Plato was a Greek Philosopher who wrote a mixture of dialogues about philosophical ideas of faith, knowledge, and ethics, as well as many other topics. One work that he is popularly known for is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave which is in Book seven of The Republic. In this specific allegory, symbolism is used to explore the nature of reality and perception. I am in agreeance with Plato’s views and explanations on our satisfaction with our environment, lack of perception, and ability to view reality.
In Plato’s Allegory, there are prisoners who have lived in a cave since birth, meaning they have never experienced the outside world. Their arms and legs are bound, and their head is chained to where they cannot look anywhere but in front of them. Behind them, there is a fire which allows the casting of shadows on the opposite wall of the cave from people who stroll on a walkway, carrying supposed figures of animals. This seems to be their only glimpse of the external world. Throughout their time in the cave, the prisoners would attempt to name the illusions.
Following this, one of the captives was liberated. As he exited the cave, he discovered many external influences that proved the prisoners’ perceptions to be false. This was quite inconceivable. He grew accustomed to the upper world and discovered that the sun was “the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold” (“The Republic” 120). With such a grand discovery, he rushed back to the cave to inform the other prisoners of life outside of the cave, also known as reality. However, they did not believe him and resisted leaving the cave. The escaped prisoner then believed that “he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner” (“The Republic” 121).
In contrast, Plato found that “most people are not just comfortable in their ignorance but hostile to anyone who points it out” (Gendler). Throughout the course of our lives, we are educated on multiple topics and informed on what is right and wrong. However, whenever we find a single fallacy in our learnings, we begin to rethink everything we have been taught. This can then bring out opposition because that is all that we have known. It is like the reactions of the prisoners after discovering the realities. The cave and their chains partially represent their ignorance to learning the truth. As well as this, darkness inside of the cave proves many people’s lack of perception. Much of our thinking becomes limited because our ideas or imagination may be too broad for others. One’s ability to view reality seems to rely on the ability to break free from their material world.
In addition to this, I believe that the world outside of the cave is a representation of our true knowledge of things. When the prisoner learned about everything in the external world, he was then able to observe everything in a new light. He gained a perception that others had always seen and in turn became much more knowledgeable. The sun in the story is like a symbol of truth because it allows us to see all things.
Clearly, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a great representation of current everyday society. His story includes a substantial amount of symbolism that can further explain the nature of reality and our perceptions. In reading this allegory, one can explore their own cognizance and “material world”. In fact, that individual may even discover a multitude of falsehoods in their life. Many instances, in every individual’s lives, will one break free of their ignorance and discover a whole new reality.