Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – Alex Gendler


What is reality, knowledge,
the meaning of life? Big topics you might tackle figuratively explaining existence as a journey
down a road or across an ocean, a climb, a war, a book, a thread, a game,
a window of opportunity, or an all-too-short-lived
flicker of flame. 2,400 years ago, one of history’s famous thinkers said
life is like being chained up in a cave, forced to watch shadows
flitting across a stone wall. Pretty cheery, right? That’s actually what Plato suggested
in his Allegory of the Cave, found in Book VII of “The Republic,” in which the Greek philosopher
envisioned the ideal society by examining concepts
like justice, truth and beauty. In the allegory, a group of prisoners
have been confined in a cavern since birth, with no knowledge of the outside world. They are chained, facing a wall,
unable to turn their heads, while a fire behind them
gives off a faint light. Occasionally, people pass by the fire, carrying figures of animals and other objects
that cast shadows on the wall. The prisoners name
and classify these illusions, believing they’re perceiving
actual entities. Suddenly, one prisoner is freed
and brought outside for the first time. The sunlight hurts his eyes and he finds
the new environment disorienting. When told that the things
around him are real,` while the shadows were mere reflections,
he cannot believe it. The shadows appeared much clearer to him. But gradually, his eyes adjust until he can look
at reflections in the water, at objects directly, and finally at the Sun, whose light is the ultimate source
of everything he has seen. The prisoner returns to the cave
to share his discovery, but he is no longer used to the darkness, and has a hard time
seeing the shadows on the wall. The other prisoners think the journey
has made him stupid and blind, and violently resist
any attempts to free them. Plato introduces this passage
as an analogy of what it’s like to be a philosopher
trying to educate the public. Most people are not just comfortable
in their ignorance but hostile to anyone who points it out. In fact, the real life Socrates
was sentenced to death by the Athenian government
for disrupting the social order, and his student Plato
spends much of “The Republic” disparaging Athenian democracy, while promoting rule by philosopher kings. With the cave parable, Plato may be arguing that the masses
are too stubborn and ignorant to govern themselves. But the allegory has captured
imaginations for 2,400 years because it can be read in far more ways. Importantly, the allegory is connected
to the theory of forms, developed in Plato’s other dialogues, which holds that
like the shadows on the wall, things in the physical world are flawed
reflections of ideal forms, such as roundness, or beauty. In this way, the cave leads to many
fundamental questions, including the origin of knowledge, the problem of representation, and the nature of reality itself. For theologians, the ideal forms
exist in the mind of a creator. For philosophers of language
viewing the forms as linguistic concepts, the theory illustrates the problem
of grouping concrete things under abstract terms. And others still wonder whether
we can really know that the things outside the cave
are any more real than the shadows. As we go about our lives, can we be confident
in what we think we know? Perhaps one day, a glimmer of light may punch a hole
in your most basic assumptions. Will you break free to struggle
towards the light, even if it costs you
your friends and family, or stick with comfortable
and familiar illusions? Truth or habit? Light or shadow? Hard choices, but if it’s any consolation,
you’re not alone. There are lots of us down here.

100 thoughts on “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave – Alex Gendler”

  1. tbh i think most people would see what the outside world is like rather than attack the one who's clearly seen more than them.

  2. I think comedians like George Carlin are our philosophers of our time and the philosophers then were the stand up comedians of ancient times. Meaning, I will bet Plato and Socrates had great senses of humor.

    How do blind people dream?

    Hmmmm?

  3. Well if any has read "bhagvat gita as it is" can very easily relate this philosophy, it is clearly mentioned there that all forms existing here are not real, and also the process to reach the place where actual form exist is explained.

  4. I wonder if there's some people here I know that was looking at this video just because there was a recitation for a specific subject…

  5. A better aligory would be that of a house of mirrors that range from greatly warped to only slightly and everyone is in different views of different mirrors. Philosophy is one of the few partially subjective studies out there due to its flexibility, by definition, to say that there is only one right answer is inherently wrong

  6. Everyone check out the album by LOWFI “ the allegory” and especially the song earth don’t deserve me

  7. This is a perfect example of social/mainstream media nowadays. Where there's a blur between truth and lies.

  8. Plato also thought that the Earth wasn’t going to be able to sustain human life very long after him unless the population was limited so I don’t want to see any more comments about y’all breaking out of the matrix

  9. I think it's a little upsetting that the commentators draw that answers found are in polar opposites while the allegory was not about finding answers but to remain vigilant on where and how you get truth or perceive truth.

