HIST101 Wk 4 The Republic: The Allegory of the Cave Discussion Queries Follow the directions on the uploaded document. Please, no plagiarism. I will check before accepting the work. You will need to read the primary document Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” to complete this
discussion board. You are expected to answer the questions fully and provide evidence for your
response. Additionally, you are asked to respond to 2 of your classmate’s responses to questions.
Philosophy was important in ancient Greece and many times these philosophers wrote their
thoughts in the form of dialogue to teach their students. Plato a student of Socrates wrote The
Republic to explore ideas about the state. Using an excerpt from The Republic, “Allegory of
the Cave,” we can examine Plato’s thought process and understanding of the ideal Greek state.
Explore the following questions and relate it to your reading the Allegory of the Cave by Plato
assigned this week.
Describe how the people in the cave are situated. Why can’t they move their legs or necks to take
a look around?
What does Plato’s cave tell us about what we see with our eyes?
The allegory presupposes that there is a distinction between appearances and reality. Do you
agree? Why or why not?
The Republic: The Allegory of the Cave
ca. 360 B.C.E.
The Peloponnesian War ended badly for the Athenians: they lost to the Spartans, the Athenian democracy fell, and the city came under the rule of tyrants.
The Athenian democracy was eventually restored, but was unstable. During
that time, the philosopher Socrates (SOK-ruh-teez; ca. 470-399 B.G.E.) gathered a following of young Athenians as he pointed out the shortcomings of
the wealthy, powerful, and wise. Socrates was put on trial and executed for
impiety and corrupting the youth. After his death, his student Plato (PLAYtoh; 427-347 B.G.E.) wrote The Republic, a study of the ideal state. Much
of the book is written in the form of an imagined dialogue. The section below
is a discussion between Socrates, who does most of the talking, and Plato’s
older brother Glaucon, who provides the short responses.
And now, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlight-
ened or unenlightened:
– Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching
all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have
their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only
see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round
their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and
From Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, vol. 2, trans. Benjamin Jowett (New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914), pp. 265-274.
between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will
see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which
marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the
SOCRATES: And do you see men passing along the wall carrying all sorts
of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone
and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are
talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange
Like ourselves, and they see only their own shadows, or the
shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of
True; how could they see anything
but the shadows if they
were never allowed to move their heads?
SOCRATES: And of the objects which are being carried in like manner
they would only see the shadows?
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they
not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
GLAUCON: Very true.
SOCRATES: And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came
from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the
passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
GLAUCON: No question.
SOCRATES: To them … the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
GLAUCON: That is certain.
SOCRATES: And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the
prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any
of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his
neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp
pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then
conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye
is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, – what
will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor
pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, –
will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he
formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
GLAUCON: Far truer.
And ifhe is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not
have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge
in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive
to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a
steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he’s forced into the pres-
ence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated?
When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not
be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
GLAUCON: Not all in a moment.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper
world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of
men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves;
then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the
spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better
than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
SOCRATES: Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place,
and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
SOCRATES: He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the
season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible
world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his
fellows have been accustomed to behold?
GLAUCON: Clearly … he would first see the sun and then reason about it.
And when he remembered
his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he
would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among
themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows
and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after,
and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw
as to the future, do you think that he would care for such
honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? …
Yes, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain
these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
SOCRATES: Imagine once more … such a one coming suddenly out of
the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to
have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the
den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become
steady … would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up
he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not
even to think of ascending; and if anyone tried to loose another and
lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they
would put him to death.
GLAUCON: No question.
SOCRATES: The prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is
the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world
according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed
whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my
opinion is that in the world ofknowledge the idea of good appears last
of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred
to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of
light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate
source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power
upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private
life must have his eye fixed.
GLAUCON: I agree as far as I am able to understand you.
SOCRATES: Moreover … you must not wonder that those who attain to
this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their
souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell;
which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.
GLAUCON: Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine
contemplations to the evil state of man, behaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become
to the surrounding
darkness, he is compelled
to fight in
courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of
images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those
who have never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising ….
shows that the power and capacity of
learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable
to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the
instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul
be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by
degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of
being, or in other words, of the good.
And there is another thing which is likely or rather a necessary
inference from what has preceded, that neither the uneducated and
uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never [finish 1 their education, will be able ministers of State ….
Then … the business of us who are the founders of the State
will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we
have already shown to be the greatest of all- they must continue to
ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and
seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
SOCRATES: I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not
be allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners
in the den, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are
worth having or not.
But is not this unjust; ought we to give them a worse life, when
they might have a better?
SOCRATES: You have again forgotten, my friend … the intention of the
legislator, who did not aim at making anyone class in the State happy
above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he held
the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; to this
end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his instruments in binding up the State ….
And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their turn
at the toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the greater part of
their time with one another in the heavenly light?
GLAUCON: Impossible, for they are just men, and the commands which
we impose upon them are just; there can be no doubt that everyone
of them will take office as a stern necessity, and not after the fashion of
our present rulers of State.
Yes, my friend … ; and there lies the point. You must contrive
for your future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler, and
then you may have a well-ordered
State; for only in the State which
offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver and gold, but
in virtue and wisdom, which are the true blessings of life. Whereas
if they go to the administration of public affairs, poor and hungering
after their own private advantage, thinking that hence they are to
snatch the chief good, order there can never be; for they will be fighting about office, and the civil and domestic broils which thus arise
will be the ruin of the rulers themselves
GLAUCON: Most true.
and of the whole State.
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