Prisoners of Plato’s Cave

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In his “allegory of the cave”, Plato writes about prisoners who have been chained in front of a fire. There are puppets behind them that cast a shadow on the wall in front of the prisoners, making them think that they are guards, and thus preventing the slaves from escaping. As the story goes on, we see that one of the prisoners frees himself and makes his way out of the cave where he is overwhelmed by the outside world. When the escaped prisoner returns to the cave to tell the others of what all he has seen, they kill him because they refuse to accept the world for what it actually is; they want to live the way they have been living since being chained up.

The people in the cave thought that the shadows are “real”, and they had built their whole existence around this assumed truth. They don’t even try to break free from their imprisonment just because they let these shadows shape their entire reality. When the prisoner finally broke free and went outside the cave, and saw the sun, he mistook it for God, as Plato writes, “He will then argue that this [the sun] is he, the guardian of…the visible world…the cause of all things” (Jacobus 318).

The power of understanding lies within the soul, and this is why humans must use their soul to understand, and not just rely on what their eyes can see, or what their ears can hear to discern the truth; as Plato says, “the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from the darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being.” (Jacobus 320).

When the prisoner returned to the cave, his comrades made fun of him, and called him crazy, because they had no idea what the outside world was actually like. They only knew the shadows, and these shadows kept them from breaking free for the longest time. They couldn’t think or understand beyond what they saw. What they felt was “real”, was actually very far from the “truth”. When the escaped prisoner tried to expand their vision, they ended up killing him because they refused to let go of their perception of the world as they saw it; they didn’t use their cognition to explore things they couldn’t see.

These prisoners of the cave depict majority of the people around us, today. They reside with societal norms of wealth, power, and fame, and spend their whole lives’ pursuing these things without thinking to explore what more there is to life.

The escaped prisoner represents that the small minority of people who do not conform to the norms of the society, and instead, question them. They step out of their comfort zones, and try to live their life differently; they don’t let the society pressure them into being someone they don’t want to be; they think outside the box, and aren’t afraid of the bashing they might receive when the general public does not agree with them.


Cite this paper

Prisoners of Plato’s Cave. (2020, Sep 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/prisoners-of-platos-cave/



How does Plato describe the life of the prisoners in the allegory of the cave?
Plato describes the life of the prisoners in the allegory of the cave as one where people are chained up and can only see shadows cast on a wall. The prisoners believe these shadows are reality and are unaware of the true world beyond the cave.
What do the prisoners in the cave believe is real?
The prisoners in the cave believe that what they see in front of them is real. They do not know that there is a world outside of the cave.
Who are the prisoners in Plato's allegory of the cave?
The prisoners in Plato's allegory of the cave are people who are ignorant of the truth. They are chained in a cave so that they can only see the shadows of the objects in front of them.
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