SOLUTION: Platos Republic Discussion – Studypool

PHIL 2010: Introduction to Philosophy
THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE
By Plato
Translation by Benjamin Jowett. Edited by Clark Wolf
Socrates: And now let me show in a story how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened.
Imagine human beings living in an underground cave, which has a mouth open toward the light
and reaching all along the cave; 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
between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised path; 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 puppets.
Glaucon: I see.
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.
Glaucon: You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Socrates: But they are like us. And they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one
another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
In the Allegory of the Cave, the realm inside the cave
represents:
A. Shadows of images which are sensory copies of the visible world.
B. The ideal city-state.
C. The intelligible realm, with the Ideals or Forms of important
concepts.
D. The academy
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Glaucon: 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 along the path, they would only see the
shadows?
Glaucon: Yes.
Socrates: And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they
were naming things that were actually before them?
Glaucon: Very true.
Socrates: And suppose further that the prison had an echo that came from the wall on which the
shadows were cast. When those passing to and fro along the path spoke to one another, wouldn’t
the prisoners naturally be led to believe that the voice they heard came from the passing shadow?
Glaucon: No question.
Which one of the following is not one of the Ideals
or Forms?
A. Justice
B.
The shadows in the Cave.
C. Perfect Beauty.
D. The Good.
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Socrates: What they would believe to be true would, in actuality, be literally nothing but 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 suddenly forced to stand up
and turn his neck round and walk and look toward the light, he will suffer sharp pains. The glare
will distress him, and he will be unable to see the real objects that cast the shadows he had
previously mistaken for real things. And suppose someone told him that what he had seen before
was an illusion, but that now he sees things more as they really are and his eye is turned toward
reality. Suppose he were told that his vision is now clearer than it was before – what will be his
reply? Suppose that his instructor points to the objects as they pass and asking him to name them.
Will he not be perplexed? Won’t he at first believe that the shadows he formerly saw are truer than
the objects which are now shown to him?
Glaucon: Far truer.
Socrates: And if he is forced to look straight at the light, won’t he experience pain in his eyes,
which will make him turn away to take refuge in the shadows he can see without pain, and which
will still seem to him clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
Glaucon: True, he said.
Socrates: And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged path, and
forced into the presence of the sun itself. Is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he
approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he won’t be able to see any of the things we
normally regard as real.
Glaucon: Not all in a moment.
Plato discusses the Allegory of the Cave to show
that:
A. The appearances of things can deceive us.
B.
Ethical concepts are out of reach, even if we use reason
C. We are trapped by false ideals.
D. Shadows give us reliable knowledge
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Socrates: He will need 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 at first he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by
day.
Glaucon: Certainly.
Socrates: Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not merely reflections in the water. Finally
he will be able to see the sun in its own proper place, and not in another; and he will see it as it
really is.
Glaucon: Certainly.
Socrates: Only then will he begin to understand, and to explain that it is the sun that gives the
season and the years, and is the source of the light that illuminates all that is in the visible world.
He will come to understand that it is the Sun that is, in a certain way, the real 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 the sun.
Socrates: And what would he think when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of
the cave and his fellow prisoners? Don’t you think that he would be happy with his new knowledge
and that he would pity those who are still bound in the cave?
Glaucon: Certainly, he would.
Socrates: And if those in the cave were in the habit of conferring honors 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-those who were best able to draw conclusions as to the
future: Do you think that one who had seen the sun and the world beyond the cave would care for
such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say, with Homer, “Better
to be the poor servant of a poor master,” and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and
live after their manner?
Glaucon: Yes, I think that he would rather suffer anything than to go back to these false notions
and live in this miserable manner.
Socrates: Imagine once more, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun to be put back into the
cave. Would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
Glaucon: To be sure.
Socrates: And suppose there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with
the prisoners who had never left the cave. If he were forced to compete with the other prisoners
while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would
be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not seem
ridiculous and stupid to the others? They would say that he went up and returned without his eyes,
much stupider than he was before. They would say that it was better not even to think of leaving
the darkness of the cave. And if anyone tried to free another prisoner and lead him up to the light,
if they could catch him, isn’t it likely that they would put him to death?
