Plato was born 427 B. C. and died 347 B. C. He was a pupil under Socrates. During his studies, Plato wrote the Dialogues, which are a collection of Socrates’ teachings. One of the parables included in the Dialogues is “The Allegory of the Cave”. “The Allegory… ” symbolizes man’s struggle to reach understanding and enlightenment. First of all, Plato believed that one can only learn through dialectic reasoning and open-mindedness.
Humans had to travel from the visible realm of image-making and objects of sense to the intelligible or invisible realm of reasoning and understanding. “The Allegory of the Cave” symbolizes this trek and how it would look to those still in a lower realm. Plato is saying that humans are all prisoners and that the tangible world is our cave. The things which we perceive as real are actually just shadows on a wall. Just as the escaped prisoner ascends into the light of the sun, we amass knowledge and ascend into the light of true reality: ideas in the mind.
Yet, if someone goes into the light of the sun and beholds true reality and then proceeds to tell the other captives of the truth, they laugh at and ridicule the enlightened one, for the only reality they have ever known is a fuzzy shadow on a wall. They could not possibly comprehend another dimension without beholdin! g it themselves, therefore, they label the enlightened man mad. For instance, the exact thing happened to Charles Darwin. In 1837, Darwin was traveling aboard the H. M. S.
Beagle in the Eastern Pacific and dropped anchor on the Galapagos Islands. Darwin found a wide array of animals. These differences in animals sparked Darwin on research, which lasted well up to his death, culminating in the publishing of The Origin of Species in 1858. He stated that had not just appeared out of thin air, but had evolved from other species through natural selection. This sparked a firestorm of criticism, for most people accepted the theory of the Creation. In this way Darwin and his scientific followers parallel the escaped prisoner.
They walked into the light and saw true reality. Yet when he told the imprisoned public what he saw, he was scoffed at and labeled mad, for all the prisoners know and perceive are just shadows on a wall which are just gross distortions of reality. Darwin walked the path to understanding just like the escaped prisoner in “The Allegory of the Cave. ” Plato’s parable greatly symbolizes man’s struggle to reach the light and the suffering of those left behind who are forced to sit in the dark and stare at shadows on a wall.