Allegory of the Cave
April 11, 2011
In The Republic, Plato presents what is referred to as “The Allegory of the Cave.” In Book VII of The Republic there is an extensive dialogue on the nature of justice. Socrates describes a cave where prisoners have been held, chained, and immobile since childhood. Their heads are fixed, and they are compelled to look at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is a large fire. Between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway where people walk along carrying things on their heads, including human and animal figures. The prisoners spend their whole lives watching shadows cast upon the wall in front of them. The shadows become their reality. Plato uses this scenario to show that the world revealed by our senses is not the real world but only a poor copy of it. True wisdom and hence a true understanding of the world may only be achieved through philosophical inquiry.
To further explore the wisdom of Plato’s Republic as well as other works on ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy, come and browse the collection of materials on these subjects at MCPL.
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