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Platos Republic: Allegory of the Cave

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Platos Republic: Allegory of the Cave

        Plato’s allegory is basically describing a scene where there are several people chained in a cave. They don’t have any other light to look at besides a fire that burns behind them. The only view that the prisoners have is a plain wall straight in front of them. The captors of these prisoners use that fire to create figments using the shadows on the wall and puppets for the prisoners to see. Since the prisoners don’t know any better, they believe that the shadows portrayed on the wall are reality.         

        Then, one of the prisoners that has grown accustomed to his surroundings is set free from his bondage and begins to explore the ins and outs of the cave. Naturally, everything he sees is very confusing to him, as he has only been exposed to shadows on the wall the entire time. Eventually, his eyes adjust to the light and he can’t believe all that he sees. The shadows, which to him and the others were all they knew, are merely due to a fire and a couple people acting out and posing to give the appearance of real figures on the wall. So, seeing this for himself, he realizes that him and the other have been fooled the entire time and he begins to believe that what he is seeing now is the true thing, finally reality. He ends up finding so much more outside the cave: trees, flowers, etc. The once former prisoner decides that he must go back to the others and inform them of what they’ve been wrong about all along.

        Naturally, since all they are accustomed to is that cave and the figments on the wall, they believe that the prisoner is crazy. They don’t want to hear anything about it because they’re choosing to believe their own eyes, not having had experienced anything else. Basically, the people in the cave are us regular humans who just choose to believe one thing, and the one prisoner going out to explore would be considered a philosopher, branching out beyond his comfort zone and familiarity.

        The Allegory of the Cave can be related to education because those who don’t want to learn simply won’t. You need to want to learn new things and grow in life and some people prefer not to, and that is being ignorant. Social justice can be related as well. Social justice is defined as a “distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges,” so those who are left in the cave don’t get the chance to really see the real world, and become very close minded to everything. In relation to ethics, I guess it could have to do with the fact that since the prisoners were locked up there against their will, it was wrong of the captors to do that. They’re the reason that those people only believe one thing and never learned the truth outside the cave.



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