The allegory of the cave in Plato’s Republic is a metaphor meant to illustrate Plato’s views on knowledge but also strengthens his perception of the noble lie in society, an idea that is still very relevant today. It is designed to ask the fundamental question of: “What is the truth? ” This is a clear reference Plato’s ideology that rests upon the sworn duty that Guardians make towards the state and it is hence emphasized by this analogy.
The journey that one makes to be able to attain that superior state is full of hardships1(The Republic, 516, a) but it is meant to illustrate the route the Guardians take to attain the PhilosopherKing status. It is what leads a man to enlightenment but also establishes a supreme duty for whoever discovers that truth: educating the people that remained in the shadows, who still believe in the puppets.
The cave allegory is, before all else, a direct challenge to the human senses and clearly explains that what visible is but a shadow, a fabricated illusion for the masses that have not reached the end of the cave and haven’t the light shone upon them. The journey that “prisoners” of that cave take is in the ultimate goal to attain knowledge of the abstract world. By doing so, the few who left this place establish themselves above the slaves that are still living within the depths of the cave(521, a).
The interesting part of this allegory is that it shows that this cave has an entrance and hence shows the possibility there is a light out of the tunnel and be able to reach the enlightened state. Plato clearly explains the difference between the people that are left behind the cave and those who ventured out on their journey to discover the universal truth: “… the author of light and itself in the intelligible world being the authentic source of truth and reason” (517, c). All of this is especially relevant in Plato’s thinking.
He specifies in his Republic only a few will manage the reach the status of Philosopher-King and hence grasp the universal truth. It is up for the Guardian class to accomplish such a task through hardships and tough education throughout their lives to prepare them for this difficult task. It also justifies his vision that not all men are born with equal status and therefore the Noble lie. With this allegory, he is able to show the Noble Lie idea and firmly affirms that not all men can become “gold” and that only a few will manage to endure the hardships of the light and become the philosopher-king.
One who chooses such a path hence refuses to live his life in ignorance and by doing so, forgets the past: “Would he not find his eyes so dazzled by the glare as to be incapable of making out so much as one of the objects that are now called true” (516, a) It is the existentialist value that men have responsible for their own self community and in this particular example, moral obligation that the enlightened person has to educate the people that are still living under this veil of illusion (520, a).
However, by doing so, he also puts his life in danger as he is mistaken by his own people that he used to live with: “And if anyone endeavored to set them free and carry them to the light, would they not go so far as to put him to death, if they could only manage to get their hands on him? ” (517, a). It is about assuming the choice one makes in life and bear all of its consequences. It is the choice the man in the cave allegory makes but it ultimately leads to his downfall and so his death.
This is to further advance the numerous limitations of the people that still are under this spell of illusion, that are still captivated by the puppets shown to them. It shows that only a few of us are meant to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the rest of the population are “Bronze” and have to remain in this darkness This analogy is still very relevant in today’s society as this metaphor explores the manipulation of the common people nd hence their obedience to the puppet masters’ views. Although this idea of the Noble Lie has been altered over time, there is still a strong emphasis on hierarchy that determines your status in society. The American Dream was one of the most famous recent examples.
The media vehicles ideas to the mainstream public and they are the prime deciders of public opinion. By promoting an idea and spreading it around to the common people, the media have the power to drastically influence e the opinion in society as society relies on them to get their information sources. The American Dream idea was spread with the use of the television and the radio and promised a bright future for all newcomers to the United States of America. Its goal was to show a typical American way of life with all the daily luxuries and be able to hence convince the audience that daily life was such in the United States.
However, as history showed, this turned out to be just an illusion with many people that fell into poverty and although some managed to make a living in the country, the majority were the victims of this lie presented by the media. In a sense the media represent the puppet masters in the cave and hence are showing the carrot to the people. By showing pure illusion, they are selling dreams to the people who stand captivated by such a show.
If any was to stand out against such tools of manipulation and power, one would pass for a fool and would get criticized by the entire society. This is what happens when the enlightened individual comes back to the cave, he is set aside by his fellow people (517, a)The media today forms a mould that society needs to adhere to and it is hard to be able to express one’s own opinions if it goes against the media’s one and hence society’s view. The media today manipulates people’s way of thinking and is the prime reason for leading people in a particular direction towards a topic.
The noble lie idea put forth by Plato is also well in place in the world of today where the elite and the middle class are very far apart and there still remains a tight hierarchy. In a world where the rich are getting richer, it shows the very same distinction that Plato made between people that are Gold, Silver and Bronze. Even though the mobility between classes may appear less rigid today, social status can paralyze or greatly help oneself in the future. One’s intelligence or potential is still constrained by the social boundaries of society in this hierarchal pyramid.
Only a few can attain this universal truth, what was considered according to Plato the superior status which still holds true today in modern-day society. It makes us realize that perhaps the world that we live in may be a prison just like the cave was to the prisoners in Plato’s text. Are we being manipulated? Are we being led astray by puppets? All of these questions are still actual problems that we have regarding media and their influence on us as a society.
Plato’s ideas that were put forward in the Republic and most notably with his allegory of the cave are a perfect example on how Plato conceptualizes the enlightenment process leading to the noble lie. It is for him a way to express the duty the philosopher king has to its own people and recognizes that such a power makes him more vulnerable among the people that stayed inside the cave in the world of illusion. Not only is this relevant for Plato’s ideal but it is also a very concrete issue that we have in the world of today.
What we see is not necessarily what is really out there and this is why according to Plato, there has to be a superior being to lead the common people. However the very fact that such a being exists in society makes him a misunderstood individual by the population as he profoundly challenges all of the preconceived beliefs making it hard for this enlightened being to implant his views. It is for this very reason that the Philosopher-King guards the city and runs it as a collective and strays away from individual greed (521, a).