• theUnexaminedMind
    15
    Hey guys and gals,

    I recently picked up a copy of The Republic and have been thinking a lot on the Allegory of the Cave. Each time I think about it and/or look stuff up I find another tidbit of interpretation. I think I've almost internalized the allegorical interpretations of each part of the story and characters however I'd like to know a few tidbits of wisdom you guys have gleaned out of the story.

    Thanks,
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    My sympathy was always with those poor abused folk who preferred to remain in the secure shelter of a cave with a nice fire and a daily puppet show. Why would you want to leave?
  • Apollodorus
    2.5k
    Why would you want to leave?Tom Storm

    Good point. I suppose people can be afraid of the unknown. So, they need years of philosophy to take away that fear before they take the big step (or plunge) into another dimension of experience and existence.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    One thing that is often overlooked is that Plato is an image maker. The ascent from the cave to the light of truth is itself an image on the cave wall.
  • baker
    2.5k
    however I'd like to know a few tidbits of wisdom you guys have gleaned out of the story.theUnexaminedMind
    It always struck me as patronizing.


    Also:

    500px-Cave-of-religions.jpg
    https://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php/Closer_to_truth


    So many people love to assume that they are out in the light, while others are still in the cave and yet have to come out, to finally see tha truth.
  • Apollodorus
    2.5k


    Well, I think everyone has their own perception of what constitutes “truth” and some may not even believe that such a thing exists. And it is in the human nature for people to dismiss or mock what differs from their own views.

    But I think that Plato leaves it to the reader to interpret the cave allegory. What seems to be clear is that the cave stands for the physical world, and the world outside for the world of metaphysical realities such as the Forms that are illumined by the light of the Universal Intelligence or Mind of God. In other words, the allegory contrasts the world of multiplicity in which the individual souls live with the higher world of unity where everything is one reality existing within consciousness.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    The cave is said to be "an image of our nature in its education and want of education". (514a) That education is the work of 'image makers' who shape our opinions and beliefs. For the most part they are the poets with their stories of the gods, and the statesmen who order our public life.

    Plato too is an image maker. In addition to the image of the cave he provides an image of transcendent truth. One cannot escape the cave by seeing another image. To imagine that you have escaped the cave by reading about what is outside the cave is to do exactly what those chained to the wall do, take images as something more than an image.

    What is often overlooked is the importance of the image of the fire which provides light in the cave. The decisive moment is not escape from the cave but in seeing the cave for what it is. It is by this light that one who breaks the shackles comes to know the source of our education, that is, the manufacturer of our beliefs and opinions.
  • theUnexaminedMind
    15
    So many people love to assume that they are out in the light, while others are still in the cave and yet have to come out, to finally see tha truth.baker

    This is great!

    The allegory is good for education or enlightenment or however else you'd like to interpret it. But I think, it's also true that what we ascribe meaning to is the real 'journey' out of the cave.

    Like you said, if someone thinks highly of themselves because they have more knowledge in a field, they could become too proud and look "down" on others as being in the cave. But, if on the other hand, the person being looked down on, is happy with their life, if they love their own chosen path, they they have already journeyed out of their own personal cave in a sense, right?
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    One cannot escape the cave by seeing another image. To imagine that you have escaped the cave by reading about what is outside the cave is to do exactly what those chained to the wall do, take images as something more than an image.Fooloso4

    So, you surmise that the lesson is that nobody makes 'the rough and steep ascent' and 'sees the light' (516b)?
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    Follow this to the pdf. Worth the read.tim wood

    Might interest you to know that the author is the propietor of dhammawheel.com and dharmawheel.net, two Buddhist forums I have frequented in the past. He's a good guy but I really don't think much of that essay.
  • Manuel
    1.4k
    There are many ways to interpret this passage, hence the reason why it is known outside of philosophical circles, which is a testament to Plato's writing powers and the amazing idea(s) he was trying to evoke.

    At the moment my interpretation is somewhat rationalistic, very idiosyncratic and will likely change as I've thought about it differently as time passes. Shadows represent ignorance, misleading knowledge. Those outside the cave have the capacity to interpret data accurately and is associated with correct knowledge and insight. Of course, those who are complacent with illusions won't understand what those outside the cave are trying to say.

