. Light and shadows, a fire and a sun, a prison beneath and an intelligible realm above – what is Plato’s image talking about?
According to the Plato’s work, fire and sun are metaphors of education. But not the education in common sense, but education which might be defined as the ability of a soul to study the good, and the bright side. Fire and sun are means due to which one is able to see the “world of truth”. While light is a mean due to which one sees only shadows, in other words - only consequences, a fake world. A prison beneath is world limited by narrowness of consciousness. An intelligible realm above is a boundless space, which soul can reach as a result of self-cultivation. This metaphor of Plato excellently explains the peculiarities of material and spiritual world, and also skillfully brings our attention to the question of personal inner choice.
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B. What for Plato is education? What isn’t education?
As Plato said: “Education is not putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like putting sight into blind eyes”. In other words education can not just be given, as most of people used to think, but education means turning the soul itself to the side of the “world of truth”. Education is not something to put in, but it is something to achieve. Power to learn is present in every soul and one only has to start using this instrument. But of course to use an instrument we need to know how to use it. Education starts from the true intention inside of one to get to know how to use the instrument of learning. Consequently the real aim of education is not to give, but to explain how to find, and in what way, by what means to use something, what you had found. If one actually learns- he changes, and if one just percepts information -he just percept information and no change happens. However, in order to be able to change world around for better, one should be able to change himself.
1. What do the prisoners in the Cave see? What are the effects of this strange imprisonment? What do they know? Do they use language and “have opinions”? What happens to those who escape from it? Why should anyone who escaped be obliged to return, and what might be the consequences of such a return?
The prisoners see only the shadows, and the effects of their strange imprisonment are their inability to feel, to think, to react in a natural way. They do not use language and don’t have opinions. People who escape from “cave world” at first think that the world which they see is not real, and the real one is the world in prison. But as time goes, and as they absorb the new knowledge, they start realizing what the “world of truth” is. They are obliged to return because everyone, who has seen the real light needs to see the dark, needs to compare and get necessary experience. Anyone who returns realizes the true nature of life. The one who has returned will inevitably suffer, if he falls back to the level of perception of the “cave man”. And ‘the cave men” in their turn also suffer, for not being able to understand the returned once. However the compromise can be always found, it’s the matter of inner choice of the both sides.
2. How is the “world of truth” described and through which images? How do the cave-world and the sunlit world compare in respect to knowledge and illusion? To soul and body? To being and becoming? In what way is the sun like the 'form of the Good1? What difference does it make to see 'Justice itself as opposed to 'just' things and practices? Compare Plato's discussion of seeing and knowing in 507e-511e to the treatment of these issues in the Allegory of the Cave.
The world of truth is described, as a word full of nature. There is fire and sun in this world. The cave-world is an illusion, created by our mind, which has been surrounding people since their birth, and the aim of anyone is to turn their souls to the sunlit world, the world of knowledge. It’s like spiritual and material world: world of soul and world of body. And everyone has to make a choice: what will dominate in them? What are the aims? Becoming a spiritual creature, or being a spiritual creature. If one sees justice itself he lives, and if he sees “just” things and practices – he exists. In the allegory of Cave Plato gives us also the allegory of society. The one, who knows the “world of truth” has found something more. Previously, his mind as the mind of all “cave dwellers” - limited to bodily desires, but after- it becomes limitless in the knowledge of spirit. The strongest power, all the gold of the world pales before that, as the gray dust under the feet of the traveler. A traveler is not interested in the dust, he is absorbed by what opens to him over the horizon with each step.
3. Why would someone converted to the world of truth and the vision of the good have trouble back down among the cave-dwellers?
How can one, who has never seen sun, be aware of its light, of its beauty, of its warmth? It’s more likely that if you tell them about it, they will not believe you. This is exactly what happens to cave-dwellers. For not having any kind of close image of the true world of spirit, having not felt the list gleam of light of knowledge, they would never understand the one, who has experienced it. If the vision of good is limited, there is a threat of not ever getting to know what real good is. Poor cave-dwellers have put blocks in their minds, blocks of perception, which prevent him from absorbing the truth and the good. The one, who can fly, will suffer for being doomed to walk the earth again. But this suffering can not be eternal, for the choice is always after us. And someone, who came back to the “cave world”, can always make a choice to change life for better around him, applying his knowledge in a proper way.
4. Would philosophers make good statesmen? Why would a good statesman dislike ruling and power?
As Plato said: “It is not surprising that the once who get to this point are unwilling to occupy themselves with human affairs and their souls are always pressing upwards, eager to spend their time above”. This is the reason why would a good statesman dislike ruling. If he knows all the beauty and all the boundless spaces of the true world, he is not interested in bodily passions for power, or strength. Philosophers, if they are not willing to see “the dark side” wouldn’t make good statesmen. But it always depends on the choice. If they make a choice to apply their knowledge for the best of people, and if they are really wise, they definitely would make their best in every position whichever they get.
5. How does Plato distinguish between virtues of the body, virtues of the soul, and the virtue of reason?
Main virtue of the soul is its ability to see the “truth world” which is the world of the good. The virtues of the soul are alike with those of the body, because they aren't there beforehand but are added later by habit and practice. However, the virtue of reason belongs to something more divine, which never loses its power but it depends on humans’ choice: either it proves to be useful, or it turns out to be useless. The main point is that nobody else, but human himself is in control of all three virtues and he is to make the choice: either to develop one or to develop all, to pay attention to conscious upgrading or not. It is not always easy to realize that image is just an image, but it’s up to us to make efforts to do that.