An Analysis of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the Importance of Light in Discovering Truth

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In The Republic, Plato introduces a philosophy that transcends the exclusivity of the contemplative and the active lives. He defines the ultimate truth as “aletheia”, which literally translates to mean “unhidden” or “that which does not remain unnoticed”. Through his use of the term and his allegory of the cave, Plato makes the strong implication that philosophers must actively seek to discover the absolute truth, rather than relying on traditional methods of contemplation and the persuasive tone of rhetoric to prove its existence. To better explain his reasoning, Plato constructs a metaphor between the sun and the ultimate good. He argues that “the soul is like the eye” in that it requires an exterior force to establish clarity of…show more content…
He writes, “when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing, then [the soul] has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and seems to have no intelligence” (Book VI, p. 25). By establishing opinion as the opposite to the ultimate good, and by definition, the ultimate evil, he criticizes the use of rhetoric and persuasion while praising to his long-winded, circuitous form of writing. By continually asking questions and telling parables, Plato avoids direct advocation of his beliefs and allows his readers to discover the truth for themselves, rather than to be coerced through eloquent language. Plato expands this analogy in the allegory of the cave. The prisoners, who have lived in the cave since their childhood, “have their necks chained so that they cannot” turn their heads (Book VII, p. 1). From the beginning, their range of sight has been restricted, symbolizing their lack of knowledge. A fire, which resembles a lesser form of the sun, provides the cave with its main source of light, but instead of illuminating objects for the prisoners, the light serves as a backdrop for the shadows that marionette players display on the wall that the prisoners are allowed to see. These shadows understandably become realities for the prisoners, but their belief in pictures made from darkness further emphasizes their ignorance. When one of the prisoners is released, Plato describes his journey to enlightenment as a
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