Why are the prisoners like us? Allegory of the cave

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In the ‘Allegory of the Cave’, Socrates clearly refers to human beings and the context of life that has placed individuals as prisoners in different ways, the most prominent one, and the one Socrates had in mind being lack of knowledge. As such, Plato did not only draw this story from his initial Theory of Forms, but also related it to the theory of stages of life. In his study of forms, Plato suggested that the forms that appear to human beings as the world are only a reflection of the more ideal and perfect forms (Dooley 39). Case in point, Plato’s main idea was that human beings should not only rely on their physical senses in judging the true forms of things in the world but should also include thought and reason to logically evaluate what they perceive. It is only through proper understanding of the forms that individuals perceive that true knowledge can be acquired. In the same sense, the prisoners in the cave represent humans who are blinded by their physical senses in obtaining the true knowledge about forms (Dooley 39).

Like the prisoners who believed the puppets on the wall were actual and true, human beings believe that the various forms of things that they interact within their social, political, economic, and religious lives are true without giving attention to the basic driving forces behind such forms. Plato’s Allegory of the cave can also be connected to his theory on stages of education where individuals move from a state of not knowing to a state of knowledgeable by being exposed to knowledge. Like the prisoners, human beings are constrained within a knitted fabric of knowledge, into which they are enslaved, thus restricting them from freely roaming in search of knowledge. This makes human beings prisoners, who do not have an insight in the knowledge beyond their syllabus and thus perceive the world only in respect to their senses and acquired knowledge(Dooley 40).

In what sense is the Liberator a philosopher like Socrates?

According to the Allegory of the cave, the liberator was the first to escape from the captivity and thus gained exposure to the world beyond the cave and the general environment that they had been kept in dark from since their childhood (Plato 360). This liberator represents philosophers such as Socrates who have gone ahead to find knowledge beyond what their physical senses can perceive, thus setting themselves free from the prison developed by the societal banks of knowledge. The exposure of the prisoner to the sun resembles the exposure of such philosophers to the philosophical knowledge and truth, beyond what they and the entire society know, and thus they gain an insight into issues that affect the society at large. It is important to note that the prisoner adjusted slowly to the light that was initially too intense for his eyes. This represents the journey made by philosophers through their studies and reason in finding wisdom and truth. After acquiring knowledge, philosophers return to the society to liberate other humans, who are still imprisoned by lack of knowledge, through their educative information. For instance, in the ‘Symposium’, Socrates liberates Agathon from a previously held false perception of love in which case he believed love to be wise, young, beautiful, and sensitive (Plato 148). Socrates made him understand that love itself is only but a desire for such attributes but not the attributes themselves. Through such revelations, philosophers change the mindset of individuals by enlightening them on issues within their social, economic and political constructs. Such renewed thinking promotes critical and creative analysis of different objects or situations that individuals may interact with, thus leading to identification of their true form.

What other type of figure might further the cause of liberation?

It is evident that Socrates’ teachings have gone a long way to change the thinking of individuals and to allow individuals to acquire critical analysis skills, through which they review the different issues affecting them and establish effective and sustainable approaches towards them. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Socrates and Socratic teachings have their limitations in liberation including: promoting passivity among individuals that are not involved in direct dialogue with the teacher of such teachings; and promoting a tendency of granting short absolution to justice and fairness among those who purvey Socratic teachings (Dinerstein). As such, there is need for Socratic teachings to be supplemented with other experimental methods that would facilitate the ability of individuals to solve problems within varying actual-world contexts. In this view, a Liberator could be a political leader with increased knowledge about the political, social, and economic issues of the society, and how such issues can be merged or interacted, coupled with education within such constructs, to facilitate societal development. As such, through involving the society in practical handling of economic issues, through promoting practices such as loaning, while educating them on principles of economics and entrepreneurship, such a leader would liberate the society from the state of lack of economic information, but also promote their development by offering them an opportunity to input their acquired knowledge by offering them loans to start business or invest in already existing businesses that they have adequate knowledge about.

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  1. Dinerstein, Robert D. There Are Limitations to the Socratic Method. 15 December 2011. 10 April 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/12/15/rethinking-how-the-law-is-taught/there-are-limitations-to-the-socratic-method>.
  2. Dooley, Kevin. Why Politics Matters: An Introduction to Political Science. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015.
  3. Six Great Dialogues: Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Symposium, The Republic. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Chelmsford, MA: Courier Corporation, 2012.
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