Reflections On the “Myth of the Cave”
A short paper from high school…
The Allegory of the cave is an excerpt from “The Republic”, a book written by Plato. First of all, it is notable that this excerpt contains a myriad of symbols and their own definitive meanings.
The first symbol I would like to highlight are the Shadows. The prisoners who were trapped inside the cave could only look at the wall in front of them. They were not allowed to look at the sides nor back. Occasionally, when things pass by, such as travelers, etc.… the prisoners would see their shadows cast upon the wall. Since they never left the cave before, they would believe that the shadows were the actual objects, and not a mere reflection of it. In my opinion, this is meant to represent how some people would just see things, and perceive it as the truth, despite it not being completely true. There is such a term as a “blind believer”, who just believes without even questioning it. The dilemma that these blind believers face is their lack of knowledge to challenge their beliefs. It is not completely their fault, because, by chance, they were never given an opportunity to explore outside the realm of what they can see in front of them. This might mean that there is a chance that whatever we see presented to us is not completely true, but instead a shadow of it.
Another symbol, the Cave itself, has its own purpose as well. There were three prisoners, all of which had been tied to rocks, and never allowed to leave the cave since they were born. There was a fire at their back which casted a light that made it possible for them to see the shadows of things behind them. I believe that this is a representation of the world, and everything it shows us. Sometimes people rely on what they see and hear to be knowledge and wisdom.
This reminds me about the 1994 movie “True Lies”, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Harry, played by Arnold, was a CIA agent. It was required of him to tell his friends and family that he was a computer salesman, and not working for the CIA. All his family believed him, because of one reason, they didn’t know a thing about the whole ordeal. There was no reason to believe, nor to seek out if Harry was actually a CIA agent. Just like in the cave, the things we can see inside of it may appear real, even though they are not. There will be no reason presented to us to go out and look for the truth. The cave, to me is a world of misunderstanding.
Finally, it is worth noting about the Prisoner Who Escaped and Went Back to the Cave. One prisoner was able to escape the cave and discovered the truth that lies outside. He found out that everything he saw and believed at first was wrong. Since the prisoner had the goodwill, and decided that everyone has the right to know this, he went back and decided to tell the other prisoners about it. Since the prisoners didn’t know better, they did not believe what the escapee has said, and even threatened to kill him over trying to change their views. I think that the escape of the prisoner could mean man’s everlasting thirst for wisdom and the truth. The prisoners who rejected what the escapee had said represents the people who are afraid of the truth, and will do anything to silence it, all because they don’t know any better. These are typically the closed-minded people who hold what they see in high regard. The “I know everything already” mentality takes over here.
I, as a student regard knowledge to be very important to me. What I learn now, as well as in the future will have an impact on who I am as a person. It is without a doubt I will be influenced by all the things I see around me, especially the ones I believe to be true. Us humans will naturally thirst for the truth, because it is the best for us. I try my best to keep an open mind, even in sensitive topics such as religion. I like to think of things that challenge what I believe, as opportunities to bring myself closer to the truth, because who knows, I could be wrong about everything. This allegory is relevant to me because of this purpose: It shows how the world and everything I see is not 100% true. In order to chase the truth, I will have to keep an open mind.
The even more astonishing implication and application of this allegory is to society today. With the emergence of new media, we can now learn information faster and more effectively. With the help of news organizations, we are kept up to date on the latest happenings around the world, but with all good, comes a bad side. How do we know what we see is true. We can see that there are numerous conspiracy theories regarding heated issues: What if the World Health Organization (WHO) actually already has the cure for cancer, and are just hiding it because they want to keep laundering the money given from donations and research funding? What if 9/11 was staged, to give the US an excuse to invade Iraq? These are just a few of the questions that flew over my head. But if I were to choose one issue where these things are extremely prevalent, it would be everyday Politics. We constantly see this in articles or newscasts regarding this topic. Media could side to one politician, and turn the tide of political turmoil to his/her favor, thus making more and more people like him/her, while media could also destructively criticize another, causing people to take action, making things get even more spicy.
The true victims of this, however, is the people. The people will never get to know the truth, all because they were not given the chance to by the media. We are trapped in a cave, and escape is only available to those with minds open enough to get out.