Glaucon: No question.
Socrates: This entire allegory, you may now understand, dear Glaucon, in light of our previous
argument: the prison house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you may
interpret the journey upward as the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world. At least this is my
poor understanding of the truth, which, at your desire, I have expressed – whether rightly or
wrongly, God knows. But, whether true or false, I believe that in the world of knowledge the idea
of good is the last idea we can grasp with our intellect, and it is seen only with great effort. But
when we grasp that idea, we come to understand it as 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. It is the power of this understanding of the good that leads all
rational thought and action. And it is on this powerful idea that the eye of the intellect must remain
fixed if one hopes to act rationally either in public or private life.
Glaucon: I agree, as far as I am able to understand you.
Socrates: Moreover, you must not wonder that those who attain to this spectacular vision are
unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper intellectual
world where they desire to dwell. This desire of theirs is very easy to understand, if our allegory
may be trusted.
Glaucon: Yes, very natural.
Plato discusses the Allegory of the Cave to show
that:
A. The appearances of things can never deceive us.
B.
The Good is the highest of all the forms.
C. We are trapped by false ideals.
D. Shadows give reliable knowledge.
Hints
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Socrates: And is it surprising that one who, after a vision of pure truth, comes back into the cave
of ignorance, would behave in a way that would seem ridiculous to the other chained prisoners?
Suppose he were taken, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the
surrounding darkness, and compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images
or the shadows of images of justice? Would it be surprising if he were unable to make himself
understood to those who have no conception of absolute justice?
Glaucon: Anything but surprising.
Socrates: Anyone who has commonsense will remember that the eyes are dazzled and blinded in
two very different circumstances: both when one comes out of the light and into the darkness, and
when one moves out of the darkness and into the light. This is true of the mind’s eye, just as it is
true of the bodily eye; and if one remembers this when he sees anyone whose vision is perplexed
and weak, he will not be too ready to laugh. He will first ask whether that soul of man has come
out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned
from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one who has come
from the light happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other. Or, if he has a
mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, at least there will be more sense
in this than in laughing at one who returns from the light of truth and comes back into the cave.
Glaucon: That is a very just distinction.
Socrates: But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that
they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
Glaucon: They undoubtedly say this.
One individual manages to escape from the Cave.
What does Plato expect them to do?
A. Return to the Cave and try to explain the situation to the others,
even if they do not want to hear the truth.
B. Seek out the perfect flamingo and feed it.
C. Catalog the Forms and make lists.
D. Never return to the Cave.
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Socrates: Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul
already. Just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, just so
the intellect cannot be turned toward the light of truth unless the whole soul is turned from the
world of becoming toward that of being. And the soul must take many small steps toward truth, it
must learn by degrees to endure the sight of being. And only gradually will the intellect be able to
turn toward the brightest and best of being, or, in other words, toward the Good.
Glaucon: Very true.
Socrates: And must there not be some art which will effect this conversion in the easiest and
quickest manner? This art need not implant the faculty of sight, for that exists already but has been
turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth.
Glaucon: Yes, surely there must be some art like that.
Socrates: And what of the virtues? Some of them seem to be akin to bodily qualities, for even
when they are not originally innate they can be implanted later by habit and exercise. But the virtue
of wisdom more than anything else contains a divine element which always remains, and by this
conversion is rendered useful and profitable. But when our intelligence is not turned toward the
light of the good it can be hurtful and useless. 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! No one would call him blind, but his keen eyesight is forced into the service of
evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness.
Glaucon: Very true.
Socrates: But what if such people had early in life been led away from narrow sensual pleasurespleasures like eating and drinking. These pleasures are like lead weights attached to them at birth,
which drag them down and turn the vision of their souls down to the lower things. But what if they
had been released from these weights and turned in the opposite direction, toward the light of truth!
Then this very same faculty of intelligence would have leapt toward the light of truth as eagerly as
it now pursues the darkness.
Glaucon: Very likely.
Adapted by Clark Wolf from The Republic and Other Works translated by Benjamin Jowett.
Random House.
Answer Key:
1. A
2. B
3. A
4. B
5. A

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