The Allegory of the Cave

As I’m reading through this philosophy book, 50 Philosophy Ideas You Should Really Know, I came across Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave.” It took me a while to fully understand the concept of what Plato was trying to say, but it soon made sense to me:

– The cave was the world, or at least the only world that you have known.
– The prisoners are people who let others tell them the “truth.”
– The shadows cast upon the walls are the “truths” being told to the prisoners.
– The sun is the “truth.”
– The journey out of the cave the prisoner is taken on shows him the sun, the truth

In a classroom, where teachers and professors will claim to have the knowledge to pass on to you, the information they have is their interpretation. Plato would say that these educators are simply describing the shadows on the wall, for you have not seen the real thing. What students, and frankly all people, need to do is go find out the truth for themselves. People have become intellectually lazy by allowing others to tell them the apparent truth about what is going on in the world, what has happened, and the consequences of those past actions.

For me, as a historian, having your own subjective viewpoint is essential to good writing and analysis of the past. Allowing someone else to give you an interpretation without coming up with one yourself is detrimental to your studying of a particular subject. As for my own life, this will hopefully allow me to make sure I’m learning everything for myself. It doesn’t mean I won’t take advice about things from others, it just means I will take it with a grain of salt. Double check my sources. And create my own Forms.


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