February 23, 2006

Plato’s Cave

Posted in Philosophy at 2:01 pm by egalitaria

Plato's CaveThe allegory of Plato’s Cave is probably the closest to what all who strongly believe in the truth of their claims are doing. The basic premise is this: That all are living in a dark cave, illuminated only by the slightest light from the opening of the cave far away behind them. People have grown up their entire lives trapped within the cave, backs towards the light, chained and strapped down. It is only by the volition of one person who claims to have experienced the blinding light that news of what’s out there comes back. But the light is strong, too blinding and unacceptable to most. As a result, all continue their lives in the cave of darkness.

See the following of what Plato says to his pretend-disciple, Glaucon in The Republic.

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 is 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?

What is the light? Truth.

What is the darkness? Ignorance.

What is truth to some is ignorance to others.

As a Christian, I believe that truth is what has been revealed to me from God. But others would gladly take that on and say I am practising ignorance. Who is right? The Bible is big on ignorance… “do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance… be holy in all you do..”

The same endeavour is carried out by Philosophers, Scientists, Economists, Psychologists, Historians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Sociologists (all except Politicians – because they don’t even claim to know the truth). Each claims to speak the truth and the whole truth.

Plato says: In the world of knowledge 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. This is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.



  1. Alex Tang said,


    The Bible authors like Paul and John often uses the ‘secular’ langauge of their time and ‘baptise’ it for their use. One example is the greek word ‘logos’. According to Plato and others, ‘logos’ implied that there is a kind of world reason that lies behind everything visible and rules in all things. In today’s language, it will be equivalent to ‘highest consciousness’. John took this term and described Christ as the incarnate logos (John 1), thereby taking a step further than what Plato has done and giving answers to what Plato has been trying to describe using his philosopher’s tools.



  2. egalitaria said,

    From answers.com:

    In pre-Socratic philosophy, the principle governing the cosmos, the source of this principle, or human reasoning about the cosmos.
    Among the Sophists, the topics of rational argument or the arguments themselves.
    In Stoicism, the active, material, rational principle of the cosmos; nous. Identified with God, it is the source of all activity and generation and is the power of reason residing in the human soul.

    I suppose for us, logos would be identified with God. But for atheists, the word takes on a totally different meaning altogether. Rational argument in and of itself is sufficient enough an explanation for reason that lies behind everything visible. The rule does not lie in a higher being, but in a higher line of reasoning.

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