It is a well known fact that Plato was interested in education in a profound way. Most of his dialogues are concerned with education in different ways. In one of his essays, the Republic, Plato used a series of images to reinforce his claims on education. Plato claims that there can be no end to political unrest unless our rulers or kings do not practice philosophy or are not philosophers.
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In the Parable of the Cave, Plato has not fallen short of his emphasis on education; this fictional dialogue between Plato and his teacher Socrates highlights the importance of education in our society. In the first line of the dialogue, Plato shows in a figurative way how enlightened or unenlightened natural man is. The cave conditions are, therefore, a correlation of mans education or lack of it (Plato ,Para 1)
Plato tells us that if the prisoners were unlocked and forced out of the cave, they would prefer to go back and remain in the comfortable and familiar darkness of their caves. However, if they are forced out of the caves completely, they would gradually adapt to change and learn to appreciate.
This, if analyzed, means that education is not an easy thing, and humans do not always welcome the truth but, when they are forced to be educated, they learn to appreciate the truth and incorporate new knowledge (Plato, para 3).
Plato, in earlier pages of the dialogue, distinguishes the visible realm from the intelligent realm. According to him, visible realms are things grasped by perception while intelligent realms are those grasped by reasoning and intelligence. As the prisoner ascents out of the cave, a person stops perceiving things and stars to acquire the intelligent realm that did not exist in the cave.
The objects outside the cave are more real than those that existed in the cave and which were only the likeliness of the outside form. The outside world brings an end to perception and introduces the creation of reasoning. The human soul is ascending to the intelligent realm.
Plato writes that the bounded prisoners are forced to look straight at the light. There would be a pain in their eyes, this will make him look away and seek refuge in the objects which he can see and which he perceives to be the reality than those that were being shown to him.
In comparing this to education, forcing a person to be educated (education is represented by the light) is a high order which would cause pain to the person at first as he prefers to be in his ignorant comfort zone than venture out there to the unknown. This can also be compared with the well known saying, “the roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”.
We also notice that the prisoners are turned in the wrong direction, they cannot turn their heads to look behind as their heads are bound by chains. Upon being released from the shackles, the first impulse of the prisoners is to turn their heads to the familiar shadows behind them. Plato describes this as educational orientation.
The purpose of educators is to introduce this orientation (turning the head) to the uneducated. Plato remarks that educators should find simplified and effective ways to turn souls around. They should not implant sight, but should proceed with aligning the eyes to face the right direction knowing that the organ of sight already exists and has the capacity to see (Plato, para 2).
In the last paragraph, Plato introduces us to the fact that eyes’ bewilderment are of two kinds, that of going out of light and that of going into the light. Similarly, there exist the mind eye and the bodily eye. Plato described a money-lover in one his dialogues, that his reasoning was to sit on either side of the kings feet calculating and researching on how to start with a little money and multiply it.
This description fits into a person with bodily desires and not mind desires, such people have restricted their ambitions to the acquisition of wealth through any mean.
Plato. The Parable of the Cave. Web.