Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a well-known allegory read by many scholars over the years and it continues to be taught today for its many symbols, theories and the categories is touches base on relating to human society. The prisoners reminds me of jail in a sense that thats what you are when your are in custody and what you can do is very limited, and the real world is completely cut off. Although my experiences in life do not contain on that relates to jail but this is what i first thought of after reading the allegory.
However, I have a personal event that was illuminated after reading this allegory and that was recently when i viewed thousands of stars in the sky and thought differently about it that night then normal. Both of these topics can be can be contrasted with the events in the cave. From what i know about jail it seems like a place similar to the cave because the prisoners are forced to view the shadows on the wall because thats all they can do if they cant move their heads.
In jail you are forced to be in a place that makes you lose sight of reality, and eventually the jail cell would feel like thats the only place you know and the outside world is unfamiliar. This relates to the prisoners who eventually think the shadows are real, and the item casting the shadow is non existing. It also relates to the prisoners of the cave and the prisoners of jail and the transformation from darkness to light. After being accustomed to darkness and only a dim fire behind you for a long period of time going out of the cave into daylight would be a major shock and change to what you were used to.
Same as someone who was in jail for a long period of time. He or she would be some used to the feeling of confinement that getting out of jail would obviously be relieving because freedom is restored, but for awhile freedom will feel unusual for a once trapped individual. “He would remember that there are two kinds of disturbances of the eyes, stemming from two sources — when they have been transferred from light to darkness and when they have been transferred from darkness to light.
And if he held that these same things happen to a soul too, whenever he saw one that is confused and unable to make anything out, he would’nt laugh without reasoning but would go on to consider whether, come from a brighter life, it is in darkness for want of being accustomed, or whether, going from greater lack of learning to greater brightness, it is dazzled by the greater brilliance” (Bloom 196-197). This explains a lot about darkness and light and the reaction from the two.
This allegory also has messages that relate into other topics such as Plato’s “Theory of Forms” This talks about how things can be thought about but cant be seen or touched, which is his interpretation of what we call today your imagination. This idea of imagination can spark ideas and the possibilities that can branch off imagination are endless. An simple event in my life that relates to this was a particular night not long ago.
It was a clear, crisp summer night and i looked up into the sky to see the thousands of bright stars everywhere. At the time i didn’t strike me as unusual just interesting on how spectacular that many bright stars look. Until later when i thought about what they really are not what we see them as, we as people see them as little white specs in space, but if imagined what it is up close rather than millions of miles away, a star is a bright, massive ball of energy floating in space, in most cases bigger than the planet we live on.
It makes you use your imagination to wrap your mind around how big things are outside of Earth and how there are so many things in distant space it is hard to know what else is really out there. This experience of viewing the mass amounts of stars in the sky changed after reading The Allegory of the Cave my perception of what i had seen made more sense after thinking about what the prisoners viewed as shadows on the wall became reality to them when really in reality the item casting the shadow is real.
You can see the stars in the sky, but in reality they are so far away you cant know what they are really like or how powerful they are. The allegory even makes connections to the sun and stars and says, “ And from there he could turn to beholding the things in heaven and heaven itself, more easily at night–looking at the light of the stars and the moon–than by day–looking at the sun and sunlight” (Bloom 195).
This exert from the allegory shows that Plato had thoughts on things outside of Earth Prisoners becoming aware of the item that cast a shadow they believe the shadow is real and the item is unreal. This would be similar to the prisoners on viewing things in space because from earth they are distorted from reality in a sense that we cant see them for what they really are without seeing them up close. Then also see along this wall human beings carrying all sorts of artifacts, which project above the wall, and statues of men and other animals wrought from stone, wood, and every kind of material” (Bloom 193) You could even look at the world as a cave and the rest of space is everything else we are not aware of. Like the prisoners who are kept in a cave long enough to where they are manipulated into thinking thats all there is. We are looking at one wall on Earth when there is a lot more to be seen in the whole galaxy and other life forms that could exist.
Obviously in the prisoners situation it was possible to get out of the cave but for most people it isn’t possible to explore outside of Earth, so we can only imagine. This allegory has shed light on topics that to me were never really that important to me or just didnt think about. But after reading Plato’s views and how they are so insightful for how much was known as a fact back then in Plato’s time of existence and how things are in the present. If his theories are still being read and taught he had some ambitious ideas as a philosopher.