.. SS. HE COULD NOT UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES COMPETE VERY EFFECTIVELY WITH THE OTHER PRISONERS IN MAKING OUT THE SHADOWS ON THE WALL. WHILE HIS EYESIGHT WAS STILL DIM AND UNSTEADY, THOSE WHO HAD THEIR PERMANENT RESIDENCE IN THE DARKNESS COULD WIN EVERY ROUND OF COMPETITION WITH HIM. THEY WOULD AT FIRST FIND THIS SITUATION VERY AMUSING AND WOULD TAUNT HIM BY SAYING THAT HIS SIGHT WAS PERFECTLY ALL RIGHT BEFORE HE WENT UP OUT OF THE CAVE AND THAT NOW HE HAS RETURNED WITH HIS SIGHT RUINED.
THEIR CONCLUSION WOULD BE THAT IT IS NOT WORTH TRYING TO GO UP OUT OF THE CAVE. INDEED, SAYS PLATO IF THEY COULD LAY HANDS ON THE MAN WHO WAS TRYING TO SET THEM FREE AND LEAD THEM UP THEY WOULD KILL HIM. MOST OF MANKIND, THIS ALLEGORY WOULD SUGGEST, DWELL IN THE DARKNESS OF THE CAVE. THEY HAVE ORIENTED THEIR THOUGHTS AROUND THE BLURRED WOULD OF SHADOWS. IT IS THE FUNCTION OF EDUCATION TO LEAD MEN OUT OF THE CAVE INTO THE WOULD OF LIGHT. EDUCATION IS NOT SIMPLY A MATTER OF PUTTING KNOWLEDGE INTO A PERSON’S SOUL THAT DOES NOT POSSESS IT, ANY MORE THAN VISION IS PUTTING SIGHT INTO BLIND EYES.
KNOWLEDGE IS LIKE VISION IN THAT IT REQUIRES AND ORGAN CAPABLE OF RECEIVING IT. JUST AS THE PRISONER HAD TO TURN HIS WHOLE BODY AROUND IN ORDER THAT HIS EYES COULD SEE THE LIGHT INSTEAD OF THE DARKNESS; SO ALSO IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE ENTIRE SOUL TO TURN AWAY FROM THE DECEPTIVE WORLD OF CHANGE AND APPETITE THAT CAUSES A BLINDNESS OF THE SOUL, EDUCATION, THEN, IS A MATTER OF CONVERSION, A COMPLETE TURNING AROUND FROM THE WOULD OF APPEARANCE TO THE WORLD OF REALITY. THE CONVERSION OF THE SOUL, SAYS PLATO, IS NOT TO PUT THE POWER OF SIGHT IN THE SOUL’S EYE, WHICH ALREADY HAS IT, BUT TO INSURE THAT, INSTEAD OF LOOKING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION, IT IS TURNED THE WAY IT OUGHT TO BE, BUT LOOKING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION DOES NOT COME EASILY. EVEN THE NOBLEST NATURES DO NOT ALWAYS WANT TO LOOK THAT WAY, AN SO PLATO SAYS THAT THE RULERS MUST BRING COMPULSION TO BEAR UPON THEM TO ASCEND UPWARD FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT, SIMILARLY, THEN THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN LIBERATED FROM THE CAVE ACHIEVE THE HIGHEST KNOWLEDGE, THEY MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO REMAIN IN THE HIGHER WORLD OF CONTEMPLATION, BUT MUST BE MADE TO COME BACK DOWN INTO THE CAVE AND TAKE PART IN THE LIFE AND LABORS OF THE PRISONERS. ARGUING, AS PLATO DID, THAT THERE ARE THESE TWO WORLDS, THE DARK WORLD OF THE CAVE AND BRIGHT WORLD OF LIGHT, WAS HIS WAY OF REJECTING THE SKEPTICISM OF THE SOPHISTS.
