Plato, in a question-and-answer format, sets out the allegory of the cave with his student. Glaucon. Plato describes a dystopian society in which people are imprisoned in dark caves where shadow images are projected on the wall as reality. Those who are allowed to exit see the sun and “true reality” (Plato). Those people who return and tell tales of the sun would seem strange and hysterical to those who had never seen it.
This allegory, Plato says, describes the quest for knowledge (Plato). The world outside the cave is the intellectual world, full of knowledge, he explains to the student (Plato). It may be painful to become accustomed to the light, the “true knowledge” and see everything around once no longer blinded by the light. Those who see the “knowledge” and return to the darkness can be expected to act strangely, blinking their eyes and such as they become reaccustomed to the darkness. Many people would not want to return at all, having seen true reality and
Coming Back to the Cave
Those coming back into the cave and acting strangely are like those who, knowing knowledge and justice “is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?” (Plato). This is a familiar situation for someone like me, who has attended my fair share of public local government meetings. We often do regard many of those people as “crazy” who choose to fight about what we perceive as small injustices, but perhaps they have a different idea of justice and morality. Perhaps they have seen the light.
Plato. “The Allegory of the Cave.” 380 B.C.E. The Norton Anthology Reader: An Anthology of Nonfiction. Ed. Melissa A. Goldthwaite et al. 14th ed. New York: Norton, 2016. 989-992. Print.