    The capacity for proper knowledge is accesible to all, but if no one puts in the effort to find out what's really going on, they'll remain ignorant. This requires struggle, breaking free from chains and forcing oneself to know. For me the main point is that anyone could escape the cave and thus be able to see the world. The capacity for true knowledge is innate for everyone, otherwise no one outside the cave could make sense of anything.

    But if you don't leave the cave, you won't recognize the shadows for what they are - you don't have a reference to compare anything with anything else.
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    This requires struggle, breaking free from chains and forcing oneself to know. For me the main point is that anyone could escape the cave and thus be able to see the world. The capacity for true knowledge is innate for everyone, otherwise no one outside the cave could make sense of anything.Manuel

    How would you do that, though? In today's world? Studying science or some other profession? What would you be struggling against, or struggling towards?

    I think that there is a 'doctrine of illumination' in Plato's writings.The ascent into the light is as much about intellectual - and spiritual! - transformation, as about knowledge as currently conceived.

    you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upward to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed — whether rightly or wrongly, God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellect; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

    Plato. THE COMPLETE WORKS (Complete Works of Plato) . The Complete Works Collection. Kindle Edition.

    The problem is, our materialistic culture knows nothing of the 'ascent of the soul' or 'the realm of pure ideas' and so trying to understand it in today's terms is like a two-dimensional rendition of a three-dimensional image. There's nothing corresponding to a vertical axis along with the soul can be said to ascend in our culture.
  • Tom Storm
    2k


    The Cave: Daniel Dennett and his physicalist puppets (also not a bad name for a band)
    The Sunlight: Topos hyperuranios

    :razz:
  • baker
    2.5k
    Follow this to the pdf. Worth the read.tim wood

    Oh? What makes you think I haven't read it?
  • Banno
    14.3k
    What can you buy at Plato's take-away?
  • theUnexaminedMind
    15
    What can you buy at Plato's take-away?Banno

    Wisdom nuggets
  • Apollodorus
    2.5k
    Wisdom nuggetstheUnexaminedMind

    :up:
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    So, you surmise that the lesson is that nobody makes 'the rough and steep ascent' and 'sees the light' (516b)?Wayfarer

    Yes. We exist in the realm of opinion, not in the light of the Good itself.

    It should be noted that there are things that the prisoners have knowledge of, sequences of shadows, particular shadows and sounds that accompany them, and so on. What they do not know is that they are shadows of puppets, images of images.

    The philosopher who escapes the cave is unlike actual lovers of wisdom. They do not desire and pursue wisdom they possess divine wisdom.
  • Manuel
    1.4k


    Just being interested in the world, as opposed to only caring about celebrity, gossip and so on. We have wonderful technology and all the knowledge we could possibly want on the internet. People prefer to watch cat videos or pranks.
  • Apollodorus
    2.5k
    There's nothing corresponding to a vertical axis along with the soul can be said to ascend in our culture.Wayfarer

    If Plato is correct, then the axis is always there even though we may not be aware of it.

    Likewise, the ascent may be taking place without our conscious knowledge of it until we reach the higher stages.

    I tend to believe that Platonic philosophy represents one system of thought that facilitates the ascent, but there may be others and, again, some people may have an innate ability and sense of direction that takes them to the goal "unaided", as it were.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    The problem is, our materialistic culture knows nothing of the 'ascent of the soul' or 'the realm of pure ideas' ...Wayfarer

    How much do you think Plato knew? As you quote:

    ... according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed — whether rightly or wrongly, God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that

    Some say that Socrates did not know but Plato did. But why then would Plato have Socrates tell this story? Why not a stranger as in some other dialogues? And why not have the stranger say that these are things he or she knows rather than Socrates for whom it is an opinion?
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    How much do you think Plato knew?Fooloso4

    I take it that he says ‘whether I’m right or wrong only God knows’ not as a confession but as a goad. He wants others to make the ‘rough and steep’ ascent and to ‘open their eyes’ to the light. If he said ‘take my word for it’, or 'this is how it is', then he's encouraging belief, doxai. 'Find out for yourself'. That is why my take on all of those many expressions in the dialogues is different to yours - there is the 'hidden meaning'. Philosophy as a call to action, not a recipe or formula.

    He says in another passage - I'm quoting the Jowett translation, it doesn't have the reference numbers:

    Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the den, and you will know what the several images are, and what they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their truth.

    and

    the virtue of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element which always remains

    Why does he say that? What is the 'divine element' he is speaking of? (See the SEP article on divine illumination although I think it is not a particularly good article.)