FOR PLATO KNOWLEDGE WAS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE, BUT IT WAS VIRTUALLY INFALLIBLE. WHAT MAKE KNOWLEDGE INFALLIBLE WAS THAT IT WAS BASED UPON WHAT IS MOST REAL. THE DRAMATIC CONTRAST BETWEEN THE SHADOWS, REFLECTIONS, AND THE ACTUAL OBJECTS WAS FOR PLATO THE DECISIVE CLUE TO THE DIFFERENT DEGREES TO WHICH HUMAN BEINGS COULD BE ENLIGHTENED, PLATO SAW THE COUNTERPARTS OF SHADOWS IN ALL OF HUMAN LIFE AND DISCOURSE, DISAGREEMENTS BETWEEN MEN CONCERNING THE MEANING OF JUSTICE, FOR EXAMPLE, WERE THE RESULT OF EACH ONE’S LOOKING AT A DIFFERENT ASPECT OF THE REALITY OF JUSTICE, ONE PERSON MIGHT TAKE JUSTICE TO MEAN WHATEVER THE RULERS IN FACT COMMAND THE PEOPLE TO DO, ON THE ASSUMPTION THE JUSTICE HAS TO DO WITH RULES OF BEHAVIOR LAID DOWN BY THE RULER. JUST AS A SHADOW BEARS SOME RELATION TO THE OBJECT OF WHICH IT IS THE SHADOW, SO THIS CONCEPTION OF JUSTICE HAS SOME MEASURE OF TRUTH TO IT, FOR JUSTICE DOES HAVE MODES OF BEHAVIOR, AND THERE COULD BE NO SINGLE COHERENT CONCEPT OF JUSTICE IF MEN’S KNOWLEDGE OF JUSTICE WERE DERIVED FROM THE WIDE VARIETY OF EXAMPLES OF IT. THE SOPHISTS WERE SKEPTICAL ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF TRUE KNOWLEDGE BECAUSE THEY WERE IMPRESSED BY THE VARIETY AND CONSTANT CHANGE IN THINGS, AND THEY ARGUED, SINCE OUR KNOWLEDGE COMES FROM OUR EXPERIENCE, OUR KNOWLEDGE WILL REFLECT THIS VARIETY AND WILL THEREFOR BE RELATIVE TO EACH PERSON.
PLATO AGREED THAT SUCH KNOWLEDGE AS IS BASED UPON OUR SENSE, EXPERIENCES WOULD BE RELATIVE AN NOT ABSOLUTE, BUT HE WOULD NOT ACCEPT THE SOPHISTS’ NOTION THAT ALL KNOWLEDGE IS RELATIVE, THE IGNORANT (ACCEPT THE SOPHISTS) WRITES PLATO, HAVE NO SINGLE MARK BEFORE THEIR EYES AT WHICH THEY MUST AIM IN ALL THE CONDUCT OF THEIR LIVES.. IF ALL WE COULD KNOW WERE THE SHADOWS, WE COULD NEVER HAVE RELIABLE KNOWLEDGE, FOR THESE SHADOWS WOULD ALWAYS CHANGE IN SIZE AND SHAPE DEPENDING UPON, THE TO US, UNKNOWN MOTIONS OF THE REAL OBJECTS, PLATO WAS CONVINCED THAT THE HUMAN MIND COULD DISCOVER THAT, SINGLE MARK THAT REAL OBJECT BEHIND ALL THE MULTITUDE OF SHADOWS, SO THAT THE MIND COULD ATTAIN TRUE KNOWLEDGE. THERE IS HE BELIEVED A TRUE IDEA OF JUSTICE, AND IDEA THAT CAN BE BLURRED BY RULERS AND COMMUNITIES. THIS LINE OF REASONING LAY BEHIND PLATO’S DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE WORLD OF SENSE AN THE WORLD OF THOUGHT, BETWEEN THE VISIBLE WORLD AND THE INTELLIGIBLE WORLD. WHEREAS THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE ILLUSTRATES THESE DISTINCTIONS IN DRAMATIC TERMS, PLATO’S METAPHOR OF THE DIVIDED LINE SETS FORTH THE STAGES OR LEVELS OF KNOWLEDGE IN MORE SYSTEMATIC FORM. The second idea in tHis Allegory of the Cave2 describes how most people are trapped in their own little world, oblivious to what is really going on around them.
