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.

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

  1. So cool that i would find this today! We talked about this at the byui devotional given by brother Bird

  2. There is something that made that man free from the cave. And as he went out and saw the light, it hurt his eyes. As he saw the true things with their shadows, he got confused. But, he came to appreciate and learn them that it was really good and his friends should know about this light and beauty outside the cave. Sadly, they tunrned him down.

    As I apply this, i was in a dark cave with no direction and knowledge at all. But there was an intervention that freed me and made me walk to the light. At first I was confused, I can't fully grasp reality. But until such time I was able to spend more of my days in my freedom, I came to the knowledge that I have to share it to those chained and still locked up in the darkness. It was then the point where I learned that sharing the light and beauty of reality is mostly rejected by many eventhough what you really wanted is the best for them. You just want to share the real joy you have. And so, the journey doesn't stop. It still continues on and on trying to share the beauty of the light outside to those who are still the cave of darkness and shadow. I thank You, Jesus. ❤️

  3. I wrote a song about Plato's Allegory of the Cave…
    I think our cave is getting deeper and deeper as more rules and distractions are placed upon us by corporations and institutions.

  4. Im sure Plato consulted the Oracle of Delphi about his Philosopher Stone prior to attending the Eleusinian Mysteries. I heard, he (Plato), stoned Persephone to death…

    A true gem: Philosopher King…

  5. I only exist. I know because I can think and I can sense things. You all are fake entities designed to keep me from being aware.

  6. fun fact this allegory is in the book perturabo: hammer of olympia against the idea of religion to explain everything

  7. The first time I ever interacted with Plato's Allegory of the Cave was in my 9th grade English class when we read Flowers for Algernon. It was a very meaningful experience for me as one of the many interpretations put forward by my teacher ( whom I adore to this day) was: "would you rather be a happy simpleton and live a life of blissful ignorance of the world around you, or be a miserable intellectual who is enlightened to the true nature of the world but rejected by the rest of society?"

  8. What is interesting is that the Gospel Of John was the first book of the Bible written in Greek. The concept of an idea and a form is the essence of John 1:1. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh" is Plato's Allegory Of The Cave. The Greek word "logos" can be interpreted as both "word" (dialogue, monologue) and "idea." (logic) So John 1:1 can also be translated as "In the beginning was the ideal and the ideal was given form."

  9. I am completely clueless when it comes to anything that has to do with philosophy, so thank you so much for making this.

  10. This helped me to understand Plato's Cave from a scientific point of view using holographic theory and simulation theory.

  11. In order to pass from the shadows to contemplation of the sun, intermediaries (métaux) are needed. The different ways are distinguished by the intermediary chosen. The role of the intermediary is in the first place to be situated midway between ignorance and the fullness of wisdom, between temporal becoming and the fullness of being.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?


  14. 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.

  15. 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…

  16. 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

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

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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

  22. 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 .

  23. 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.

  24. “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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *