Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
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02-06-2015, 01:01 PM
Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
My tutor was ill the first half of our semester at uni so she's given us the first question for one of our exams so we can catch up. The question is on Plato's Allegory of the Cave discussion within Republic.

It'd be nice for some help, the question goes as follows:

In Plato's Republic the philosopher is able to ascend out of the half-light of the underground cave into the light of the sun. What does this metaphorical ascent in the story of the cave represent and how for Plato is it achieved in actual human life?


The ascension of the freed prisoner results in him entering sunlight and no longer seeing things as illusions. It is then his duty as a "guardian" (the one who runs the Utopia) to descend back into the dark and enlighten the prisoners. The issue is that the freed man's eyes have adjusted to the light; he no longer sees shadows as the chained men do. For this they laugh at him, call him mad and see him as stupider than before.

I just can't articulate the relationship any further than this Sad

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02-06-2015, 01:17 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
What does this metaphorical ascent in the story of the cave represent

It represents the enlightenment that follows a man's journey through philosophy and the realization and dismissal of the illusion. Philosophers are wiser because they are brave enough to take the step out of the cave and see things as they really are. They gain knowledge, they are "higher" than the prisoners in the cave, because they have acquired wisdom and enlightenment.

and how for Plato is it achieved in actual human life?

Simply by engaging in philosophy and trying to realize the illusions in one's life by pursuing the truth. It is an enlightened man's duty though to also pass on the light and the knowledge to others, otherwise philosophy is useless.

I'm sure I can elaborate more on this if I get a bit more time later. I did this in school like 8957493 times.

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02-06-2015, 01:47 PM (This post was last modified: 02-06-2015 02:13 PM by SunnyD1.)
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
(02-06-2015 01:17 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  What does this metaphorical ascent in the story of the cave represent

It represents the enlightenment that follows a man's journey through philosophy and the realization and dismissal of the illusion. Philosophers are wiser because they are brave enough to take the step out of the cave and see things as they really are. They gain knowledge, they are "higher" than the prisoners in the cave, because they have acquired wisdom and enlightenment.

and how for Plato is it achieved in actual human life?

Simply by engaging in philosophy and trying to realize the illusions in one's life by pursuing the truth. It is an enlightened man's duty though to also pass on the light and the knowledge to others, otherwise philosophy is useless.

I'm sure I can elaborate more on this if I get a bit more time later. I did this in school like 8957493 times.

I think I'd be able to put it as simply as that but my issue is that I have 40 minutes to answer the question. Simply put, the way it is achieved is through the dialectic method alone.

I really don't like this allegory. Bertrand Russell destroys it in a brief paragraph:

In the first place, Plato has no understanding o philosophical syntax. I can say 'Socrates is human', 'Plato is human', and so on. In all these statements, it may be assumed that the word 'human' has exactly the same meaning. But whatever it means, it means something which is not of the same thing as Socrates, Plato, and the rest of the individuals who compose the human race. 'Human' is an adjective; it would be nonsense to say 'human is human'. Plato makes a mistake analogous to saying 'human is human'. He thinks that beauty if beautiful; he thinks that the universal 'man' is the name of a pattern man created by God, of whom actual men are imperfect and somewhat unreal copies. He fails altogether to realize how great is the gap between universals and particulars, ethically and aesthetically superior to the ordinary kind. He himself, as a latter date, began to see this difficulty, as appears in the Parmenides, which contains one of the most remarkable cases in history of self-criticism by a philosopher."

It's a little less relevant to the allegory of the cave and more so in the case of the Republic as a whole.

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02-06-2015, 01:53 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
Didn't he also use it in the context of his perfect society?

The thee classes where the farmers and labourers are the lowest class then there is guardians as middle class and at the top is regents and philosophers. One would go through a learning process to progress up the class system. Which is akin to the journey through the cave?

I haven't really studied philosophy so it's blurry to me and I might have misunderstood something.
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02-06-2015, 02:08 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
(02-06-2015 01:53 PM)Nishi Karano Kaze Wrote:  Didn't he also use it in the context of his perfect society?

The thee classes where the farmers and labourers are the lowest class then there is guardians as middle class and at the top is regents and philosophers. One would go through a learning process to progress up the class system. Which is akin to the journey through the cave?

