For Plato, the philosopher was the one who escapes the cave. The cave then is a representation of the senses of humans; they see false objects, and hear false words. The person who is in the cave is using their senses to obtain a diagram of the world around them, but the cave is dark and there is no light, so all they see are shadows, or reflections of themselves; reflections that are of a lesser human. The philosopher on the other hand escapes the cave, or escapes the world of bodily necessity, and comes into the sun to realize that what objects are truly.
Plato, being an opportunist but also a realist describes the scene of the philosopher escaping the cave and his encounter with the sun (truth), …he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities…He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upperworld.
And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day? (Plato The Cave) The philosopher was guided by reason to escape the cave. Upon witnessing the sun, he begins to see the truth.
Throughout the dialogue in The Republic Plato utilizes the ‘cross examination’ method of Socrates, and this is especially true in the metaphor of the cave. In Book 7 of The Republic, Socrates is having a dialogue with Glaucon. Socrates, or Plato writing the dialogue, convince the man, through a series of questions that the cave is a false reality, and only when a person sees the sun can the truth be found. In answering the question as to whether or not one should return to the cave to free the prisoners or pity them, then in a Platonic response the answer is yes.
Since the philosopher is the one who makes it out of the cave due to their enlightenment, Plato is stating that it is a necessity for the philosopher to travel back into the cave to convince the other prisoners that a greater and brighter world exists for them as well. The point of the allegory in the cave is that humanity is blinded by their own ignorance, and since it is impossible for the ignorant to achieve an epitome such as the volume as a philosopher can achieve then the philosopher must have pity on the prisoner since they lack the necessary advancement to discover their own path out of the cave.
The allegory of the cave is one of ignorance versus enlightenment. Those who make it out of the cave are the philosophers and share a rare gift of knowledge that the world expands beyond one’s preconceived notions of reality (reality in this case being the cave). The people who stay in the cave are the prisoners of their own lack of understanding, or their own limited perception.
Therefore since the philosopher has the tools which enable mankind a vision outside of their normal and predestined boundaries the only way an evolution of thought may occur is if the rest of the prisoners are freed from their own unawareness. Socrates taught philosophy in a question answer dialogue. The dialectic art of arriving at the truth was the system Socrates used. In this regard he would arrive at the truth by questioning the belief of engaged speakers in a philosophic circle.
Although this idea of philosophy may come across as non-confrontational, Socrates used this method to verbally jab at the speaker until they themselves found fault in their philosophy, and through a system of negative or positive responses came to recognize the truth. The aim of such confrontational questioning was always about truth; Socrates believed that this was the main goal of philosophy, and philosophical discussions, and he believed that everyone involved with the account was in pursuit of this goal as well.
Thus, the duty of the philosopher who makes it out of the cave is to return with this knowledge this nearly divine truth and give it as a gift to the prisoners much like Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to humanity so must the philosopher give truth to the prisoners.
Work Cited Plato. The Cave. Online. < http://www. wsu. edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_1/plato. html>
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