Updated October 13, 2020

Plato’s Cave and Cognition

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Plato’s Cave and Cognition essay
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In the Allegory of the Cave, written by Plato, he describes the experience of gaining knowledge as overwhelming, forceful, unwanted, and impossible for some. He describes the experience for the prisoner being dragged out as being painful and irritating. “And when he came into the light, with the sun filling his eyes, wouldn’t be able to see a single one of the things now said to be true” (Plato, 166). Plato describes the process of acquiring knowledge as the prisoner’s evolution from the darkness of the cave to the light of the sun.

Plato begins his writing with three prisoners tied up in a cave, only being able to see shadows that are cast onto the wall in front of them. In Plato’s theory, the cave represents the opinion of man and its deceitfulness. The shadows represent what they believe to be the truth but is merely a shadow of the truth. They believe that everything they see on the wall to be the truth. One of the three prisoners is released and is dragged out of the cave. This released or escaped prisoner represents the person seeking knowledge which is right outside of the cave and outside of the senses.

The pain that he experiences getting dragged out of the cave represents the type of pain felt when realizing that everything you believed in was a lie. “Finally, he’d be able to see the sun, not images of it in water or some alien place, but the sun itself, in its own place, and be able to study it” (Plato 166). The Sun represents the philosophical truth, knowledge, and the reality that we must overcome what we think to be true in order to gain what is true. He goes back down into the cave to set free his prisoner companions, but they refuse and even threaten to kill him. His return represents the fear that others have of learning the truth. Men are ignorant and don’t wish to explore the unknown and change what they believe to be true.

This is only one interpretation of the moral of the Allegory of the Cave, but one that I believe to be true. The process of seeking knowledge is difficult but we must do it in order to acquire this knowledge, we need to escape from the darkness and discover the true nature of reality.

Plato’s Cave and Cognition essay

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