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Plato's Allegory of the Cave - Dr. Nathan Schlueter

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

Video from Hillsdale College

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

In this Highlight from Hillsdale College’s FREE online course, “Introduction to Western Philosophy,” Dr. Nathan Schlueter describes Plato’s famous allegory of the cave and reveals how education can break us from the images that blind us from seeing reality.

The Allegory of the Cave From the Republic of Plato

The Allegory of the Cave is a story from Book VII in the Greek philosopher Plato's masterpiece "The Republic," written around B.C.E. 375. It is probably Plato's best-known story, and its placement in "The Republic" is significant. "The Republic" is the centerpiece of Plato's philosophy, centrally concerned with how people acquire knowledge about beauty, justice, and good. The Allegory of the Cave uses the metaphor of prisoners chained in the dark to explain the difficulties of reaching and sustaining a just and intellectual spirit.

A Dialogue

The allegory is set forth in a dialogue as a conversation between Socrates and his disciple Glaucon. Socrates tells Glaucon to imagine people living in a great underground cave, which is only open to the outside at the end of a steep and difficult ascent. Most of the people in the cave are prisoners chained facing the back wall of the cave so that they can neither move nor turn their heads. A great fire burns behind them, and all the prisoners can see are the shadows playing on the wall in front of them. They have been chained in that position all their lives.

There are others in the cave, carrying objects, but all the prisoners can see of them is their shadows. Some of the others speak, but there are echoes in the cave that make it difficult for the prisoners to understand which person is saying what.." from the article: The Allegory of the Cave From the Republic of Plato

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