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So the prisoner progressed past the realm of the firelight, and now into the realm of sunlight. The first thing he would find easiest to look at is the shadows, and then reflections of men and objects in the water, and then finally the prisoner is able to look at the sun itself which he realises is the source of the reflections. The prisoners do not want to be free because they are comfortable in their own ignorance, and they are hostile to people who want to give them more information. The people in the cave represent us as a society, and Plato is suggesting that we are the prisoners in the cave looking at only the shadows of things.

However, the cave also represents the state of humans; we all begin in the cave. Plato uses the cave to symbolise a physical world; a world in which things are not always what they seem to be, and there is a lot more to it than people think there is. This reality can only be accurately discerned through reason, not the physical senses. The process of progressing out of the cave is about getting educated and it is a difficult process; in fact it requires assistance and sometimes force.

Here Plato is implying that when getting an education there is a struggle involved. He is telling us about our struggle to see the truth, and to be critical thinkers. We want to resist; ignorance is bliss in many ways because knowing the truth can be a painful experience, so in some ways it is easier to be ignorant.


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The person who is leaving the cave is questioning his beliefs, whereas the people in the cave just accepted what they were shown, they did not think about or question it; in other words, they are passive observers. The allegory of the cave shows us the relation between education and truth. For Plato, the essential function of education is not to give us truths but to dispose us towards the truth.

But not all education need necessarily be about the truth.

Plato's Allegory Of The Cave Says You're A Prisoner of Your Senses

It can be seen as capacity building:. According to Plato, education is seeing things differently. Therefore, as our conception of truth changes, so will our education. He believed that we all have the capacity to learn but not everyone has the desire to learn; desire and resistance are important in education because you have to be willing to learn the truth although it will be hard to accept at times.

The people who were carrying the objects across the walkway, which projected shadows on the wall, represent the authority of today, such as the government, religious leaders, teachers, the media etc.

The person who forced the prisoner out of the cave and guided them could be interpreted as a teacher. Socrates compares a teacher to a midwife, for example, a midwife does not give birth for the person, however a midwife has seen a lot of people give birth and coached a lot of people through it, similarly, a teacher does not get an education for the student, but can guide students towards the truth:.

Shadows On A Wall

So, the teacher in the allegory of the cave guided the prisoner from the darkness and into the light light represents truth ; education involves seeing the truth. But imagine, Socrates says, that one prisoner is suddenly freed and allowed to turn his head.


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  4. Once he looked at the fire, the light might hurt his eyes, and he'd be disoriented at the fact that the shadows he had believed were real were just illusions cast by the fire. If he left the cave and walked into the sunshine, things would get even more confusing. The sun would be even brighter than the fire, and he might even see reflections of himself in a nearby body of water.

    What would he think of his companions back in the cave, Socrates asks? He'd probably pity them for living in such a tiny sliver of reality.

    Education and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

    If he came back to the cave and told them about it, they'd probably think he was crazy. In the allegory, the prisoner who leaves the cave is the philosopher, since philosophers can perceive reality in a completely different way than the everyday person. In another way, it also describes our limitations as human beings. We're the prisoners, and the cave is the human condition. We're beholden to what our senses can perceive, and we can never go beyond it.

    Plato's story might be centuries old, but it's just as poignant today. These people live a life with limitless possibilities and often change the course of history think Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Isaac Newton and so on. This is a powerful way to develop the skill of thinking for yourself and discovering your own unique solutions to any problem.

    But, the rewards are always worth it see my testimonial on experimenting with intermittent fasting.

    Change Your Habits:

    What beliefs and assumptions shadows currently shape your reality? How did you come to the conclusion that these assumptions were true? Are you willing to question and adjust these assumptions?


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