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Plato's Cave

I can't seem to get my head around what Plato is actually trying to say about reality in the below text. Could you please explain? Imagine a dark, subterranean prison in which humans are bound by their necks to a single place from infancy. Elaborate steps are taken by unseen forces to supply and manipulate the content of the prisoner’s visual experience. This is so effective that the prisoners do not recognize their imprisonment and are satisfied to live their lives in this way. Moreover, the cumulative effects of this imprisonment are so thorough that if freed, the prisoners would be virtually helpless. They could not stand up on their own, their eyes would be overloaded initially with sensory information, and even their minds would refuse to accept what the senses eventually presented them. It is not unreasonable to expect that some prisoners would wish to remain imprisoned even after their minds grasped the horror of their condition. But if a prisoner was dragged out and compelled to understand the relationship between the prison and outside, matters would be different. In time the prisoner would come to have genuine knowledge superior to the succession of representations that made up the whole of experience before. This freed prisoner would understand those representations as imperfect—like pale copies of the full reality now grasped in the mind. Yet if returned to the prison, the freed prisoner would be the object of ridicule, disbelief, and hostility.
By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016-
Response
0
Socrates himself interprets the allegory (beginning at 517b): "This image then [the allegory of the cave] we must apply as a whole to all that has been said"—i.e., the preceding analogy of the divided line and metaphor of the sun.

Plato is saying that humans are all prisoners and that the tangible world is our cave. Plato believed that one can only learn through dialectic reasoning and open-mindedness. Humans had to travel from the visible realm of image-making and objects of sense, to the intelligible, or invisible, realm of reasoning and understanding.

I like to relate it to Paul's comments about seeing through a glass darkly. If you can get your head around that, you are doing good.

One can also choose whether the meaning of allegory is epistemological or ontological, i.e. are the shadows to be correlated with things in our world of sight, the things in the cave with mathematical entities, and things outside the cave with ideas or should we just concentrate on the cognitive stages. It has been claimed that a purely epistemological view is foreign to Greek tradition (especially Plato), which holds that the reading should bring ontological statements within.
So you picked a hard question.
The allegory has also clear political implications in terms of ethics
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
I've heard this allegory before, but it was set up much simpler:
A group of people are chained deep in a cave (and have been since birth). There is another group of people in the cave, but they are closer to the entrance, out of sight of the chained people. The people that are closer to the entrance cast shadows on the walls which the chained people can see. So, the only "reality" that the chained people can see is the shadows cast on the wall; they have no knowledge of the outside world, all they can see are the shadows. If one of these chained people escapes and sees what was really going on, it would be an enormous shock to his senses; everything he believed to be real (the shadows) has been shown to be something else (other people). A natural reaction of this escaped person may be to go back into the cave where he can return to his "reality." But if the escaped person is shown what the world really is, he would eventually come to understand it. If the escaped person then goes back into the cave to explain it to the other chained people, they would think he is crazy (because all they know is the shadows, they haven't seen anything else). Notions of "reality" are questioned because we could never know if we were like those people in the cave; there could be a whole other world out there and we would never know.

Have you seen The Matrix? The situation is similar to that. Keanu Reeves thought he was living a normal life, but he was actually living a false reality. Upon seeing what the real world was, he was completely overwhelmed by it but eventually understood it.
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
Plato meant to say that humans are in big illusion when

they take birth n see world as being real.While hanging

in uterus..it prays to be released from prisonand when

it takes birth,it feels the world as real..though it is

again in one more illusion...that is matrix...one needs

to come out of this matrix.the reality is out of matrix.
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
He means to state that the world around us depends on whatever we perceive it as.

He has given the example of chaining humans in an area confined from the outside world, since birth... they would then become accustomed to this as the real world.. the only world they will ever see.. but if they are now suddenly brought out into the real world, they would not be able to cope with it!

Just like if you bring a lab mouse or lab rat out of the shelter of its cage it will begin to whimper and cringe and try to get back in!
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
If your life sucks, but you can't compare it to anything else, then you don't know it sucks. But if you were givin a comparison of a different type of life, you would relize your life sucks, and if you were allowed to live this other type of life, then you wouldn't go back to the original sucky life. If there were other people like you and you told them of this different way of life they wouldn't want to believe thier life sucks.
Yes, I used the word suck, to represent the cave, I swear.
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
Hi Jones,

My mind works it out like so -

Plato uses the cave to illustrate the thinking of his own mind. I.e. I am looking at the world through my own eyes, therefore I can only see what I can see.

Life is full of forces which act upon us, that we cannot see, let alone understand, as we, [in the cave] cannot see these forces, we tend not to acknowledge them, even though they have a tangible effect upon us...

Like AIR - you cannot see it, but you can see its effects when there is a storm...

So if we are to say that we only exist within our caves, we are identifying ourselves as an island, which of course no "man" is...

What Plato seems to be asking is - if we think of ourselves as a person who likes / dislikes etc, we are only grasping half of life.

We also exist as others see us, and the world exists as others see it.

I love water sports, some people look at a river and see danger, some see their own fear, some see their own excellence.

We can choose to look out for other experiences, i.e. remove ourselves from our 'cave' - in effect beig open minded,

or

we can live in the security of our 'cave' - being closed minded...

You may like to read some of Maslows work on Self Actualisation, he asks us to concider that we can only self actualise - i.e. make somehting of our own life, be sucessful etc, if first we meet all our needs, like food love etc.

yourself, you are open minded, because you have asked these questions - the only questions worth asking - who am I, where am I from, and where am I going...

Plato wants us to concider all, that we are human, we can only interprit life though our own conciousness, therefore we are all fundamentally flawed, in that we can only have glimpses of clarity...

