives day to day, such as our partner after a difficult day. We would not empathize from our point of view or way of understanding, but we would be in the emotional place of the other, really feeling the emotions of that person.

However, we must be aware of the consequences or repercussions this may have on our lives. Most of us would not think twice before committing an act to cause pain to another person, since it is in our nature to attack when we feel offended or in danger. It is not the same to think or imagine the damage that our actions can cause, than to feel the damage they cause in our own skin. When we do not feel the harm that we do to others, we fall into a false philosophy of saying, no matter what happens to others while I am well, or continue to earn money, or having power. There is a lot of loose psychopaths unable to empathize with anything except that which produces sadistic pleasure and that seems to enjoy only the pain of others.

The power to have such an Internet would bring many benefits to human beings. The main one: that would make us really human. Perfect empathy would diminish the dysfunctions of some emotions. We would feel fear only when it was really important for our survival. Not only would we share the joy of others, we would also feel it as they feel it. By means of a simple download we could not only accompany the members of an expedition to the space, but also we would feel their emotions.

But unfortunately if we had this type of internet, our world would change and the way in which we socialized also and this would generate more questions, such as: What would it mean for a person to stop feeling individually to do it collectively? How would it affect us? Continuously experiencing what others feel would possibly make human beings more fragile (emotionally). We would go from the unique thought to the unique emotion. Everyone feeling the same. All with the possibility of experiencing the same things. If the globalization in which we live is a reality with simply a normal Internet, what kind of globalization would generate a shared and unique emotional network? The sun’s counterpart in the Material World is the internet. Plato while famous for Allegory of the Cave he is also known for explaining the Theory of Forms. Plato explains that the Theory of Forms are divided into two worlds: the World of Ideas and the World of Shadows. The World of Ideas, also known as the World of Being, is an entire world filled with the perfect or idealities that the World of Shadows tries to manifest physically.

The World of Shadows, also known as the World of Becoming, is a flawed world where the physical manifestations of ideas reside in. The Theory of Forms are like blueprints; blueprints seem good on paper, but the actual invention in question, will have flaws. Like a blueprint, the Sun is “good on paper,” but the Internet like an invention, is flawed. The Internet is artificial since it resides in the World of Shadows, and it can never be a true Sun like the one in the World of Ideas. There are many different types of forms, whether it is the form of friendship or the form of how to build something, so it is built to achieve its true goal. An example of a form, would be a human’s existence. Plato has said that in the World of Being, human souls are filled with the essence of knowledge. When we learn as humans in the World of Becoming, it is only a mere recollection of what we know is true in our souls. He believes focusing on the ideal version of something is one of the most useful and effective thought exercises. It is better if you focus on what something should be like in its perfect form, so you can achieve the same results of perfection. Plato became an enthusiastic and talented student of Socrates and wrote famous dialogues featuring his teacher verbally grappling with opponents.

Our wrestler believed in the pre-existence and immortality of the soul, holding that life is nothing more than the imprisonment of the soul in a body. In addition to the physical world, there is a heavenly realm of greater reality consisting in Forms, Ideals, or Ideas (such as Equality, Justice, Humanity, and so on). The internet is the Sun of the digital world. It connects people from all over the world and helps the humans to communicate and share ideas. But with so much users, the amount of false information is almost even to the true information. Everyone with computer access has been told not to believe everything on the internet at least once in their lifetime. Yet still many use the internet as their source of information which could be misleading such as the shadows in the cave. The chained prisoners never got to see the sun so they had no idea that it was even a real thing. The only truth they had in their life was the shadows of bypassers emitting on the cave wall. When one of the prisoners were freed and returned to his fellow comrades to share his new knowledge of the outside world, they all became enraged and believed nothing he said. They were stuck in their ways and that is similar to many people online. Not many like being told they are wrong and become defensive. Having different opinions is what makes everyone’s minds unique and everyone different. The sun in the Allegory of the Cave is the source of truth. It gives life to most and the internet is similar to that because today in the modern world, the internet is the backbone to our digital lives. Without the internet, there would be no Facebook, Instagram or any social media sites. Social media is a regular part of the lives of many.

Using social media such as Facebook and Twitter permits users to construct identities with untraditional media. This use of social media has no precedent and is therefore not always handled with propriety or prudence by users. Social media’s profiles are a great example of Sir Francis Bacon’ idols of the cave. According to David Simpson from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of reality. Bacon proposed that the individual may construct an entire system, with reference to a few observations and ideas. Social networking profiles offer users flexible space to “perform” their identities through various fields of personal information and status updates. These allow users to “type oneself into being” and disperse one’s identity across multiple social networking platforms, along with allowing others to construct another’s identity by uploading text, videos, pictures, and links about the other, ultimately helping each profile to represent our own “cave” of ideas and understanding.

