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Explain Plato’s Analogy of the Cave

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    Plato was a Greek philosopher who wrote a book called the ‘Republic’. He lived from 428-347 BCE. In this book he described an analogy of a cave in order to explain his theory of the World of Ideas and the Natural World. Plato’s analogy of the cave is an explanation about ‘the truth’. The analogy portrays that in order to find the truth we must question everything. This will be explained further. In the analogy of the cave, the cave represents the physical world in which all human beings live in.

    There are prisoners that are chained to the ground, and can only see flickering shadows made by objects in front of a fire, inside the cave. These all have a meaning. The cave and chains represent the physical world that everyone lives in. The prisoners represent the ‘ignorant’ masses (humans) that do not know the truth. The fire and shadows show how the ignorant masses have a limited knowledge of the physical world, and that they see ‘concepts’ that they believe are real. An example of some of these concepts are love or beauty.

    The objects/puppets are the actual concepts from which the shadows are cast. The cave is the world of appearances and in Plato’s theory when a prisoner escapes from the cave, he can then reach the world of the forms. Once the prisoner escapes from the cave he reaches the intellectual world of perfection. The world of the forms is unchanging and instead of particulars there are ideals. Plato argued that for everything that exists in the world of appearances (the shadows inside the cave), there is a ‘form’ in the world of the forms. This means there is a perfect ideal instead of a imperfect particular.

    For example humans are able to recognize beauty in the world of appearances, however we do not recognize beauty as a concept. Plato states that humans that can recognize this unseen reality (world of the forms) will become a Philosopher King. The world of the forms is a perfect intellectual reality and this is symbolized by the prisoner escaping from the cave. Plato states that the world exists on two levels of reality. Amongst the different ‘Forms’ the Form of the Good is the most important because it is the source of intelligibility.

    Plato states that it is responsible for bringing all of the other Forms into existence. The Good can be seen as a metaphor of the start of a waterfall that trickles down into reality becoming less and less pure. The form of Good is the source of simplicity and purity and of all knowledge. This is where Plato states that ideals or forms stem from such as justice, love, beauty and courage. The knowledge is then divided into concepts (ideals). These are seen in the World of the Forms. Then as the water trickles down into our reality ( The World of Appearances inside the cave) we see the concepts/ideals as particulars.

    Particulars are imperfect because the knowledge we have access to is shadowy and impure. This is shown in a quote from Plato: ‘And we say that the particulars are objects of sight but not of intelligence, while the forms are the objects of intelligence but not of sight. ’ In conclusion Plato uses his analogy of the cave to depict his belief of the World of appearances and the World of the forms. His analogy of the cave is well thought out because everything in his analogy is a clear representation of his beliefs. b) Plato’s theory of the Forms fails to explain the nature of reality. Discuss

    Some would say that Plato’s theory of the Forms does explain the nature of reality and some would disagree. I will be exploring different viewpoints surrounding this topic. Plato would disagree with this statement. He would say that without the forms there would not be a physical world. The forms tell us everything about the physical world. The physical world depends on the Forms for existence. Neo- Platonists would agree. Scientists would agree with this statement because they would state that there is no proof that the forms exist. Scientists would want the facts because e they like things to be proved.

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