Allegory of the Cave Reaction Paper
Plato argues that perceptions of material objects are imperfect reflections of an unchanging form of truth that can be pursued through the quest for knowledge and belief.
He outlines the order in which the escaped prisoner would ascend in understanding; “At first it would be easiest to make out shadows, and then the images of men and things reflected in water, and later on the things themselves… last of all, he would be able to look at the sun and contemplate its nature… in its own domain.”
Basically: the cave is our societal structure, we are the prisoners, the shadows are our limited understanding of reality, and the sun is the ultimate truth. Through this process that the escaped prisoner goes through to reach understanding of the outside world, Plato implies that the sun represents the ultimate truth that the escaped prisoner eventually reaches, corresponding with “the essential Form of Goodness”, suggesting that Goodness equates with the highest level of understanding.
This defines for the readers that learning and knowledge is a slow progression that leads to the truth by demystifying the shadows of imperfect objects, classifying truth as the greatest enlightenment and righteousness available. Plato speaks of the escaped prisoner seeing the light for the first time,” he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him . . .” Plato acknowledges that finding
Truth is not an easy process. It requires pain and struggle and confusion. But he argues that one must always take part in a process of seeking higher knowledge and attaining wisdom to reach a point of true understanding. This is hard on the Self to adjust to internal changes of perception, but it is even harder to face those who have not seen the light—those who have not encountered Truth.
Plato says in the allegory that “Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes . . . ” meanings that once the escapee returns to his fellow cave dwellers, they would not see him as more knowledgeable. They would see him as impaired by his journey. He goes further to say that they would insult him for thinking that what he saw was truer or “more good” than their shadow reality. I think that this parallels modern society very well.
It is so true that in our society, those with transcendent experiences and knowledge tend to be seen as “crazy” or “unstable” and are brushed to the side, ostracized, or “steered back on path”. Which leads to the question of who to follow—those that are blind with knowledge or those with keen sight of a lower realm of truth? In the end, Plato discusses the role of those who ascend with knowledge, saying that it is their duty to the state to return to lower states of consciousness in order to maintain unity.
Not just having intelligence makes someone good, that desire to keep learning more and to share such knowledge defines a person. Plato gives an example: “Did you never observe the narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue –how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of blind, but his keen eyesight is forced into the service of evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness . . . “
Based on this, I think Plato would advocate for his city-state a leader that was not only a student and intellectual explorer, but a true philosopher who would be willing to become enlightened (even if the process is a painful journey) and then rule with such knowledge to benefit all those with less vision. Such a ruler would be more concerned with spiritual benefit from the job than the material benefits of having so much power.
Their wealth is of the mind. I agree with Plato! I think that a true philosopher would be a great rule because the philosophers learn to look at things from multiple angles, in an objective manner, so I think that such a ruler would not be self-motivated in their actions and would act fairly and justly to represent all the citizens.
No one is perfect, but a philosopher continuously seeks higher knowledge and there for would always be on the edge of new discoveries that would advance the peoples’ lives. I think that what a person can spiritually and intellectually contribute to a society far out weighs all other forms of donation.