What is Myth of the Cave (Plato) definition/concept

The philosopher Plato lived in Athens between Century V and IV. C and expounded his theories in the famous dialogues. Some of his contributions were explained from an allegorical literary resource : the mythical account. One of these stories is, precisely, the Myth of the Cave.

A brief summary of the story

In the dialogue “The Republic”, more specifically in book VII, it is told that there was a group of people who lived as prisoners in a cave since their birth. All of them were chained in such a way that their vision was constantly directed to a wall and, therefore, they did not know what was behind them.

Behind all of them there was a fire and that meant that the only reference they had to the outside world was the shadows of each one projected on the wall. Myth of the Cave

In other words, the shadows cast by the fire from the fire formed the entire reality perceived by the prisoners. At this point, Plato poses the following question: what would happen if one of the prisoners managed to free himself? If this circumstance happened, the prisoner would turn around and observe that on his back there was a fire, so he could distinguish where the exit from the cave was and that when leaving he would find sunlight.

At this point, Plato states that upon leaving the cave, the prisoner would initially feel confused, but soon he would realize that what he had previously experienced as the true world was actually his shadow.

An account that hides a philosophical theory about human knowledge

The various elements integrated into the Myth of the Cave are actually an allegory to explain the Platonic theory of knowledge . Thus, the shadows that initially appeared at the bottom of the cave refer to knowledge based on imagination.

When the prisoner first observes sunlight, Plato refers to another level of knowledge: belief . The moment the prisoner leaves the cave definitively, rational knowledge is attained.

Finally, the symbol of the Sun within the story refers to the idea of ​​the Good, which is what brings rationality to sensible ideas.

The Myth of the Cave inspires us

The Platonic myth has existed for two thousand and five hundred years, but it remains a source of inspiration . In this sense, there are many questions to be asked: would the information we deal with be equivalent to the shadows in the cave?; Do we know how to distinguish true knowledge from our illusions? Are we being deceived or manipulated and living in a permanent lie that looks like the truth?

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