The story is basically made up of five parts, the shadow, the fire, the common man, the ascending man, and the descending man. The shadow represents what is perhaps Plato’s most difficult philosophy to understand. The idea of forms was an original idea of Plato that has held up under the scrutiny of many until even the present day. According to Plato, things you can see, feel, or touch for example, a chair, are not a genuine article, but merely a shadow of the real thing. He believed that these forms existed in parallel somewhere, and had was the essence of the real thing.
For example, the form of a chair exists somewhere, and embodies everything that all chairs have in common. It doesn’t mean that we can describe it, because not all chairs have four legs, or any legs for that matter. Not all chairs are meant to be sat in, or have arms. What does every chair have in common? No one can fully answer that question. When stated like this it can easily be understood, but when someone asks what all chairs have in common, or what all windows have in common, the idea of this form becomes cloudy because these questions can not be answered. The same can said about a truly just decision, or an action .
He believed the same about ideas, such as truth and he Allegory of the Cave is the common man. According to Plato, they represent all people before they are fully educated. The common man sees nothing but the shadows on the wall of the cave. These shadows represent everything that we have ever seen, and since they are the only things we have ever seen, they constitute all that is real to us. Being fully educated involves the ability to see everything, including all that is outside the cave. The third part, the fire, is merely there to shed light on the forms, casting a shadow into the cave.
Thus creating the only reality that the common man sees. The fourth part is the ascending man. This is the one man who manages to emerge from the cave that shelters the common man. Once he comes out, he finally understands the forms, and becomes fully educated. He sees that the shadows only hinted at the truth of reality. The fire can give you a vague idea of what the reality of things are, but until you surface, then you only see the shadow of reality. The final part is the descending man.
He’s the person who came out of the cave and became enlightened. He’s on his way back to tell the others what he’s learned, and try to get them to understand that there really is more to life than the shadows that everyone sees. The story that basically tells us of Socrates trial by his peers because of what he saw that they could not. The man in the cave tried to return to the cave after being released, so that they might experience some of the beauty that he was allowed to view. He was murdered for his attempts to persuade.
Truly in our times we have many freedoms including that of free speech. But our taking advantage of those freedoms, not using them for positive thought, puts us in that cave. The only way to release ourselves from the malaise or bonds of everyday lives, is to attempt to see every situation or thought as valuable in some way. We owe it to philosophers to at least give their beliefs an honest evaluation without condemning them. We all know what exists outside the cave.
The people in the cave however, truly believe that the man allowed to leave was psychotic when he told them of what he had seen. But the true psychotics were the men who killed to prove their dogma. “The Allegory of the Cave” and “Existentialism” Plato’s, “The Allegory of the Cave” and Sartre’s, “Existentialism” both have a similarity of anguish but have different views of goodness, subjectivism and limitations of life, and human existence. In the “Allegory of the Cave,” the people in the cave are chained to see just the shadows on the wall to which they perceive to be real. As one of these prisoners escapes, they walk into the light to find that what he once saw in the cave was actually just an illusion of what the truth is.
In “Existentialism,” there is no God so every man is free to make their own choices and give their own meaning of life; however, the choices men make are what they consider all men to do, causing men to be responsible of their actions. Anguish is a similarity in both essays because both the escaped prisoner in the “Allegory of the Cave” and all men in “Existentialism” have a moral responsibility to their fellow man. The escaped prisoner is responsible for going back and informing the rest of the captives of what he saw. He has to explain to them that the ultimate reality is not the shadows on the wall but what is seen once you’re in the light. He then experiences anguish because the captives will not believe him.
