Allegory of the Cave Response Essay


Instructor’s name English 1302

3 February 2020

Allegory of the Cave: Response Essay

Plato’s Allegory of the cave is possibly the most famous passages that attempt to put meaning to reality in the history of Western philosophy. The short excerpt from his book The Republic is a perceptive effort in decoding the nature of reality. The cave is a symbol or representation of the state of non-philosophies, and the story of a dramatic exit from this state (cave) is the foundation of true understanding. Every person at one point in their lives has wondered where exactly the space we are is, what is the point of existence, what does reality entail and what is one supposed to do with reality or about it. These are the types of questions Plato tries to answer in the Allegory of the Cave. The most notable question, however, is what is the nature of reality is. He tells this tale as an exchange between him and Socrates, his longtime mentor and his inspiration for many theories and Glaucon, another student of Socrates. This paper is a structured response of Allegory of the Cave and tries as well to discuss the intended message of the writing, possible problems and a possible connection of the writer to the ideas of the piece.

Plato in this piece states that society lives in the deception of perception. He implies that in order for one to achieve the truth, they should engage in deep philosophical reasoning. He presents that tale in the context of education and implies that society does not want progress in this regard. He narrates the tale of prisoners who have been put in an underground cave since they were babies. Their hands and legs are restrained so they do not move and the only sight they enjoy is the cave’s back wall. Behind the curtain wall, men move about carrying stone objects and make sounds as they walk. These figures are projected on the wall the prisoners are looking at. They give names to these objects as an interpretation of the world comprehensible to them. The prisoners can be considered to be enjoying a scene as they were watching a puppet show day in day out. To them, it is the reality because they have not experienced anything different.

To continue the explanation of why Plato might consider society as anti-progress, he says that one of the prisoners is able to break free someway. The first thing he does is look back at the fire, which can be interpreted to mean enlightenment and the realization of one’s ignorance. However, the prisoner feels his eyes hurting from the light emanating from the flame and instantly feels the urge to turn around. Plato puts it in this manner; “retreat to the things which he could see properly, which he would think really clearer than the things being shown him.” (2). These words can be interpreted to mean the prisoner is not comfortable with progress and wants to feel the comfort of seeing things the way he understands. The prisoner, however, proceeds out but with immense difficulty.

Outside he is met with the sun and still finds it easier to concentrate his vision on the shadows, and the reflections of items in the water. Plato uses light metaphorically to represent understanding. So when the prisoner is able to comfortably focus on the light, he sees the truth of everything and pities the prisoners he has left behind. Out of compassion he goes back to the cave and tries to enlighten his fellow prisoners and speak of his discoveries but they greet him with the animosity because he has brought new ideas that are conflicting with what they know. Plato insinuates that society is ignorant and indifferent to people who are offering additional information. Because it becomes obvious he is talking about him as a philosopher, Plato states that “your philosophical journey sometimes may lead your thinking in directions that society does not support.” (3). Plato suggests that society is imprisoned by ignorance.

I relate to the Allegory of the Cave through the difficulty of the education process. The process of making headway out of the cave is difficult and from time to time requires force and lots of assistance. Like the majority of the people, I believe for one to get an education they must undergo a struggle. His implication that education involves a struggle is very relatable for me. It does not necessarily matter if he is talking about deep education and enlightenment. What I might refuse to accept as a reflection of myself is the struggle to see the truth and be critical thinkers. I am open-minded and would like to experience new dimensions of reality, the question might, however, be how far I am willing to reach there. It is, however, true that society, I included is resistant to revelations. Sometimes or most of the time ignorance is bliss because facing a revelation may not be desirable and may bring regrettable feelings.

The problem with the ideas in Allegory of the Cave is that Plato does not have regard for bodily qualities and describes the existence of society solely on the basis of wisdom. He does not want the prisoners to general sensual pleasures, which like people tied to a boulder and tossed at sea sink into the world of darkness. It is unrealistic to expect the world to nurture the virtue of wisdom, an innate quality, and abandon pluses of the soul affiliated to bodily qualities and which unlike wisdom can be achieved through habit and exercise.

Works Cited

Plato., Lee, H. and Lane, M. The Republic. London: Penguin, 2007.