Being all deep and stuff: The Famous Allegory of the Cave

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Friday, May 28, 2010

After discussing justice, Plato is now prompted to discuss what constitutes the good. However, Socrates realizes that he knows nothing of the good, so he only will discuss its offspring. This sets the framework for Socrates’ famous allegory of the cave. Everything that people perceive is the mere shadow of reality. The job of the philosopher first is to venture into the sunlight and grasp the true nature of reality. Afterwards, as difficult as it may be, the philosopher must return to the cave and lead people into the sunlight. Joseph Arthur’s objection about language seems like a viable one. Socrates likely did not intend the allegory of the cave to reflect the imperfection of human language. Although Socrates likely was aware of language and how it can never reflect reality with 100% exactness, the aim of the allegory of the cave has a broader scope. Socrates sought to demonstrate the necessity of doing philosophy and the illustrate the ramification doing philosophy has for humanity. Doing philosophy is essential for perceiving true reality and therefore for living a life in accord with virtue to achieve human happiness. Humans working in tandem to better themselves will have a net effect of making the republic better. Brian Douglas’ objection about how people would not first respond with utter bewilderment is insufficient. Socrates’ ideas were revolutionary for their time, and still hold sway in modern society. Therefore, if someone were to follow his ideas and reach this new state of realization through a totally new path that person would first react with utter bewilderment. The psychological response is only natural. The person then of course would learn and adapt. The bewilderment is in accord with the learning theory found in relation to the Form theory because since a person has never been fully in the light he/she likely has never fully grasped his/her learning ability that is inherently within. Therefore, the first glimpse of light, true reality, will inevitably be shocking.

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