The essay states that: “Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death” (p. 1185). The cave is their world and what they see is their truth. The escaped prisoner is now an outsider and suffers because the other captives could not comprehend that what they are really seeing is just a bad distortion of reality. In “Existentialism,” man experiences anguish because he would not be able to get away from his responsibility of his actions and his choices because the decisions he makes not only affects him but those around him too.
The narrator states that: “Every man ought to say to himself, ‘Am I really the kind of man who has the right to act in such a way that humanity might guide itself by my actions?’ And if he does not say that to himself, he is masking his anguish” (p. 1292). Every man experiences anguish because they have the freedom of choice but the responsibility of all men. Therefore every choice that man makes must be a good one. Both Plato and Sartre have many different views in their essays and one opposing view is about the good and the bad.
In Sartre’s essay, good decisions or choices are made because it is what is good for every man and that , “to choose to be this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil. We always choose the good, and nothing can be good for us without being good for all” (p. 1291). Every man then does not choose the evil because what is evil for him will be evil for all; therefore, when man has to make a decision, he values each choice on how much good will come out of them. Although in “The Allegory of the Cave,” good is not considered first but last and to get there is a long and tortuous journey. Once the good is seen, they will see everything of a higher realm which is the true reality and be aware that goodness is the origin of everything that exists. The narrator states, “..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..” (p.
1185). Instead of carefully making every decision of what is good, the very thought of goodness comes last. In Plato’s essay, to reach the goodness you have to find the enlightened path. Another difference between the two essays is the thought of the limitations of the unlighted and enlightened path and subjectivity. In “The Allegory of the Cave,” the prisoners have to struggle to understand and reach enlightenment. The escaped prisoner had to travel through the journey of the visible, image-making realm of the cave to the intelligible realm of reasoning and understanding.
He was subject to transform between these two realms. At first he had to reason with what he saw outside the cave. It was hard for him in the beginning because, “when he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities” (p. 1184). It was difficult for him to go through the transition of dark to light or unlighted to the enlightened.
But once he got used to the light, he could see the truth and understand that what he saw and what the other unlighted captives still see in the cave are actually an illusion. Although in “Existentialism” men are subjected to more than two sort of realms. Since an existentialist creates their own meaning of life there is no limit like there is in Plato’s essay. The meaning of life is then changed with every decision made because there is no God or enlightened path to goodness. This leaves existentialists left with no excuses for their actions. Once they have made a choice there is no going back and he lives with his choices and blames no one but himself.
The essay states: “Subjectivism means, on the one hand, that an individual chooses and makes himself; and, on the other, that it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity.” Since there is no unlighted or enlightened path he is responsible for what he chooses and he can not turn back once a mistake is made. The views of goodness, limitations, and subjectivism binds together to explain the different views of human existence between Plato and Sartre. A man confined to life in a cave like Plato’s essay, is restricted to what he sees in the dark and what he will perceive as his reality and truth. While those who go into the light will have an opposing idea of what reality is and have an understanding of what the truth really is. The narrator states that: “he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkens to the day is dazzled by excess of light” (p.
1186). In Sartre’s essay, existence precedes essence where every man is free to lead his life the way he wants to. The essay states that: “Man is nothing else than his plan; he exists only to the extent that he fulfills himself; he is therefore nothing else than the ensemble of his acts, nothing else than his life” (p. 1297). Every man chooses where he wants to be in the future and his life will only go as far as he plans it to go and not restricted to any certain places or ideas like the men in the cave are in “Allegory of the Cave.” In conclusion, there are moral responsibilities in both essays, “The Allegory of the Cave” and “Existentialism.” Plato and Sartre both imply that anguish are felt among all men but their views of goodness, limitations and subjectivism of life and the human existence vary in their essays.
Whether it is best to believe in God or not, moral responsibility is placed on every man. Philosophy Essays.