Following this theory initiated by Plato, we can investigate the Analogy of the Cave and the concepts and ideas put forth by Plato from this allegory. Plato presents an exciting theory of knowledge through this allegory, explaining that the only way to find actual knowledge is through a long and grinding process of studying, researching, and thinking. Plato believed knowledge is innate within us, so this process simply rediscovering our innate knowledge. By using the theory of the cave Plato explained that general people choose to ignore the unanswerable questions of life and go through life ignorant of these questions.
Unlike philosophers who search for the answers and eventually find them, giving them actual knowledge. Of course, being a philosopher himself, Plato is considered to be an elitist. When describing the cave analogy, Plato declares that the philosophers, being the more extraordinary minds with more profound understandings of the world, should all be kings. Another point made by this allegory is that knowledge can only be rediscovered if the individual searching accepts that there are two worlds. The empirical world, dependent on the senses, and the realm of forms, is not a physical world that only true philosophers can enter after the grinding process of studying, researching and thinking.
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To begin with, I will describe the basic story of the analogy of the cave and insert the different meanings and teachings I understand Plato to be putting forth at different intervals. Plato teaches that the cave prisoners are like the people of our empirical world, which we consider to be reality. The prisoners are detained in such a way that all they can see is a cave wall. A fire is behind the prisoners, and different forms of puppets cast shadows on the walls. To the prisoners, this is the real world. For them, this is reality as it is all they have ever been exposed to.
In comparison to our world, the shadows are the objects we see, touch, smell, taste and listen to. The physical world to us is simply shadowy, a blurred image of the real world. Plato then goes on to explain that if a prisoner were set free, released from what was detaining them, and allowed to make their way out of the cave to the real world, this would be the comparison of the person who goes on the comprehensive study to discover actual knowledge. After much adjustment, the prisoner would be able to look into the fire and slowly make their way out of the cave, adjusting to the different lights, noises etc.
Now, the prisoner has the choice to refuse this new world they have been introduced to, backing away from the fire and returning to sit in front of the wall they have grown to consider reality. However, if the prisoner were forced to face reality, they would realize that there is an entire world outside the cave. Plato uses this analogy to explain that once we have been through the studying process, the adjustment, we will discover the natural world and have full knowledge, like philosophers. So instead of living in a world of opinion, we will live in a world of knowledge; instead of a world of what the senses perceive, we will live in a world of what reason understands, a world of reality.
In Plato’s opinion, this world of the ‘Forms’ is arranged in a hierarchy. The most essential form is the good, which is the ultimate principle, making the world of the ‘Forms’ to be a world we should all aspire to be in. However, one major flaw in Plato’s argument is that it is based on opinion. Considering part of his argument bases this perfect world on being of knowledge and not opinion, and bearing in mind Plato considers himself, as a Philosopher, to be in this world, his argument is based on opinion. He has no fact of this realm of ‘Forms’ and therefore could be considered to be contradicting himself.
Nevertheless, Plato’s viewpoint is indeed worth at least acknowledged as a point of reference for the basis of our world. Some philosophers believe that “Plato believes humans can’t know the whole truth.” This is an exciting point of view, as Plato did indeed appear to be a highly elitist philosopher, believing philosopher kings should rule the realm of ‘Forms,’ the world of reason. Undeniably, Plato made it clear that he felt Philosophers were of higher intellect and more importance than ordinary people. However, it is also arguable that Plato did teach that knowledge is innate within us. If knowledge is innate, then technically, everybody knows.
So, if everyone goes through rediscovering the innate knowledge within, everybody can become a philosopher. So in opposition to some philosophers, I would argue that Plato did believe that humans could know the whole truth. If So ifdeed the world of reason, the realm of ‘Forms’ does exist, and if people can become part of this world, then the ‘form’ of truth will be accessible to all who go through the process of rediscovering knowledge.
Plato described the world of reason to contain true goodness, the Form of good. An empirical example of goodness would be telling the truth, which we believe is false. However, if we believe that this world of reason is of goodness, does that make the world we live in bad? If the world we live in is terrible, then the people who live in this world cannot access the truth; the truth is an example of the form of good. Therefore, Plato could have been saying that those who decide to ignore or have not considered a different world other than the physical can’t know the whole truth.
This then brings us to the conclusion that some people are and will remain to be without any knowledge of the whole truth, of goodness, and will be happy to accept the physical world as the only world. Yet, there will still be those who inquire and question the physical world and search for the world of ‘forms.’ The world where the whole does exist. These people will become philosophers whilst going through the process of reacquiring innate knowledge. But they are still people and will gain true knowledge of the truth. Or so Plato’s opinion tells us.
Plato’s message was not that normal people cannot even access the world of reason, the ‘forms’, just they have to rediscover their innate knowledge. Simplistically knowledge is there in front of us, and if we open our eyes to it we will be able to access it, if however we turn away and remain eyes closed to this knowledge, we will remain in a world of shadows and opinions.