“What is the meaning of life?”, is a question that has plagued mankind since the beginning of our existence. Yet with so many centuries and great thinkers who have passed, someone has yet to possess an answer. Philosophers and intelligent minds alike have attempted to solve or at least find some explanation for such a dense question. In The Allegory of the Cave dialogue, Plato reveals his interpretation of human existence. His analogy touches on humanity’s susceptibility to ignorance. The story he tells symbolizes our false perception of the world and of our own knowledge. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave can relate to many aspects of modern day society. This essay will connect his analysis to global affairs like immigration, and the unwelcoming sentiments or falsities it can entail specifically within the French culture.
In order to interpret the association between Plato’s famously written dialogue and the modern world, one has to comprehend both its theoretical parts and the underlying message. Plato narrates a conversation between two personas, Socrates and Glaucon, who unpack an anecdote regarding cave dwellers and their distorted concept of reality. Socrates depicts a scene of prisoners who have spent their whole lives chained facing a wall. Behind them is a fire, the sole source of light, which allows for shadows to be cast on the wall in front of them. The prisoners perceive these shadows as real entities because they know nothing of or about a world beyond themselves. Plato relates the cave dwellers unawareness to humanity’s ignorance, this becomes clearer as the story proceeds. Eventually, one of the prisoners is freed and he journeys to discover the outside world. At first he is blinded by the sun’s radiant light but gradually his eyes adjust from the darkness. After some time he is able to identify more aspects than simply shadows; he soon can perceive reflections and even sunlight itself. The freed prisoner is awestruck by the new world and wants to share his discovery with the other cave dwellers. However, returning to the cave and its darkness, does not possess a favourable outcome. Filled with joy and knowledge, the enlightened cave dweller attempts to free the others. The prisoners resist his efforts to show them the light, and violently murder him. This final analogy in Plato’s Allegory, represents humanity’s hostility towards those who try to broaden our understanding. It symbolizes our desire for the comfort of ignorance, as we possess little motive to change our subjective way of thinking.
The theory which Plato devotes his Allegory of the Cave to, symbolises the struggle we have in recognizing our intellectual limitations. This can be applied to multiple aspects of modern day society concerning various types of global issues. Presently, many European countries like France, are attempting to manage adverse sentiments in relation to the mass immigrant populations arriving from war torn zones. Many are like the blind cave dwellers, their perception of the truth is misguided and limited. Le Front Nationale is a right wing nationalist party whose views on immigrants can be related to the hostile and ignorant prisoners. Marie Le Pen, leader of this political campaign, claimed that she would “protect France with a vow to suspend immigration and defend the country against the threat of savage globalisation” . Just as the fire and wall represented the restricted knowledge and an artificial reality, rash statements from officials convey this kind of one way thinking. Similarly, Eric Zammour, a French political writer blames troubles within France, specifically terrorism, on all the French-Muslim immigrants. Both of these Front Nationale advocators can be compared to the blind and intolerant cave dwellers. They refuse to see anything other than the shadows cast in front of them, which proves there is a limitation to both their knowledge and argument.
The cave prisoners are an accurate representation of Le Front Nationale’s restricted viewpoint on immigration and its relation to terrorism. Despite there being numerous “enlightened and former cave dwellers” proving their bold statements wrong, they are still unable to alter their myopic outlook. In many articles Zammour’s and Le Pen’s impulsive claims have been confuted by the majority of French citizens. Multiple sources report that “only 2.4 percent of the French population are originally from Muslim countries” and that “the vast majority of terrorist attacks in France have been carried out by French-born citizens radicalised in prisons, not in mosques” . Although there are many other statistics which can prove the falsities of Le Front Nationale’s misguided perspective, like the blind prisoners they are unable and unwilling to see beyond the reality which they have created for themselves.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave dialogue is a precise depiction of humanity’s oblivious nature and hostility towards confrontation of the truth. Furthermore, the theory within Plato’s work, can be connected in many ways to the issue of immigration currently plaguing French and global politics. Although boldly subjective opinions are a normality within the political world, it is important to note that occasionally we make the truth out to be a one sided story; just as the prisoners only chose to see the shadows as their form of reality. It is easiest to remain in the comfort of our own ignorance, and therefore when we are shown the light outside of the cave, we refuse and are unwilling to accept this form of education.