Sunday, April 10, 2005


A summary of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave".
by Thang Xuan Nguyen

There is this cave where prisoners are kept, chained since childhood. It is dark down there, with only the light from a fire and an opening at the opposite end where the prisoners sit. The prisoners spend their days watching the shadows of passer-byers that are cast against the wall. This is all they get to see. And all they get to hear is the echo of the speech of the passer-byers. This is all they have of the truth, or reality. When suddenly they are released. One turns his head and sees the light and the causes of the shadows (which they originally thought was reality). He is confused and in pain from the intensity of the light. He now sees real existence. Perplexed still, he discovers the land above, the land of light. When he returns to the darkness, he is again disoriented (because he was used to the light above) and when he tries to explain the truth to the other cave dwellers, they see him as disoriented (mad) so persecutes and kills him. This is the allegory. The cave is the world where we, the prisoners, live. The chains are our restraint, or limitations to see the truth. The shadows are our illusions of reality. The ascent to light is reaching enlightenment, truth.

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