    Plato is referring to a state of intellectual and spiritual illumination, of seeing the world in a completely new and higher way. There are those passages about 'adjusting your vision' after having 'seen the light' so as to re-acustom yourself to the world of shadows that the 'prisoners' live in, and learning to move between the two worlds. It's plain that he is speaking, or having Socrates speak, from his own realisation. (And note well, there's a distinction between 'realisation' and 'experience' in such matters.)

    The kind of knowledge of which Plato speaks is elusive and profound, it is not quotidian, it's not concerned with how to get along in the world, how to survive. And I don't think there's an analogy for those states in modern philosophy. It was all forgotten or rejected centuries ago, with the ascendancy of nominalism and empiricism. Subsequently Plato has been re-interpreted by secular culture in accordance with their own materialist doxai. That is why I say that the vertical axis, the dimension of real quality, has been lost in Western philosophy, which is a flatland of materialism and pragmatism. Ideas are simply the by-product of an hominid brain, shaped by and conditioned solely towards survival. There's no philosophy proper in that attitude.

    What has happened, historically, is that Platonic principles were incorporated by Christian theology and then transformed into a belief system (although in its vast and dappled history, there were also stellar examples of wisdom preserved.) But with the rejection of Christianity, and also its transformation by fundamentalist Protestantism, that understanding has been lost. And it's not just a theory, a collection of words, but a completely different understanding of life. (That's why I could never agree about Nietszche, whom I see as a harbinger of the end of culture. 'Why did mankind have to take seriously the brain afflictions of sick web-spinners?' He had no idea but I think, charitably, this could be said of the ossified form that scholastic philosophy had assumed, completely lacking in the vitality which originally animated it.)

    I'm sorry that this probably puts our views at loggerheads.

    Just being interested in the worldManuel

    Didn't you say you did a thesis? That is nearer the point. I'm intending to do the same.
  • Manuel
    1.4k
    Didn't you say you did a thesis? That is nearer the point. I'm intending to do the same.Wayfarer

    Yeah.

    Though mere curiosity suffices, in my book. And being astonished at the world is what matters, not taking it for granted as obvious.
  • Banno
    14.3k
    Ah, of course. Thanks.


    Do you want forms with that?
  • Tom Storm
    2k
    Do you want forms with that?Banno

    I avoid Plato's these days, I hear the nuggets are not free range and they use chemicals...
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    The dogs bark, the caravan moves on….
  • Valentinus
    1.5k

    However one conceives the difference between the environment inside and outside of the cave, the experience of turning around is what is desired.
    The images on the wall are shadows thrown by a light from behind me. The illusion has a navigational clue regarding orientation.
  • Banno
    14.3k
    Woof.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    Philosophy as a call to action, not a recipe or formula.Wayfarer

    We are in agreement on this.

    But when he says it is his opinion do you think he is really saying it is not him opinion but something he knows?

    the virtue of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element which always remains

    But he says in the Apology that his wisdom is human wisdom not divine wisdom. He makes that distinction. I take the passage to mean that the philosopher in the Republic who possesses divine wisdom is capable of this, but who is the philosopher who is no longer a philosopher as the philosopher is described in the Symposium, that is, one who desires but does not possess wisdom?

    Why does he say that? What is the 'divine element' he is speaking of?Wayfarer

    Because the just city can only be ruled by those who know justice itself, and beauty itself, and the good itself. The divine element is knowledge of the good. On my reading this is something desired, something to strive for, but human wisdom, Socrates' wisdom is to know that these are not things we know but only have opinions about.

    It's plain that he is speaking, or having Socrates speak, from his own realisation.Wayfarer

    This is where we differ. I see it as Plato's philosophical poetry, an image of what such knowledge is like.

    (And note well, there's a distinction between 'realisation' and 'experience' in such matters.)Wayfarer

    What is the distinction? Is the dimension of "real quality" a realization or experience?

    And it's not just a theory, a collection of words, but a completely different understanding of life.Wayfarer

    Is this understanding the result of a realization or an experience or just something you believe to be true?

    I'm sorry that this probably puts our views at loggerheads.Wayfarer

    We do see things differently, but I think it is safe to say that neither of us feel threatened by that or feels the need to convert the other.
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