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Plato’s Story of the Cave Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 17th, 2019


The story of ‘The Cave’ by Plato highlights Socrates emphasis on the ignorance of most people who up to date remain comfortable in the world of relative ignorance since they lack of enough knowledge. When someone meets the truth, there is fear of facing reality. This is the reason we are not able to find and engage change for the better.

We often reside to the old style of living, where people who are eager to seek the truth continuously, perform better due to their ability of handling reality and change, while other continue to suffer in poverty. The truth is a freeing point where someone who seeks to know more rarely wishes to go back to a state of ignorance.

Overview of Plato’s Allegory of “The Cave”

‘The Cave’ is a presentation that brings forth the human vision by use of a slavery illustration. The slaves remain seated and chained, facing away from a light, in a manner that they are not able to move or turn back. This situation makes them incarcerated to the view of the shadows formed by the things and movements within the cave including their own shadows in front of them. The only reality they know is that of the shadows.

In the Plato’s allegory of ‘The Cave,’ the prisoners believe that the shadows projected by the light of the fire behind them on to the wall are a reality. By talking to the shadows on the wall, the shadows seem to reply due to the echoes. This therefore definitely strengthens believe of certainty, but the reality is that the shadows are mare reflections of their images.

Once brought out of the cave, a slave is able to discover that what appeared to be reality is fiction. The prisoner must thus learn the required tactics to comprehend the new images as a fresh reality or truth. Plato refers to this transformation as “the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world” (Allen and Springsted, p 11).

The bright light blinds the released slave due to the literal and metaphorical confinement; therefore, he has to decide on either settling back to the original vague believe of reality or face the challenge and discover the truth.

Analysis of Plato’s Allegory of “The Cave”

Plato’s cave story is an allegory that presents prisoners confined to a place where they are not able to perceive reality. Various aspects of reality faces some form of barring that one would need to overcome to view reality. A good example is the sudden light subjected to a prisoner in order to view real objects other than viewing the shadows.

Most of these prisoners would prefer the shadows as opposed to the pain of the sharp light. Whoever is able to endure the pain eventually perceives reality and cannot wish for anything else thereafter. Upon interpretation of Plato’s story, he relates the journey to discovery by the prisoners to that of the human spirit to the intellectual world.

The world is full of information but Human beings lack prior knowledge or understanding of good ideas. There are some efforts required to perceive what is good and when one is able to endure or overcome limitation to that level of perception, this lead to the universal chance of recognizing all the right and good things. Those who are able to recognize the source of light, reason and truth, are able to persevere and achieve rationale and intellectual power.

Study of Plato’s Allegory of “The Cave” in Relation to Philosophy of Theology

This story assists Plato to explain how human beings are mistaken to limit reality to vague perceptions. There is a basic flaw of taking in limited recordings as reality, goodness or truthfulness. This flawed perception extends to current social setting, and affects people’s way of life for instance academic achievement, spiritual growth and political advancement (Hick, p 91).

Plato’s story has a close connection to the philosophy of understanding theology because he emphasizes the reality of trusting. Deciding to follow and belong to a particular religious group depends on what one decides to trust and thus believe. People trust and interpret what they see because they believe unconditionally, what they perceive.

The bright light affects the slave’s immediate comprehension, therefore he must be re-educated progressively since he first sees the clearer shadows, various reflections of people and objects and eventually learn that the reflections are true than shadows. However, the objects are truer in comparison to the reflections. The new reality outside the cave is therefore very different from the status quo.

The slaves who come out must go back to educate others of the reality through personal will. Plato relates these educators to contemporary philosophers who have to enlighten others willingly. The will to learn emerges from within the soul. Like Plato’s allegory, theology teaches that human being must utilize their willing soul to learn as opposed to trusting their eyes.

In the story, Plato indicates that the learning power exits within the soul, from the situation in the cave, the eyes of the prisoners were not able to turn from the darkness unless assisted by the whole body (Allen and Springsted, p 11). Form the same point of view, the philosophy of theology indicates that decision from the soul requires support to develop into spiritual being.

According to Plato’s Allegory, human beings have misconceptions regarding reality of life and this highly affects their spiritual growth. Plato indicates that when the slave gets an exposure to the sun, he can easily mistake it for the spiritual being. His initial conclusion is that the strong light emerging from the top has to be God. From Plato’s point of view, human soul contains knowledge of truth (Allen and Springsted, p 13).

Learning is therefore an act of remembering because the origin of knowledge is from Heaven. People already have knowledge about the truth, but one’s acceptance of reality triggers this exactness. In (Corinthians II, 4:16), the Bible point outs that, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…” (Lockman Foundation, p 912). When one is able to remember what the soul already knows, then this is a form of renewal of what was out of mind.

Interaction of Body and Mind

Is mind and the body the same?

The historical perception of the distinction between the body and mind is traceable back to the Greek philosophers. In a close link to Rene Descartes’ theory (1650), the principal of philosophy claims that the human being compromises mind and body, which seem to be two distinct and separate substances (Moyal, p.62). On comparison, the mind does the thinking and thus is the source of reasoning, recognizing, desiring, consciousness and willpower, but it is distinctively immaterial and physically un-extendable. Conversely, the body is material and extendable to accommodate feelings and sensation. Many theories distinguish the body and mind but in most instances end-up creating the ‘mind-body problem,’ thus the need for discussions or counterarguments (Moyal, p.62).

From the story of ‘the Cave,’ by Plato, the ontological distinction reveals the difference between fiction and reality, especially on the mode and way of existence. Although there is lack of enough evidence on most journal reports over the aspect of reality, the prisoners’ story brings forth the need to review one philosophical theory of human actions. There are various theories explaining how scientific treatment of exceptional aspects fit into Descartes’ theory of material dualism. The theory forms a strong basis over debate concerning relationship between the body and the mind. Most journals reveals lack full explanation of this theory of interaction or union and thus provide tentative results. They are just scientific related philosophies with different perspectives concerning the debate of nullifying or supporting the possible facet of Descartes’ theory. There are many misconceptions between the union of the body and mind. Recent philosophers have indicated a strong curious expression with regard to substantiated unison or intermingling of the body and mind. They indicate that the theory as un-credential in comparison to other arguments (Moyal, p.62).

Scientific reveals also show that substance belongs to the interconnection of body and mind because of the immediate casual effects the substance has on the mind. The philosophy of mind provides phenomenal character in the line of thoughts that provides a wide range of mental events, which keep stringing the difference between the physical events and conscious experiences. Ability to consider the face value of these striking differences calls for extra support from different theories or scientific findings. On the other hand, theology tends to rely on the believer’s assertions for the truth through analysis of the guidance by the historical figures such as Rama, Moses, Noah, Muhammad, Jesus, and Krishna depending on the religious setting. This ontological distinction differentiates the ordinary proceeding of believers, especially in relation to these spiritual figures and the divine involvements (Moyal, p.62).

Reality of the mind and the body

Plato’s message to people is simple and clear. For one to be successful in whatever endeavour, it is necessary to quit laziness and seek truth or reality of life. He also clearly presents the struggling prisoner has to adjust to the light, as an indication that straggles for happiness or achievements is not a quaint experience.

For the person in charges, philosophers, religious leaders and politicians, who are in possession of the knowledge of reality, must have the desire to share. Education cannot occur unless a leader is ready and willing to face teaching challenges. In relation to the saying, ‘ignorance is bliss,’ people often seek freedom, knowledge, truth or reality but rather prefer the joy of ‘The Cave,’ because they are not ready to face challenges of reality.

Most people choose happiness in their unwise status. They enjoy the shadows on the wall and responses from the echoes, rather than face reality. It is possible to choose a stern and proud lifestyle, a loving and kindness way of life or a life full of contemplations but the truth is that the most fairest, but unreal style is for one who gives the least thought about life (Allen and Springsted, p 11).

Besides ignorance, there are various reasons why the chained men in our current social setting prefer not to break out and seek the sun. There are many misconceptions regarding the truth for the reason that there exist many supercilious and deceiving personalities. Diversity of interpretations of reality in the aim of garnering material gains compromises the balance between the past and future expectation. The chained men also possess the favourable state of mind, which is to think, and react least about life challenges.

Relation of Plato’s Allegory to Modern Setting

In relation to Plato’s ‘The Cave’ allegory, today’s governance systems in various administrative bodies such as religious or political bodies are full of leaders who are within the cave. They lack real information but keep on arguing about the aspects of the shadows, which forms their basis for the struggle to gain power.

People who ought to govern are only those who have ascended to realize the truth or reality, and clearly understand that shadows are mare dreams. In certainty, life is very difficult for a person to move back to the darkness once they achieve goals, especially through endurance and resilience.

However, a true leader must go back to the darkness, to educate others, and make people understand that power is not everything or the greatest good. Once a person has a good understanding of the reality, moving back to the status quo or previous interpretation of truth is very hard but better, due to the strong understanding that the shadows are not the reality. Leaders such as political or religious heads must move back for those in the darkness and govern through their acquired knowledge of truth and good.


Plato’s ‘The Cave’ allegory indicated that people must learn to question what actually looks like a reality from the visual perception. Most people are still living like slaves who base reality to the truth of the shadows or when advanced, they only believe on truth of the reflections. There is need to eventually make an ascent and reject this form of truth.

Believing what the eyes give you as an idea makes one to forget a very important aspect of life, which is to question and know the truthfulness of such reality before adopting. What if what you see are shadows? Ever had an imaginary friend when you were young? Does this friend exist to date? In most case, the imaginary friend disappears because brain development brings in knowledge and thus reality that cause one to reject imagination.

The philosophy of theology indicates that eyes deceive people easily because they perceive various realities and thus start to believe the truthiness prior to consultation of the soul. We face various struggles in life, but one of the main resistances is that of moving through challenges to achieve the right knowledge. One can either endure or give up and go back to the ‘dream world’ (Allen and Springsted, p 20). People often forget to question appearances for the reason that there probably exists another truer ascent.

Human being fear new perspectives, absolute change, new ideas and innovative perspectives and this are the basis for compromised knowledge of reality, goodness and truthfulness. We fail to appreciate and in most cases attack those who descend back to the caves (Philosophers, religious leaders, true politicians) equipped with the reality and willing to guide us through the right paths. This is because we are afraid of questioning vague reality and what looks like truth from a visual point of view.

Works Cited

Allen, Diogenes. & Springsted, Eric. Philosophy for understanding theology. (Second Edition). Kentucky, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 2007. Print.

Hick, John. Philosophy of Religion. (Fourth Ed). Upper Saddle Hill, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1989. Print.

Lockman Foundation. New Standard Bible Anaheim, CA: Foundation Press. 1973. Print.

Moyal, George. Rene Descartes: Critical Assessments, Volume 1. Ney York, NY: Routledge Publishers.1991. Print.

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