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Allegory of the Cave

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Allegory of the Cave

In the beginning of the Allegory of the Cave, Plato represents man's condition as being "chained in a cave," with only a fire behind him. He perceives the world by watching the shadows on the wall. He sits in darkness with the light of the fire and does not realize that the shadows he see's in the reflection of the fire's light are not real images. But this is his existence, he know anything else.

Plato next imagines in the Allegory of the Cave what would occur if the chained man was suddenly released and let out into the world. Plato describes how some people would immediately be frightened and want to return to the cave and the familiar dark existence. Others would look at the sun and finally see the world as it truly is.

They would know their previous existence was false, a shadow of truth, and they would come to understand that their lives had been one filled with false ideas Some would embrace the sun, and real life and have a far better understanding of truth. They would also want to return to the cave to free the others, and would be confused by people still in the cave who would not believe him about a different, new, world. Many would refuse to believe anything beyond their existence in the cave.

Truth must be experienced rather than told because language fails to convey belief, like the saying "Seeing is believing." This theme is a constant in Plato's work. People who are firmly committed to a religious view often echo this statement. Faith can't be given to other people, but must be experienced.

The Allegory of the Cave also represents an extended metaphor for the state of human existence, and for the transformation that occurs during philosophical enlightenment. When the light of the sun shines on the freed man, this is allegory for enlightenment and perception of the truth. The minor concerns of the world as he has viewed previously are now seen as false perceptions and he is eager to share enlightenment with others.

Thematic elements from the Allegory of

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