Perhaps there is no such thing as absolute truth..?
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
Basically, I think that if you watch the Matrix trilogy (yes, Keanu Reeves), you will understand all of this. Call me cliche, but the answers lie in that movie. It's about choice. Do we accept the reality we've been given, despite the truth of that reality, or do we live outside the barriers of our existence and rise above, creating a higher consciousness.
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
The cave is Plato's thought experiment for considering the inherent inadequacy of our cognitive systems: we can't directly perceive a tree; rather we have light reflected from the tree stimulating optical nerves, firing synapses, shooting off into the brain and somehow creating a cognitive representation of a tree in our "conscience" (whatever that is) - not the same thing and, to Plato's mind, necessarily not as good a thing, as the tree itself - rather like looking at images of an object cast upon a wall of a cave of an image, rather than seeing the object itself.

Plato assumed that there was something essential in that object, absent our perception of it - a purity of its form - that any representation necessarily degraded (and any representation of that representation further degraded, like a photocopy of a photocopy), and I think he believed mankind was therefore inherently decadent thing, since all it could do was perceive; it couldn't directly apprehend.

This leads more or less directly to the classic analytical supposition that there is a reality out there, a single truth, and it is simply our organic limitation that prevents us from correctly appreciating it.

You might see the resonance this view has, for example, with religious thought - but also certain strands of deterministic scientific thought also. I think Richard Dawkins, despite being avowedly atheistic, would also qualify as a platonic "essentialist", as would Steve Pinker, Dan Dennett etc. Another hallmark of platonic essentialism is "reductivism" - the conception that (for example) all scientific knowledge will ultimately match up and comprise a single coherent theory. This is by no means agreed as obviously right.

The contrary stream of thought is the "continental" or "pragmatic" one characterised by folks like Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Kuhn and Richard Rorty, and this holds that the "outside universe", *until interpreted by our cognitive systems*, is meaningless data, and that therefore there's no real sense in describing it as "truth" or "reality" as such. As Richard Rorty put it, "the *world out there* isn't true, only *statements about the world out there* can be true". And sentences are our own creations; they don't exist independently of us. So to hold to some truth; some reality independent of our perception and cognitive system, is to be miss the point of the exercise. Truth is a function of language; language doesn't exist "out there". Essentialists and reductivists reject this as leading to relativism, which it does, although I happen to think that, to the contrary, rather that's quite a good argument for relativism!

Taleb and Popper fall uneasily between the "analytic" tradition of Plato and the synthetic tradition of the relativists.

On simple Platonism, the most thorough critique is Popper's "The Open Society and Its Enemies" which has a whole book devoted to "the curse of Plato"; a far easier and more entertaining (but far less involved) critique is Nicholas Taleb's recently published "Black Swan", and for the continental/relativist view the most accessible writer is the Late Richard Rorty, and his introductory collection of essays "Philosophy and Social Hope", which are excellent.
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
0
Plato believed that one can only learn through dialectic reasoning and open-mindedness. Humans had to travel from the visible realm of image-making and objects of sense, to the intelligible, or invisible, realm of reasoning and understanding. "The Allegory of the Cave" symbolizes this trek and how it would look to those still in a lower realm. Plato is saying that humans are all prisoners and that the tangible world is our cave. The things which we perceive as real are actually just shadows on a wall. Just as the escaped prisoner ascends into the light of the sun, we amass knowledge and ascend into the light of true reality: where ideas in our minds can help us understand the form of 'The Good'.



It has been up to scholarly debate in 20th century how exactly these three sequential comparisons can be coherently bound together. The main problems arise from the allegory of the cave having three cognitive stages and the divided line having four of them, where the first division (shadows, reflections) seems not to be needed to apply to the cave and is hard to be interpreted ontologically, i.e. in the manner of the cave at all. The metaphor of the sun seems to assert that from seeing things in the light of the sun we can raise to seeing ideas in the light of the Good, while in the cave it is not evident that it can not be done without helping and forcing prisoners to look at the light.

-Plato's own remarks on the allegory

In particular, Plato likens "the region revealed through sight"—the ordinary objects we see around us—"to the habitation of the prison, and the light of the fire in it to the power of the sun. And if you assume the ascent and the contemplation of the things above is the soul's ascension to the intelligible region, you will not miss my surmise... My dream as it appears to me is that in the region of the known the last thing to be seen and hardly seen is the idea of good, and that when seen, it must point us to the conclusion that this is indeed the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful, giving birth in the visible world to light, and l the author of light and itself in the intelligible world being the authentic source of truth and reason..." (517b-c). After "returning from divine contemplations to the petty miseries of men", one is apt to cut "a sorry figure" if, "while still blinking through the gloom, and before he has become sufficiently accustomed to the environing darkness, he is compelled in courtrooms or elsewhere to contend about the shadows of justice or the images that cast the shadows and to wrangle in debate about the notions of these things in the minds of those who have never seen justice itself?" (517d-e) a

-Different grounds for interpretation

One can also choose whether the meaning of allegory is epistemological or ontological, i.e. are the shadows to be correlated with things in our world of sight, the things in the cave with mathematical entities, and things outside the cave with ideas or should we just concentrate on the cognitive stages. It has been claimed that a purely epistemological view is foreign to Greek tradition (especially Plato), which holds that the reading should bring ontological statements within.

Besides cognitive interpretations the allegory has also clear political implications, for example the fourth stage of returning to cave to help fellow-prisoners. Also the play of shadows can be interpreted as political juggling over citizens heads and this seems to be natural because of the whole context of The Republic. Since the highest knowledge in the allegory is The Good then the interpretation should bring together at least ethical allusions about attaining virtues.
[d] By: Guest
Date: Thu-Feb-18-2016
Response
What is 1 + 100



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