Allegory Of The Cave Plato Term Paper


Plato's Cave Allegory Plato's writing in the cave allegory deals extensively with moral values, materialism, ethical behavior and spirituality. The plot and basic concepts (discussed below) lend an incredible helping hand to understanding our place in this world given these frameworks.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave (Republic, book 7) recounts slaves chained from their very birth to their work areas deep in a cave. They are chained in a manner that precludes them from gazing left or right but only at that which is on the wall of the cave immediately in front of them. On this wall in front of them are the visible shadows of the people traipsing behind them, carrying food, water, or raw materials of all kinds. Beyond these individuals burns a constant fire that gives both heat and light to the desperate and chained inhabitants. These chained slaves create a game to ameliorate their boredom. Among other things, they attempt to divine what the following shadow indicates. They praise those who guess correctly the most often, but the praise has no extrinsic value, or calculable value. The games persist, for these slaves have nothing of true worth to replace them with. The trivial must be praised. Deep inside the cave, their dwelling, there is simply no day or night. There is just the wall with the prancing shadows in the fire-illuminated cave.

However, it so happens that one of the task-givers decides, for some inexplicable reason, to set free one of the slaves. That fortunate prisoner leaps from his chains and, protecting his eyes from the bright fire, heads toward the cave entrance. He stops there, because the sunlight outside is far too bright for eyes accustomed to a dim light. The ex-slave pauses -- for what, he does not himself know. Eventually, nightfall comes, and he is able to make his way out into the moonlit night. Even that light waxes too bright, so he makes his way along,...


The ex-slave arrives a pool of water and, in its reflection, he sees a tree for the very first time. He continues to gaze into this pool, where he sees bushes, more trees, and clouds. The world is coming alive for him, if only in reflection.
As his eyes become used to the light and as the sun rises again, casting its glow on all he can see, amazing miracles occur. Brightly colored birds come into view. Flowers, in their myriad vivid colors, raise their petals in joyous salute. The ex-slave is suddenly in a world of wonder and magnificence. If only all of his fellow slaves were free to witness it. Only then does he realize the extent of what he has lost in the cave. Only then does he realize the triviality of the games they were playing and the shadows.

He quickly decides that he must return to the cave to tell his fellow slaves about the wonders outside. If the slaves cannot experience these sights, at least they will know of them. The ex-slave believes that that little knowledge for them will be better than a life knowing only shadows. When this ex-slave, now filled to the brim with the marvelous sights of creation, returns and spreads the news, no one will even believe him -- they all think he is certifiably crazy. In a world of only shadows, light and brightness are beyond belief.

Plato explains that we live in the shadows of reality. Reality is latent and not visible and must be found by a balance of intellect and loving intuition. For Plato, challenge is to know ourselves and to know what we encounter in life. If we really understand this, then awe, gratitude, and reverence become part of our daily lives. We are, in every sense, brothers and sisters who should jointly be living that reality. It is a reality fostered by a consciousness expanded by devotion, humility, gratitude, and love. It is also a consciousness fostered by…

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