The Allegory of the Cave mentions a prisoner escaping from the cave after being freed from the chains that had bound them. The prisoner escaping symbolizes that the user had relinquished themselves of ignorance and close-mindedness. “As he becomes used to his new surroundings, he realizes that his former view of reality was wrong (Trumpeter, 2012).” This symbolism can translate to a daily and average user of the Internet. An example of this would be seeing the viewpoints and explanations of those that frequent an Internet Forum. Forums are filled with people that have some extent of craft knowledge, practical wisdom, and scientific knowledge. Learning to see the viewpoints of others allows for open-mindedness, which is the goal of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The escapee once realizing what he or she has learned, goes back to the cave to tell the other prisoners what they have learned. However, “they do not believe him and threaten to kill him if he tries to set them free (Trumpeter, 2012).” This statement is an allusion to the ignorance of man. Depending on the forum user, they may come from a heavily religious background and may find science to be blasphemous, or a narcissistic intellectual may find someone’s solution to be inferior to theirs.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave presents the concepts of nature, reality, and knowledge in the form of a dialogue. Symbolism and inner meaning have the central role in understanding the context of Plato’s allegory. The matter is that Plato discussed significant philosophical problems through the symbolic implicatures and hidden context of the narrative. Therefore, the sun is the central symbol in Allegory of the Cave and has the essential meaning being the incarnation of the entire truth and reality. It is noteworthy to mention that allegory implies the story that has a symbolic background as far as events or characters have the inner meaning or allusions to several concepts. Besides, allegory has a moral, religious, or political context aimed to symbolize a hidden sense of ordinary things (Wilkens, 2006). As for Allegory of the Cave, the function of the allegory is to reveal the insights into the philosophical problems through the narrative (Wilkens, 2006). Speaking about the plot of the allegory, Plato described people imprisoned in the cave during the whole life. The only thing that the prisoners could see were the shadows on the wall as far as they were not able to turn head having necks and legs fixed.

The shadows were the entire reality for the prisoners regarding the fact that they had not an opportunity to see true forms and shapes of objects projected on the wall. Suddenly, one of the prisoners became free and left the cave and see the sunlight that transformed the whole vision of the world. Sun enabled a man to see the real world and real forms of the objects. After the enlightenment, former prisoner decided to come back to the cave for telling the truth to other prisoners. Nevertheless, nobody believed a man; the prisoners ignored the truth and treated him like a mad person. Therefore, the sun has a symbolic meaning in Allegory of the Cave. It is possible to interpret the Sun as the source of truth, knowledge, and the entire reality. According to Plato, the sun allows people to see the real sense of everything as far as the sunlight enabled a man to “contemplate him as he is” (Plato & Jowett, 2017). Hence, the sun is literally the personification of knowledge that implies the accurate perception of the world. The understanding of the symbolism is based on the antithesis of ignorance represented by shadows to the intelligence related to the sunlight. Therefore, such a contradiction helped the prisoner to learn the truth. Consequently, the significance of the sun in Allegory of the Cave is in the primary role as the tool that enlightens the person and indicates the way to knowledge and truth.

Allegory still applies to our world today. We are held down by media, government, technologies, and most importantly by internet. There is always someone above us in all walks of life. When we are children, we are almost driven by our parent’s choices and opinions. We are not allowed to think or apply logics of our own until we become adults. When we are adults, we are subjected to an unending world of internet, where information, (right, or wrong) keeps on loading on our minds and this information overload limits our capacity of thinking and reasoning. Moreover, we are so burdened by our responsibilities that we are ready to sacrifice our thinking power to the mentalities of our employers or bosses to chase money.

In Allegory of the Cave, Plato explains that people are unconscious to the truth and when one finally sees the truth, others would not believe this thing. People are living in an environment where they believe what they see rather than understanding or finding the truth behind it. Although the allegory has been written a long time back, but still applies to the modern world. However, in recent time there are more ways or options to reach the truth, but the confusion grows as to number of options grows. In the case of religion also, people keep on adding new segments, new gods, new rituals and bind them to their societies. The coming generations are bond to follow that and they are deprived of their real life.

Each day in 21st century, we are presented with numerous images through various forms of media. With so many images present, it becomes a daunting task to find out which one is right. We as prisoners are chained to gadgets, which are bound to believe whatever is presented to us in the form of gadgets. Using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and others to portray a certain identity can help one “fit” a certain image or portrayal of a group. If an individual relies only on such portrayals, however, they risk to lose their true identity by not presenting their true selves through social media. We are all prisoners of our own individual caves, which is what Plato was trying to avoid through Allegory of the Cave. It describes our perceptions when it comes to our pursuit of knowledge. Allegory of the Cave is analogous to the Internet; it is our Sun and enlightens its users. As humans, our experiences no longer constitute who we are it is now only what we say about ourselves and what others want to be said about us that makes up our new, social-media infested identities.