Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Plato claimed that knowledge gained through the senses is no more than opinion. He said that to have real knowledge, we must gain it through philosophical reasoning.

‘The Allegory of the Cave’ by Plato

Plato distinguished between people who mistake sensory knowledge for the truth and people who do see the truth.

The Cave

Imagine a cave, in which there are three prisoners. The prisoners are tied to some rocks and their arms and legs are bound. And their heads are 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.

And their are people who walk by the cave walkway carrying things on their head including; animals, plants, wood and stone.

The Allegory of the cave by Plato should not be taken at face value. In essays and exams, whoever is marking it expects you to have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the theory. You can then use these to think about criticisms and then to form your own opinion.

The Cave

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

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 a ‘pleb’ if you believe this (their insult for those who are not Philosophers)!
The Game

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 Escape

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 Return

The other prisoners reaction to the escapee returning represents that people are scared of knowing philosophical truths and do not trust philosophers.
It is always recommended that you read the original text by Plato to reach the top grades. If you would like to purchase ‘The Republic’ by Plato,