AP Lang & Comp
Wohlt Hour 8
Modern Artist and Ancient Philosopher
The two essays, “The Creative Process” by James Baldwin and “The Allegory of the Cave” by Plato, highlight the importance of a two people whose roles in society are very alike. Baldwin, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, writes about the artist in that time’s (still holding true for today) society, being the outcast and gateway for others. Plato writes an allegory shining light upon the duty of the philosopher using the metaphor of people in cave chained to only know false realities until one is broken free and faces the duty of enlightening the others. In both essays, the authors both emphasize these two types of people, Plato’s philosopher and Baldwin’s Artist, as a gateway to “enlightenment” for the rest of society. Though Plato and Baldwin wrote these essays more than 2000 years apart, the main persons being examined share very important roles in the society of each author’s time. In “Allegory of the Cave” the philosopher is being portrayed by the one prisoner of the cave who is freed and finds that everything he has believed to hold true is in truth not reality at all but are copies, just mere shadows, of the real world. Once the prisoner understands and accepts this truth he knows he has to enlighten the other prisoners. Pause button. Fast forward two thousand years to Baldwin’s essay “The Creative Process” where he writes “A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.” This quote says that society is often deceived or misled by false realities or just chooses to not seek truth but the artist must accept this truth, bear witness to these truths, and spread theses truths by enlightening the society who sits in the shadows. Both alike in their duties the philosopher is compelled to find the truth and then returns to shed light on the false realities and likewise the author finds and knows truth in a society filled with deceitful stability only to illume those in that society and share the truth with others.
Another characteristic that ultimately unites the Platonic philosopher and the artist of Baldwin is the unmistakable willingness to do what they must to eventually guide others to truth. In both essays the artist and the philosopher are categorized as alone. Baldwin, in his essay, states “Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men,