One of my students wrote this thoughtful essay about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave that I would like to share with you. Can you see what is his Thesis? Learn how to write a thesis and increase your vocabulary to 55,000 words in High School. Be assured of success in college. — Ms Tara
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave by CF
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is written in his work, The Republic. Plato was a philosopher and mathematician who lived in Athens, Greece. He wrote The Republic in 380 B.C. following the death of his mentor, Socrates, who was forced to take hemlock (commit suicide by poison) for teaching students information that was not approved by the Greek government.
The Allegory details a cave where prisoners are bound and forced to stare at a wall. Sometimes things will pass by the entrance to the cave, and so shadows reflect on the wall. The prisoners classify and name the shadows. But, they believe that if their chains are broken loose, they will suffer blinding light.
When a prisoner is forced out of the cave and told that the objects are real and the shadows are mere reflections, he refuses to believe it. He runs back to the cave and looks at the shadows in the darkness, where he is more comfortable. But, if pushed to stay outside, he eventually becomes used to the light. Once the prisoner is comfortable in the light, having learned the truth that the shadows aren’t real, he wants to run back to the cave to tell his fellow prisoners.
However, when he returns, the prisoners, instead of realizing they are free and can enjoy the light, they see that their friend can no longer view the shadows in the darkness. They insist the journey blinded him, and violently resist the ascent up and out of the cave, fearing they too, will be blinded.
Many people believe that the allegory is pointing out the effects of ignorance and a lack of education. It also seems to me that the allegory shows us how much more comfortable ignorance is than truth. The prisoners would rather live in the dark than face the fear of blinding themselves by leaving their cave. You can get many meanings from the allegory, but I believe education and ignorance lie at the heart of the allegory. Plato is telling us not to be afraid of the light and to travel up out of the cave, to learn more and prevail despite your urge to stop.
More than anything, I believe the allegory tells us not to ignore and resist people trying to free us of ignorance, but to rather embrace them. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, the man who takes the cave dwellers out of the cave can be seen as a hero or a villain. To the people in the cave who view shadows as reality, the outside world may be scary and unfamiliar. They may believe anyone taking them outside must have bad intentions and his actions are a threat. However, the man is simply trying to educate or enlighten the cave dwellers. Even though the man’s intentions are good, the cave dwellers may respond violently or run.
The Republic was written in the shadow of Socrates’ death. He wanted to educate and reprimand the Greek government for killing his friend and colleague, Socrates. Plato believed that the Greek democracy was flawed. He believed that philosopher kings would rule better than the Greek democracy: kings who ruled based on philosophy and ethics; kings who engineered society; monarchs who could bring their subjects out of the cave and into the sun. This idea was not abandoned. Many people believe that dictators like Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler were both ‘philosopher kings’. They both engineered their society to their philosophy and ideals, which led to Communism and Fascism and ended in countless deaths and endless horror.
I believe that because the cave dwellers are so ignorant and so sheltered that even something mildly unfamiliar may be a big threat. The Greek government, the cave dwellers, viewed Socrates as the villain, and when he showed them the sun they executed him for disrupting the peace. I believe the man, or Socrates, is not the villain. He’s thought of by the ignorant or uneducated as dangerous, but he was trying to help them to a greater understanding even though the truth is not always the most comfortable realization and takes courage to see.