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Summary on Plato's Allegory of the Cave

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Summary on Plato's Allegory of the Cave

According to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave," the way we perceive things around us and the way we lead our lives, is actually not the truth. We lead ignorant, incomplete lives, following the paths, rules, and ethics, set by the previous generations, without questioning them. Plato brings up this dilemma of humans by portraying them as prisoners in a cave. These prisoners are sitting facing a wall, tied in chains, with a fire between them and the wall, which makes shadows on the wall. The prisoners mistakenly think that these shadows on the walls were the reality, because that was what the prisoners were told (450).

Generations come, generations go, and the prisoners live the same naive and ignorant life in the caves, until one of the prisoners starts questioning. This prisoner breaks the chains that bind him and in order to know the real truth, escapes the caves into the mysterious world. In the outside world, the philosopher faces many challenges, as he is not used to the sunlight, to the presence of nature and all its elements around him. A philosopher, in spite of these difficulties, starts exploring this new world to seek reality. He walks on a lonely, unfamiliar path to discover the truth, but does not give up his questioning spirit (451).

At one point, the philosopher thinks of going back to the caves to tell the other prisoners about the reality. To tell them that there is a beautiful world out there, waiting for them and that there is more to life than just the cave and its make-believe reality as showed by the shadows. When the philosopher, shares this newfound knowledge with the other captives of the cave, he deals with the others disbelief. The people think of him as an outsider who should be removed from the society, to preserve its belief systems. People are reluctant to any kind of change, which the philosopher tries to bring about with his knowledge of the actual truth, as they became accustomed to and dependent on what they are told and ethics, handed over to them by their ancestors (452-453).

Plato's charge against democracy is that it violates the proper order of society by creating an artificial equality. His fundamental criticism of democracy is an irrational form of the government. Every citizen is equally entitled to a say in political affairs, no matter how unsuited he is in terms of ability, character, or training. No matter how ignorant a person may be, they could find themselves playing a significant role in public affairs. The key to a successful political career lays in being able to speak persuasively, for that reason the art of oratory or public speaking became highly valued (455).

Plato describes his disgust in a system where value and merit were disregarded, and instead unconditional equality promoted. Both Plato and Socrates both felt that all people were born with knowledge but

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