Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” presents a vision of humans as slaves chained in front of a fire observing the shadows of things on the cave wall in front of them. The shadows are the only “reality” the slaves know. Plato argues that there is a basic flaw in how we humans mistake our limited perceptions as reality, truth and goodness. The allegory reveals how that flaw affects our education, our spirituality and our politics.
The flaw that Plato speaks about is trusting as real, what one sees—believing absolutely that what one sees is true. In The Allegory of the Cave, the slaves in the caves know that the shadows, thrown on the wall by the fire behind them, are real. If they were to talk to the shadows echoes would make the shadows appear to talk back. To the slaves “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images….” (“AC” in Jacobus 316).
In the allegory, a slave is then brought out of the cave, in what Plato refers to as “the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world” (“AC” in Jacobus 319). Once out of the cave the slave discovers that what he thought was real is not. He learns to comprehend all of these new images as real and true. Since he has been in the dark, both literally and metaphorically, the light blinds him.
Representing knowledge, the light is too brilliant for him to see and comprhend. He must be re-educated. “First he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of the men and other objects… then the objects themselves…” (“AC” in Jacobus 317). He learns that the reflections are truer than shadows and the objects truer than reflections. He must deal with a new reality that does not exist within the cave.
Plato says that these people who are brought out of the cave must go back into the cave to educate the other slaves. But the only people who should be allowed back into the cave are the ones willing to go. The people must teach the others of the reality outside of the ca...