Platos Prisoners vs Modern Day Sheeple

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by ItsReneeYo_, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. Imagine a cave, in which there are three prisoners. The prisoners are tied to some rocks, their arms and legs are bound and their head is tied so that they cannot look at anything but the stonewall in front of them.
    These prisoners have been here since birth and have never seen outside of the cave.
    Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between them is a raised walkway.
    People outside the cave walk along this walkway carrying things on their head including; animals, plants, wood and stone.

    So, imagine that you are one of the prisoners. You cannot look at anything behind or to the side of you – you must look at the wall in front of you.
    When people walk along the walkway, you can see shadows of the objects they are carrying cast on to the wall.

    If you had never seen the real objects ever before, you would believe that the shadows of objects were ‘real.'
    Plato suggests that the prisoners would begin a ‘game' of guessing which shadow would appear next.
    If one of the prisoners were to correctly guess, the others would praise him as clever and say that he were a master of nature.

    One of the prisoners then escapes from their bindings and leaves the cave.
    He is shocked at the world he discovers outside the cave and does not believe it can be real.
    As he becomes used to his new surroundings, he realizes that his former view of reality was wrong.
    He begins to understand his new world, and sees that the Sun is the source of life and goes on an intellectual journey where he discovers beauty and meaning
    He see's that his former life, and the guessing game they played is useless.

    The prisoner returns to the cave, to inform the other prisoners of his findings.
    They do not believe him and threaten to kill him if he tries to set them free.


    In Plato's theory, the cave represents people who believe that knowledge comes from what we see and hear in the world – empirical evidence. The cave shows that believers of empirical knowledge are trapped in a ‘cave' of misunderstanding.

    The Shadows represent the perceptions of those who believe empirical evidence ensures knowledge. If you believe that what you see should be taken as truth, then you are merely seeing a shadow of the truth. In Plato's opinion you are an idiot.

    The Game represents how people believe that one person can be a ‘master' when they have knowledge of the empirical world. Plato is demonstrating that this master does not actually know any truth, and suggesting that it is ridiculous to admire someone like this.

    The escaped prisoner represents the Philosopher, who seeks knowledge outside of the cave and outside of the senses.
    The Sun represents philosophical truth and knowledge
    His intellectual journey represents a philosophers journey when finding truth and wisdom
    The other prisoners reaction to the escapee returning represents that people are scared of knowing philosophical truths and do not trust philosophers.

    Been in philosophy for 1 class and I'm already in love. If you can't connect this too modern times , then you are truly blind.

    Platos Allegory of The Cave , written 2000yrs ago
  2. A couple things. First, i havent read this before and enjoyed it so ty.

    Second, if there was fire behind them and a wall in front would they not cast a shadow and be able to then tell that things cause the shadows and there is more out there?

    Finally, how can the sun represent truth when the philosopher cant know what the sun is in the same way he used to not know about the shadows?
  3. No problem , found it in my philosophy book. This is just a summary though.
    As to your second question I'm not sure , I don't think we should be asking how and why , it seems to me Plato was trying to explain to Socrates that people who refuse to see things as they are because that's all they have ever known are ignorant , it's more symbolic I think than it is literally possible . But then again my second day of philosophy class is tomorrow , so I'm still learning.

    The sun to me represents enlightenment or truth to the cave prisoners because it is the unexplored , they don't know what the sun is , it's the door to the real world , it will lead them from their dark cave bound existence into the light of truth , understanding , and critical thinking .. Again , something more symbolic than literal .
    The fire thing is explained in my video.
    The sun represents truth because it truly illumines the entire world, and rather than seeing only shadows, the sun reveals the reality of things.
  6. I was going to read it, but then I saw that you used the word "sheeple".
  7. Aww . We'll I feel sorry for you. You definitely took the time to reply though. It's worth the read.
  8. Right but iirc we both agree that ultimate truth/what makes up reality is unknowable yes?

    Its a cool thought exercise though i just felt like expanding more
  9. It's Platos allegory of the cave simplified and a summary on it. The word Sheeple has nothing to do with it.

