The Myth of the Cave

By January 7, 2021January 29th, 2021No Comments

Plato’s “State” is the most famous text in the history of philosophy and perhaps the most important philosophical text that humanity has. The seventh book of the “State” begins with the myth of the cave. Plato invites us to live with our imagination the following image: “Now represent human nature, in relation to education and training, with the following image that I will tell you. Imagine an underground cave with the entrance open to the light along its entire length, and inside this cave people chained by the legs and neck from childhood, so that they can not move from the their position and not to see only in front of them only… »

Plato says, then, that in the depths of a dark cave there were some captives who from their birth sat motionless and bound and looked ahead at a wall. Behind the detainees was an alley carrying people carrying objects of all kinds “and statues and animals made of stone, wood or other material, and some were talking to each other and some were silent.” Behind these conveyors there was a torch, which cast its light on the moving objects, and then projected their shadow on the wall that the captors were looking at. In fact, the captors looked at the shadows of the objects and not the objects themselves. They saw, for example, a bundle of branches and thought it was a jar or they saw a statuette and thought it was a boy. At one point, the prison guard released a prisoner and led him out of the cave to see the real world. With great difficulty he dragged him “by force from that rugged and uphill road in the sunlight”, he says characteristically. The detainee’s eyes ached when they first saw the light. “And when he came to light, his eyes flooded with the brightness of the day, could they see any of the objects we are now really talking about?” “Of course not, at least not all of a sudden. He would no doubt need to get used to it first, in order to be able to distinguish it; and at first he could easily see the shadows, then on the surface of the water the images of people and other objects, and finally the same; turns to the sky, which at first he would be able to observe at night more easily, with the light of the stars and the moon, than the day with the light of the sun. Lastly, I think, he could look not only at the image of the sun on the water, or its images in other places, but at the same place (the sun) in its true place and observe how it is. And after that he would start thinking and they would come to the conclusion that the sun is the one who makes the seasons and the years, who rules and allows everything in the visible world, and is in some way the cause of all that he saw there down in their cave “. Plato himself explains to us what the myth symbolizes. In the dark space of the cave, he notes, corresponds our sensible world, that is, the world as we understand it through our senses and our experiences, and this perception is a perception of darkness. Man is in infancy; he has no criteria to distinguish reality from false reality, things themselves from their shadows, what happens from what he would like to happen, and so he can regard as true the shadows of objects and not the objects themselves, and all its reality to be shadows, all reality to be a conspiracy theory. In this case, the senses are completely dominant. Man is spiritually an infant. An infant could bite the cord of a device, thinking that this is his food. The infant or adult who is stuck in infancy is a prisoner of the confusion caused by his senses, his fantasies; he sees things in the light of his illusions, says Plato. Could not such a person today be the coronavirus denier? To the lit torch that illuminates the objects and they in turn cast the shadow on the wall corresponds the sun, the sun of good, the ultimate form of truth and knowledge. The ascent and the view of the bound symbolizes the ascent of the soul from the visible – that is, the felt – to the imaginary space; to the space where we perceive with the mind and not with the senses. When the prisoner sees the sun with his own eyes, then he can understand that the sun is the source of light. Only the sun reveals things in the visible world of the senses, only with sunlight can we see what is true and what is not. We now capture this truth with the mind in the conceivable indeed