THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE

 

‘There exists a cave, and in that cave live prisoners, chained and unable to move their heads. The prisoners have never left the cave. 

 

Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is parapet, on which puppeteers cast shadows onto the cave wall. All the prisoners have ever seen is the shadows cast by the puppeteers onto the page wall. This is their idea of reality. 

 

The prisoners know nothing of what cause the shadows and only perceive echoes as living creatures pass by the cave mouth. 

 

Their reality is distorted. 

 

One day, a prisoner escapes their chains and leaves the cave. The prisoner see’s the world in colour for the first time, and perceives the living creatures which created the echoes. The prisoner understands a new reality.

 

The prisoner turns to the cave and sees the fire, and the parapet and the puppeteers and understands the shadows on the cave wall. They realise the distorted reality they once knew is manufactured and that the other prisoners are still blind.

 

They return to the cave to set the other prisoners free, but his eyes cannot adjust to the darkness in the cave and he is blinded. He tries to describe the outside world and true reality to the other prisoners but they ignore him. They claim that the reality inside the cave is the truth and that the prisoner who left is blinded and therefore they are better to remain in the cave. 

 

The prisoners never escape their chains, and their reality will always be a falsehood.

 

Is, our reality shadows or have we experienced the light?’

 

 

  • Plato