Intro to Philosophy
18 February 2015
Allegory of the Cave Philosophy. Why is it that when people hear this word they don’t know what to say? Is it really that hard to come up with a definition? Do most of us just not understand what this particular field of study really is? Or is it because Philosophy is what we think it is? Philosophy can defined as so many different things but only our own personal experiences help us figure out what it truly is. Philosophy is about our values, beliefs, and knowledge in life. However it is also about discipline, attitude, and wisdom. I personally believe that Philosophy is what you make it out to be. With that being said, Philosophy is what helped me write this essay on the “Allegory of the Cave” by Plato from The Republic. This essay will contain a summary from the “Allegory of the Cave” and an own personal experience related to this individual story. “The Allegory of the Cave” is set up in a dialogue formation between Socrates and Glaucon. As the story begins, Socrates is talking to Glaucon one of his students asking him to, “Imagine men to be living in an underground cavelike dwelling place, which has a way up to the light along it’s whole width, but the entrance is a long way up.” (Solomon 67) He continues with having Glaucon picture these men being here for their whole entire life, chained, and only being able to see what’s in front of them. There is a light provided by a fire burning behind them and is much higher than they are. “There is a path across the cave and along this a low wall has been built, like the screen at a puppet show in front of the performers who show their puppets above it.” (Solomon 67) They watch the shadows on the wall presented by the performers behind the wall that stands between the burning fire and prisoners. Socrates then proceeds to explain that if one of the prisoners were to be freed, would he be able to stand up on his own, turn his head, or even be able to look at the light? Socrates explains to Glaucon, that by doing all of these things he would probably feel pain just like you and I would feel if we had been in a car for multiple hours. Furthermore by looking at the fire he would feel the urge to close his eyes so they can adjust to this new bright sight he has been exposed to. By seeing the fire he now can’t see the shadows that he had once seen on the wall. Socrates says, “What do you think he would say if he was told that what he saw was foolishness, that he was now somewhat closer to reality and turned to things that existed more fully, that he saw more correctly?”(Solomon 68) Glaucon says that he believes he would believe that what he has now seen is not reality that what he has been used to his whole life is what is true.
Now Socrates starts to suggest that the man is brought to the opening of the cave where he is to open his eyes into the sunlight. “I think he would need time to get adjusted before he could see things in the world above…” (Solomon 68) Nevertheless though the man would soon realize that the sun provides seasons, years, and this is somewhat in a weird, unusual way is the reason for the things he has once seen. The sun is the ultimate meaning and provider to “life”. Socrates says, “As he reminds himself of his first dwelling place, of the wisdom there and of his fellow prisoners, would he not reckon himself happy for the change, and pity them?” (Solomon 69) Glaucon says of course he would. Henceforth the man has to return to the cave knowing that the truth is unveiled and now what he has always known is totally different. “If you interpret the upward journey and the contemplation of things above as the upward journey of the soul to the intelligible realm, you will grasp what I surmise since you were keen to hear it.” (Solomon 69) Socrates enlightens Glaucon to realize that we are all prisoners in this thing called life. “… So one must turn one’s whole soul from the world of becoming until it can