Allegory of Cave


One of the foremost texts in ancient western philosophy is Plato’s “The Republic”. Plato discusses his ideas about an ideal state in this book. The book is in the form of his dialogs with his friends or disciples.

In a chapter titles “Turning The Psyche”, Plato discusses a very small story called “Allegory of Cave“.  Here is an animated version of this story.

When plato narrates this story to his disciple, one of them replies firmly that he can’t relate to this story, Plato instantly replies that we are just like those prisoners.

A deeper contemplation would reveal that even after thousands of years the story is so relevant to the modern society. In fact now we have more pertinent examples of this story.

Arent we like those prisoners? Prisoners saw their shadows and we watch television and other media. Arent we living on truth that is not really experiences by us but created for us? Dont we mistake them for reality?

And it is not just about the television it is about almost anything. Consider the case of education. We simply dont have a choice. Government decides what will be taught to us and our choice of subjects. Government decides admission criteria which includes caste and religion. Then we mistake the government fed textbooks as the soul source of truth and we can’t imagine anything beyond it.

And like the freed prisoner when some intellectual returns with truth that we find inconvenient we simply denounce him. We call him a fool. In rare cases such people face more violent opposition.

I guess thats the nature of the world. What thrills me is that someone had figured this out couple of thousand years ago and had put it in such beautiful words.

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