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Essay On The Allegory Of The Cave

“The Republic”, Plato’s longest work, has many views about philosophy and characters within and there is one character that truly stands out and entices you to read on until the very end; that was Socrates. Socrates was a mentor and a friend of Plato’s and in Plato’s eyes, he was a great and wise Philosopher that was a martyr for philosophy. Within “The Republic”, Plato has written a symbolic account about one of Socrates’ teachings of education or the enlightenment of the mind and soul; “The Allegory of the Cave”.

In this, Socrates describes how education is important so that the mind and soul are enlightened and not forever dwelling within the shadows. As Socrates begins the allegory, there is a cave with an opening but no natural lighting reaching far enough into the cave. And within that cave, there are people or slaves–that some would call–that are chained by their necks and legs that forces them to sit and not be able to turn their heads and stare at the walls; they have been this way ever since they were children.

Socrates has described that the cave is the physical world–the “world of being”–that we live in and that we are the prisoners of the “world of being”. We surround ourselves in the physical world and bounding ourselves with physical things, like love, wealth and power, that society portrays for us to know that you are “knowledgeable” if we get attached to these things. As their eyes are glued on the wall in front of them, behind them there is a raised wall with a fire behind the wall that has people holding objects in front of the fire so that it casts shadows onto the wall where the slaves are; they would even make sounds to the image.

The slaves sees the shadows of the objects and name each shadow that passes by. Socrates has never explained who these people are or the fire that they used within the allegory, but they decide what to show to the slaves staring at the wall and this could mean society, our parents or our government. As we go about the physical world, we indulge ourselves within the shadows or illusions painted by our “opinion-makers”–our society, our parents or our government–of the world saying that we know what that is, but, in reality, we see nothing but lies among us.

We are too often in the shadows of illusions that society portrays as the truth. One day, they liberated a slave. Having the chains from his neck and legs, he stood still staring at the wall, staying in a position that only he knows. Those that liberated the slave forced the slave to turn around and witness the images that were being fed to him since childhood. The light that illuminated from the fire stung the slave’s eyes; thus, making the slave wanting to return to the ways he knew before.

This scene can be related to getting out of high school and getting ready to go into college and think that you already know what to expect in college by having the mentality of that high school and college are the same, it’s just that you’re away from your parents and you’re living on your own. This is where the slave gets a dose of reality and reality can be cruel. Yet again, the guards forced the liberated slave up through the opening of the cave to stand in the world above. The slave was wanting to go back whence he came, but his sight became adjusted to the upper world.

He began to learn from the reflections off of the water and the objects themselves, the heavenly dark sky of the night illuminating from the moon and stars and lastly, the sun in all of it’s glory. Socrates shows the progress of how the slave wanted to retreat back into the shadows of ignorance, but the “opinion-makers” force him to know what’s outside of the cave and discover on his own what’s like to actually have the sun on his skin and the real sounds of animals and objects all around. Having the sun represent the truth demonstrates the “dark to light” concept of ignorance to enlightenment.

Now it seems that society or our parents are forcing us to get an education. This is the teenage dream, graduating high school, going to college and becoming an adult to have no one bossing you around. But, that thought is crushed to the point where you are wishing to be back in high school and enjoying the security that your parents had to offer you. There is hope because of the knowledge you gain from college courses and adult experiences. This is the beginning where you discover the truth that you have learned. This is your sun and your own intellectual world.

Gaining so much knowledge, the slave became overjoyed and wanting to share it with others. The liberated slave came back down to the darkened cave of his former home and fellow brethren to tell them the wonders of what he learned in the world above. His fellow slaves laughed at him and thought that this liberated slave was mad. Frustrated at the ignorance his brethren were living in, he was challenged to the “Naming” game. Through him playing the game, the liberated slave was humiliated in defeat by being mocked and scorned.

Seeing the ideas coming forth from the liberated slave, they begin to think that this kind of thinking was ridiculous and dangerous. The liberated slave was caught and killed to maintain the peace within the cave. Socrates wanted show that there were two different types of views on how true knowledge is viewed and it’s either viewed by the “bodily eye” or the “mind’s eye”. The “bodily eye” is accustomed to the shadows of ignorance that was set up by society and the “mind’s eye” is where the soul–this is where Socrates describes where the mind is–gains the truth and grows within the light.

It’s sad how there’s only one that truly understands that these are just illusions and by trying to help his fellow man to raise up out of ignorance and stand in the light of truth gets killed because it didn’t fit with what society has stated. Even though it was a tragic ending to the liberated slave, Socrates’ “Allegory of the Cave” was an eye opener of what the mindset for education should be. The symbolic representation of the cave, the slaves, the sun and so forth were quite difficult to understand at first, but after dissecting it and placing the pieces of the puzzle in the right places, the whole picture came together.

Socrates explains that everyone shouldn’t live in ignorance of the world that settles for mediocre; he wants us to desire the light–the truth–that the world can offer if we look for our silver lining. Education plays a huge role in my life because I desired to achieve the sun’s truth and I love to learn. We have to go to a higher degree and, at times, we are forced to do it by peers and teachers that supports you to keep going. You will be deceived by the shadows and the illusions of the world at times, but we need to keep going to find the light of truth and happiness in bliss wisdom.

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