How Socrates Explained 'Allegory of the Cave'

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As a philosopher, Socrates had a unique way of explaining things to people. This is especially true when analyzing the Allegory of the cave. However, despite his ideologies being so old, they still apply to the world we live in today. For this reason, I will explain how the Allegory of the cave relates to society, life, and education through the use of personal experiences and observations.

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To begin with, society is formed by people that live under some type of structure. Whether it be following laws in a government, following the “rules” of ones’ culture or even following the rules of a household, we live under some organization that we get comfortable with and accept. Their way of living is what they consider the “norm” for their life style. Like the prisoners, people are accustomed to seeing shadows as their reality. When this is threatened, people usually don’t take it in well because what they viewed as “correct” is being debunked, discredited, or challenged. When this happens, it is in a humans’ nature to have a defensive response to these situations. Since change is usually resisted, these responses can vary from being passive to aggressive, which is when a situation gets tricky.

Furthermore, to me, this story is an almost accurate description of life, and the process one goes through with the passage of time. In the start, we have a sugarcoated, childlike perception of reality, which is our “natural condition” before “education”. The “education” Socrates mentions is our inevitable exposure to reality. As we age and are exposed to many different things in life, we realize that things are not always in accordance with the idealized version of the world we had in our heads as children. The goodness and justice we thought was inevitable is in fact not guaranteed to occur. Children live in a bubble of innocence just like the prisoners lived in the cave. The shadows represent the distorted truth that are given to children to keep them away from reality as much as possible. The chains that kept the prisoners locked in place portray parents and guardians that try to keep their children in the dark because they are protecting them in their mind. However, the guard represents growing up. The prisoner that was freed couldn’t just ignore the newly discovered truth and ignore it to live like before.

Similarly, as one grows up, we start seeing the darker sides to a situation. We no longer see the… For example, my own family consists of three siblings: me, a junior in high school, my brother, a fifth grader, and my sister, a first grader. Between my brother and me there is a five-year gap and with my sister there is a ten-year gap. The Allegory of the Cave relates to my family in the sense that my siblings and I are prisoners and our parents are chains that keep us from seeing the whole truth. This truth can vary from having financial problems, educational problems, and, most recently, family problems. Since the guard has released me and I’ve grown up, I can’t see the shadows anymore because I’m not accustomed to seeing the innocent side to these situations anymore. As a teen, the moments when one realizes that life isn’t always fair are often the hardest moments of growing up and being released from these chains. Despite my parents’ attempt to keep things from us, I could still tell that things were going on. My siblings on the other hand are oblivious to these things as I once was.

Finally, I have always identified with the expression “ignorance is bliss”. Sometimes, and I’m sure many people feel this way, we want to return to that cave of shadows an echoes, because dealing with reality isn’t as easy as people make it seem. The allegory of the cave is an accurate description of the philosophical process one must face throughout ones life. Socrates and Glaucon agree that this process is preferred over the unenlightened state of the cave prisoners.

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