Three short answer questions at the end of read on Plato and the cave 

An allegory written by Plato in the dialogue, “The Republic”, is the cave.

1. People are imprisoned from childhood in a cave. They are chained together.

2. Their legs and necks are fixed. They can only see  the wall in front of them.

3.They can not look at each other, or themselves, or around the cave.

4. Behind them is a fire.

5. Between the fire and the people is a walkway and a low wall.

6. People walk carrying objects.

7.People can only see the shadow of the  objects cast on the wall in front of them. They can hear the sounds of the people talking and echoing off the walls of the cave.

8. The people believe the sounds come from the objects.

9. The shadows are reality for them because they never see anything else.

10.They do not realize that what they see are shadows of the objects in front of the fire.

11. They do not realize the objects are inspired by real things outside the fire.

12. a person escapes from the cave.

13. He sees the reflection of real people and things on the water, including himself.

14. Later he sees people and things themselves.

15. eventually he is able to look at the stars, moon, and then the sun and reason about it.

16. The sun light hurts his eyes.

17. He returns to the cave to share what he has found and bring his fellow cave dwellers into the light.

18. It is hard for him to see inside the cave.

19. The people inside the cave infer he has been blinded by his journey outside the cave and they should not undertake such as journey.

An allegory has is a symbolic fictional story. It has a literal meaning and a symbolic one. You have to look beyond the literal to discover the meaning. The characters and events represent other things. An allegory can capture feeling and mood and present a complex idea in a simple form. Remember that Plato is a rationalist. Yet, the idea of forums and people having knowledge prior to birth is somewhat mystical. Plato believes there is absolute truth. Plato wants us to see the human journey from the standpoint of a rationalist. He raises the question of what we have to escape from to find truth.

Some symbol ideas:

cave is superficial reality, ignorance, accepting what is seen at face value

darkness is ignorance, belief that the shadows are real, the true form of the objects

chains: trapped in ignorance

shadows: superficial truth

freed prisoner: those who understand the physical world is a shadow of truth

the sun: glaring in the eyes is the higher world of ideas

the light is wisdom

Question 1: Do you think his allegory gets across the feeling of living a life of ignorance and the feeling of finding truth ?

Question 2: Would it be OK to find truth and not share it when you know the resistance you will face? Explain why or why not.

Question 3: The people are chained together from childhood not birth. Why do you think he chooses childhood and not birth?


As human beings we ask metaphysical questions such as what is real and where do we come from. What is truth. Today there is a lot of discussion about whether something that is said is true. A lie can not be truth because it can not be backed up by fact and is therefore false. It is part of being a human being. I don’t believe my dog is asking the same questions. We have curiosity. We want to know things. Plato is known for his theory of Forms. His idea is not original. He builds on ideas of other Greek Philosophers. Epistemology is a Greek term meaning the study (nature) of knowledge. What do we know and how do we know it. later we will study Rene Descartes, who is considered the Father of Epistemology. He lived in the 1500’s and made important connections between geometry and algebra.

1.Every object, function, and idea has an ideal form that is unchanging.

2. We have pre-knowledge of these forms within our soul. We are born with knowledge of the ideal.

3. The forms are universal and unchanging.

4. Our physical reality can nor be perfect. We try to get as close as possible.

These forms are not empirical, not testable by our senses.

Example he uses is a child and a table. The child come with pre-knowledge of the Form, seeing a table unlocks the ideal within the mind, the form existed before him, seeing the table unlocks the form, it is an approximate of the real. There was a real table before a prehistoric man ate dinner on a flat rock.


Take one of Plato’s quotes below and write a paragraph explaining why you agree or disagree with it or how you would modify it. Give your reasons and explain an example.

Your silence gives consent

The measure of a man is what he does with power

Courage is knowing what not to fear

The greatest wealth is to be content with little

Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle


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