The Cave: Reality And The Republic - American University - Essay

1897 words - 8 pages

Maddie McCarthy 
Govt 105- Dr. Utter 
March 8, 2019 
The Allegory of the Cave and Reality 
Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" presents a vision of humans as slaves chained in front of a 
fire observing the shadows of things on the cave wall in front of them. The shadows are the only 
"reality" the slaves know. Plato argues that there is a basic flaw in how we humans mistake our 
limited perceptions as reality, truth and goodness. The allegory reveals how that flaw affects our 
education, our spirituality, and our politics. When describing the allegory of the cave, Socrates 
asks what one would think if once they left the cave, they were told "what [they] saw before was 
nonsense, but now [they are] a little closer to reality" (515d2-4). In this essay, I will explore the 
cave and the idea of closer to the true nature of reality. 
The allegory metaphorically describes our situation as human beings in the world today. 
In his story, Plato utilizes several key elements to portray his metaphor of the human condition. 
Plato's image contains pertinent ideas about society that are relevant to everyday life. Through 
this reading, I have begun to discover the ideal form, the use of reason over perception to 
approach, view, and judge all things. Prisoners, watching life unfold on the cave wall in front of 
them, accepting what they see as truth, as reality, are literal people. Every average person in this 
world is a prisoner, chained down.  
Because of how we live, true reality is not obvious to most of us. However, we mistake 
what we see and hear for reality and truth. This is a difficult and painful struggle. When 
individuals step into the sunshine, their eyes slowly acclimate to the light and their fundamental 
view of the world, of reality, is transformed. They come to see a deeper, more genuine, authentic 
reality: a reality marked by reason. He defines the ultimate truth as “Aletheia,” which translates 
to mean “unhidden” or “that which does not remain unnoticed.” Through his use of the term and 
his allegory of the cave, Plato makes the strong implication that philosophers must actively seek 
to discover the absolute truth, rather than relying on traditional methods of contemplation and the 
persuasive tone of rhetoric to prove its existence. The individual then makes the painful 
readjustment back into the darkness of the cave to free the prisoners. However, because he now 
seems mad- describing a new strange reality- they reject him to the point of threatening to kill 
him. Plato's Allegory of the Cave is a direct representation of the human condition, the 
circumstances we as humans presently encounter, circumstances such as conceptual frameworks, 
or basic beliefs, and our typical behaviors in society.  
To break free in this world, one must look at objects, individuals, cities and societies, 
even the universe as a whole, with reason. In order to grasp concepts, one can not simply rely on 
perceptions and senses. People carrying figures...

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