    If you don't want to read the story on my post that's fine , but I still highly recommend it, especially if you're interested in philosophy.
    Well personally, enlightenment means knowing ultimate truth and it is an achievable state. The idea runs along the idea of returning awareness to the ultimate consciousness.
    Here's a good explanation of kaishmiri shaivite doctrine and it's approach to the ultimate reality.
  11. My bad i misunderstood your beliefs i think
    Lol I think that depends on what we think the ultimate reality is. You can experience something if you can imagine it, the highest reality we can experience through our own imagination exists as a concept.
    In my own understanding, the ultimate reality is the idea that all things both exist and do not exist on the highest plane of existence. Consciousness is the basis for all of existence, consciousness is what creates materialism and manifest reality.
  13. Nice thought exercise, but the fact remains that we cannot possibly know 'truth', as it were, as it will always exist outside of our phaneron.
    The enlightened prisoner will now grapple with the same egocentric predicaments faced by us, a Buddha will probably face higher-level predicaments of a similar nature, and so on. It's like getting sensory upgrades in a cosmic-level, endless RPG.
    I doubt there will come a point when we can be completely sure that what we know is 'true reality'.
  14. Agreed, No one can claim enlightenment or truth , they are words defined only by emotional states, and therefore, personal to the individual. It doesn't mean anyone loses the validity of their experience but it discounts any judgement towards anyone elses experience.
    For example one mans truth is different from the next mans . And that's perfectly fine. But they both should know neither of their "truths" are "truth" , it is THEIR truth, and they don't have the right to discredit the next persons truth , because none of us knows the truth ... They can claim enlightenment defined on their own terms, like the cave man is enlightened to his previous truth.

    Hope that makes sense , lol philosophy is confusing at times.
  15. #15 Al XE the Bud, Jan 16, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2014
    So 'enlightenment', as you put it, is relative to the past of personal timelines. But then what happens when a caveman meets a web developer. Which, by the way, is extremely similar to situations I get into daily, living in India and all. :D
    And what of the Creation vs Evolution, Atheists vs Religious and similar debates? They are different sets of people with different views of reality, each firmly confident in the truth of their own. Which is true and which isn't? Are both true, and if so, how?
    Fact is, none of us can hope to go beyond the phaneron any more than my cat can hope to write a paper on the merits of catnip. But there comes a point where we must agree on some given data, for the sake of progress. It is, I believe pointless to warp commonly agreed upon facts to ones personal beliefs; it is counterproductive to a collective working knowledge of whatever bit of reality we can perceive. Also, all we know is from the perception of others who came before us. It is important to be humble enough to realise that you are not the first to think the way you do, and that your fellow phaneron-prisoners may have some valuable information.
    For instance, we must both agree that GC uses HTML5, that the sky appears blue and that weed makes you high. To be opinionated to the point of separating your view from that of your peers is akin to erecting partitions within the prison cell of our collective phaneron and staying rigidly within ones own section.
    My way of functioning amid this confuzzlement is to keep a working knowledge of the world, constantly updated with the most plausible data :mellow:
  16. Beautifully put , some people argue for the sake or arguing or disagreeing with what the majority believes , just because they can , and those people are the worst.

    That's usually how I try to live also , it makes enough sense .
  17. It's pretty much all we can do, short of going batshit crazy and pummeling our brains into mush :D
  18. The prisoners could be bound to rocks to the left or right of the mouth of the cave, but not against the cave wall. The fire could be between them, the cave of the mouth , and a portion of the doorway so that sunrise and sunset would cash shadows on different parts of the wall in front of them
    and to answer the last question, The sun can represent truth because whether or not he knows what the sun is, it is still there. Same as knowing the truth. Blinded by lies, the truth still exists, you just don't know it the same way as you would the lies. If that makes sense.
  19. But going and seeing the sun was no "truer" an experience, only more full. The man has only seen more images. Neither he not the men in the cave have a more true idea of the world, they just have different perspective.
    Kinda like the difference between indoor and outdoor grows ...

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