I haven't really studied philosophy so it's blurry to me and I might have misunderstood something.

I'm not sure about that, because in his Utopia he admitted that there will be 3 classes, I think they were producers (labourers and farmers basically), auxiliaries (warriors), and guardians. The guardians are the ones who break the chains of the cave, he says only they are worthy of ruling the Republic, although they are a rare breed. Classes did not change and stayed the same. It's vital that we don't let our modern day perception of classes get involved in what Plato means by class. His classes are distinct from economics, as in his utopia the economic system is more communist than anything else, equal distribution among all. Class is defined by skill set.

He proposes that to keep a steady population in all classes, when guardian classes are full there should be a sort of educational oppression for the time being, so that nobody else has the skill set to become a guardian.

That's what I get from Republic anyway, I've only been doing ancient greek philosophy a few months and haven't really focused on Republic.

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02-06-2015, 02:57 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
(02-06-2015 01:47 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  I think I'd be able to put it as simply as that but my issue is that I have 40 minutes to answer the question. Simply put, the way it is achieved is through the dialectic method alone.

Hm, I thought you needed help in how to put it in general.
So, you mean you understand it but you find it hard to elaborate on it?

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02-06-2015, 03:25 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
(02-06-2015 02:57 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  
(02-06-2015 01:47 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  I think I'd be able to put it as simply as that but my issue is that I have 40 minutes to answer the question. Simply put, the way it is achieved is through the dialectic method alone.

Hm, I thought you needed help in how to put it in general.
So, you mean you understand it but you find it hard to elaborate on it?

Yep that's it.

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02-06-2015, 05:20 PM (This post was last modified: 02-06-2015 09:29 PM by undergroundp.)
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
(02-06-2015 03:25 PM)SunnyD1 Wrote:  
(02-06-2015 02:57 PM)undergroundp Wrote:  Hm, I thought you needed help in how to put it in general.
So, you mean you understand it but you find it hard to elaborate on it?

Yep that's it.

Well, I can't write a 40 minute speech for you (Tongue) but I think this outline might help:

You can start by saying that the ascent represents the path to knowledge and wisdom.

-Philosophers are the ones who, according to Plato, are brave enough to face the truth.
-It is an ascent, rather than a descent, because it is symbolic of an ascension of the mind, the higher place on which the philosopher stands with his acquired knowledge, but also of Plato's "world of forms", the unchanging, eternal, real world.
-The path is hard to follow, because it's painful for one to accept that they've been living an illusion and seek the truth. The philosopher himself would be hesitant at first and this sudden realization that there's more to the world than he thought would shock him.
-The prisoners (the simple people) are ignorant of the reality outside of the cave because they have not pondered questions about life and the world like philosophers do. They have no been educated in order to do so.
-The more his eyes are adjusted, the more he learns. The more he ponders philosophical questions, the easier it is for him to accept the truth and the more open-minded he becomes.
-The real world that the philosopher experiences matches the world of forms, the origin of all ideas, shapes and souls (all that is immaterial) according to Plato.
-He has to go back to the "fake", material world, because he feels it is his duty to let other people know about this true world, just as philosophers feel that their knowledge mainly serves the rest of the world more than themselves.
-The philosopher will often say things that sound crazy or surreal to simple people, thus is the blindness explained. People won't pursue philosophy, because they see its effects as harmful. That is, of course, only because they cannot understand without seeing the light (pursuing philosophy) themselves.
-No matter how hard or painful, philosophers must seek truth at all costs and try to educate others so they can see the light themselves. Most people won't turn around to look at the light themselves, so someone has to guide them.


The bold parts are relevant to the "how it is achieved" part. Add some education in there, philosophy, and of course the dialectic method.

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02-06-2015, 09:25 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
Ain't the internet a wonderful thing?

When one needs help with a Greek Philosophy assignment, one can ask an actual Greek philosopher.

Good job, UP.

Thumbsup

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02-06-2015, 09:39 PM
RE: Understanding the Allegory of the Cave.
(02-06-2015 09:25 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Ain't the internet a wonderful thing?

When one needs help with a Greek Philosophy assignment, one can ask an actual Greek philosopher.

Good job, UP.

Thumbsup

Me a philosopher? You're too nice Blush
Thank you!

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