Allegory of the Cave

Written as a dialogue between Glaucon (Plato’s brother) and Socrates (his mentor), The Allegory of he Cave is a poem composed in approximately 1509. The source of this poem is from series on Plato called “The School of Athens” by Raphael. Socrates had a specialized teaching method (now referred to as the Socratic method) which was characterized by asking and answering questions in order to stimulate critical thinking (EH 72). The structure of this piece reflects this method because Socrates is using dialect and a series of questions to teach the lesson/metaphor.

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An allegory can be defined as a story, picture, or poem that, when interpreted, has a hidden meaning/lesson. This allegory has to do with a cave in which prisoners are being held captive. They are chained to the floor with their heads only facing one wall, therefore they are unable to see what is behind them. Though this is an allegory because the cave represents life and the puppeteers behind he prisoners making shadows represents reality.

The hidden meaning of the allegory stems from the idea that the prisoners have a misinterpreted idea of reality. They only see the shadows and reflections that the puppeteers are making therefore they believe that is life. Once they turn around and it is revealed that those were puppeteers the whole time, they are extremely shocked. It shows us that our perception of reality and what we see around us is false. Our imperfect interpretations of reality may not always be what they seem, sometimes we are viewing what we want to view, seeing what our mind want’s us to see, rather that seeing the true reality.

The theme explored in this allegory has connections tied back to the cultural themes of the Hellenic Age and ancient Classical Greek Philosophy. People viewed the enlightenment as a new coming of age in which new teachings were applied. This poem represents the teaching of morality in a time where philosophers were striving to teach of the world around them (EH 84). During the Hellenic period the ancient Greeks were undergoing great cultural and political change. The love for art and literature rose as ancient Greeks were moving from oral to a literate culture form based on rational thought, which can be exemplified in the poem The Allegory of the Cave. During the Hellenic Age (EH 83), Greek cultural influence was high and the spreading of the arts, literature, philosophy, politics, and education was wide spreading throughout Europe. The Hellenic Age held a high value on learning. Athens held a numerous amount of libraries and philosophy during the time experienced many new and developed schools of thought (EH 76). This is viewed through the allegory because it is trying to teach the world a lesson through the use of philosophy. The primary form of art during this period was sculpture and the dominant form of literature was poetry, as again exemplified by the allegory.

I personally found the allegory difficult to understand at first, thought after a couple of careful reads of the reading material I began to see the true meaning. I found the allegory to be very interesting and morally informative. I do agree with the ideas it expresses to the extent that it makes a person revisit how they perceive the world around them and the true meaning of reality. I do not believe it should go as far as to change your mindset to question whether you are viewing a true reality or just a mental paradox. Though overall I believe I learned a lot from his allegory and despite the difficulty, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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