  10. Believing that you are enlightened doesn't mean that you are enlightened. Those who believe that the earth is flat often claim that they have discovered the truth and that the rest of us are a bunch of brainwashed morons.

  11. The difference between Narnia and aslan’s country aka True Narnia as explained by Professor Diggory: “all in Plato, all in Plato”

  12. Beautiful video !
    I think alot are out of the cave but are still learning the nature of the environment . …There are some if not alot of people who are still in that cave .Then again perhaps we are all still in that cave waiting to be free . God Bless Journy Well .

  13. We are living in a stimulation for almost sure.Great minds from vedas to scientist have always hinted at it.Limited senses,dichotomy of everything(light-dark,happiness-sadness,life-death) are some rules put to it.

  14. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    – Joseph Goebbels

    Also the mission statement of Fox.

  15. Would you say Plato was a bright bloke? Well if he was that clever- do you know how he got killed? Got hit on the head with an egg.

  16. The problem with this cave allegory is that anything can be logical, but at some point you have to ask whether or not something is real. Anyone can say anything, but not everyone can prove everything said. You can talk endlessly, and with the greatest complexity of any unseeable “reality” your mind can conceive, but can you back up your endless talk?

    We’ve already come up with better ways of knowing things than Plato ever dreamed. We know things that even he could not conceive of given his limited knowledge and experience. Many have already used science to challenge old and erroneous beliefs about the world only to be met with hostility and stubbornness. We are well past Plato’s cave and his theory of forms, and yet we keep repeating it.

  17. I'm out the cave and have been for years guys. I been working on a machine that can take me off this planet. I will come back for you all if I make it. I love u all. Be kind and keep seeking the trurh

  18. I was thinking the cavemen still had some sense of reality as they could see each other in real forms and not in shadows.

  19. the allegory is ppl watching television their whole lives feeding them lies about the world. Anyone who gives evidence against their brainwashing is rejected.

  20. TED will only allow you to have so much information but censorship will be invoked if too much truth is offered…

  21. "Most people are comfortable in their ignorance and hostile when you point this out" and first thing the popped in my head was religion!

  22. Personally i believe no person ever will truly get out of the cave, for how can you see the World and all of existence for what it really is and represent if you don't see it from the perspective of every living thing that experiences it. If we guide ourselves by stating that every single living thing experiences life differently and, if they manage, every one of them finds their own, individual, meaning of it how can we be sure what it really is?

  23. I did a presentation on this in high school, and was subsequently booed from the front of the classroom after trying to explain it so many times, and i was like

    ok you guys got one part down, HOWEVER

  24. one has the WILL to decide whether live in a cave or outside, sure outside can be scary, even when you know the Truth, that is what light does, if you are light you gonna enlight darkness, starting by your fears inside yourself.
    Know Thyself and you'll know the Universe and its Gods.

  25. I’m not out of the cave yet but one of my chains broke free so I can turn around and look outside. I can’t live outside yet! That is the journey ahead!

  26. So, a comment on a TED talk got me to google "Plato's Allegory of the Cave" and what comes up? A TED-Ed video! I love TED-Ed, one of my favorite you tube channels 🙂

  27. Has anyone wondered how the prisoners survived that long? How can they ingest food if their hands are tied and presumably no human came up to them?

  28. I did not escape the cave. I was born Outside of It. So when i saw the world of cave and its people everything felt so messed up.

  29. The people outside of the cave are the ones that know the truth! Or the people outside of the cave are the ones that know the truth?

    It's a paradox of control that you cannot see.

    Humans have used power of manipulation over other humans forever.

    The ones that point the manipulation out are damned.

    Slaves do not know that they are slaves in the cave. They will protect their form of truth to the death because that's what they know to survive.

    You are the judge of that. If you want to stay in the cave, then reality is what you say it is.

    If you break the chains and walk outside then you can see!

    The truth LIEs in the beLIEfs inside the shadows, the cave is not real, tell everyone though you be damned!

  30. Funny thing is, our perception of reality is just the work of our imagination, interpreting the things arround us trough our senses. You never truly get to "see" anything, your eyes just send feedback that your brain is suposed to interpret by itself.
    There are colors we can't see, sounds we can't hear, and the melodies we love only work inside our brains.
    That's why i don't think this as an allegory, i think of this as a reality. Everyone's individual reality.

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