Comparing and contrasting Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” with Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is a complex example of comparing bananas with tangerines. It is hard to take in the mind of a great philosopher. It is even harder to make that mind your own. For that reason the task of fully evaluating these two pieces side by side may forever be a work in progress. Each essay contains three major points. These points discussed new and advised teaching methods, how man is related to or with the world; and the responsibility that enlightened individuals have to mankind. The ideas of these two philosophers both mirror and oppose each other in varying degrees. Through taking very different paths the two writers make their own points clear and demand rational and logical thought of their readers.
Plato was a student of Socrates and though the writing of “Allegory of the Cave” is all his own the basis for his ideas came from none other than his own teacher. The teacher you see is one half of the great element in Plato’s epiphany. Socrates is in fact a main character in the conversation from which this excerpt is taken. It is said that in this particular work, “Plato described symbolically the predicament in which mankind finds itself and proposes a way of salvation” (Plato 1). Throughout the conversation a system of ideas develops that are meant to teach the reader or readers about themselves, their world and how it should be viewed rather than a simple, inverted, non-involved outlook that is common to everyday people. The purpose of this writing was to bring about enlightenment. To bring forth this enlightenment we must search for knowledge according to Plato and this knowledge he refers to as light. Light brings the world into focus, so does knowledge and realization of one’s place in the world. In Plato’s model, the teacher questions the actions or ideas of the student so that the student will learn to think on their own.
A person who quests knowledge for themselves and engages in thoughts other than those placed in their heads by another individual will find that knowledge. The quest for knowledge is not only a right but also a duty and one that brings with it responsibility and dignity. Everyone has the ability to search for and find the light, or knowledge as we call it. Everyone also has the ability to attain this knowledge. According to Socrates in this dialogue, living a life with true knowledge and enlightenment is living a philosophical one. A life that casts a downward look onto one of politics is one of true philosophy and one of true philosophy. This life is the only one that degrades the grandeur of political ambition. Part of finding this light is becoming aware of the human relationship with the world. Plato believed that most men see themselves as living in a narrow world.
If the truth is told the world as they believe it is not a picture of reality. Therefore, the world exists and man is here in it, but does not truly understand what it really is for he does not knows even himself as a man. Once a person has discovered himself, once he has discovered the light, it is his inborn duty to share this with the world. His purpose is now to become a writer of philosophy, to become a teacher in the school of thought. Despite the level on which a person decides to do these honorable deeds, it is not enough. It is the enlightened man’s reason for being part of this great world that he has discovered.
Pablo Freire’s ideas about man and educating are compiled in his “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. He strongly suggests that for teaching to be the most effective it must be cognitive or revolutionary forum. The students should be pressed toward thinking on an individual level and this must be done in such a way that the teacher is not the source from which the knowledge comes. The instructor should be a means to obtain knowledge, a tool that is an aid rather than a necessity. Often times the teacher must become the student in the since of being open to new arguments and ideas that are introduced by the student. Freire’s theory also states that a person is not part of the world; but the world is part of the person.
He says that without mankind the world would not exist because there would be no one to say that it was doing so. What a person is what becomes reality, it is the true world. Freire suggests that to be enlightened, one must be more humanistic. The more humanistic a person can become the more knowledge they have obtained and the more they can help the world. This is the most important element because since they are of such great knowledge it is their job to pass this onto the world so that everyone may become more enlightened and raise the level of our existence.
As it may be seen the two writers have both theories in common and those completely at odds with one another. Plato says that to teach you must challenge that you must force, but Freire says that you must stand back and let the student come to personal and individual cognition. In this Freire argues a revolutionary teaching method, but does so in an essay that follows the style of narrative banking, while Plato rigidly portrays his methods in the way that his writing is developed and constructed. Both men see that man has a direct relationship with the world. Plato sees man as a part of the world, which must be brought into the light to see in reality. Freire on the other hand says that the individual is the world and that what he sees is what is real. The main area of agreement comes when both philosophers convey, it is the enlightened people’s place to carry on their knowledge to others. In one suggestion Plato uses his theory of philosophical lives being of a higher level than those of simple political ambition as an example of how to broaden the horizons of common place people by saying that enlightened people should be the ones in these political offices.
From these offices they will be able to do more good than an unenlightened person will. They will be able to teach life and the value of it. Freire believes that an enlightened person must teach the very enlightenment and that the responsibility of extending this thought lies both on the student and the teacher. People cannot become great on their own, they must have educators, people to point them in the right direction. Their aid in seeking personal enlightenment could be anyone or anything and come from any of the various methods. The existence of the world is what we make it. Our duty is to ourselves and that entitles all that we believe both as individuals and as a group. While the debate about whom is right or wrong will continue throughout time, one thing is for sure: we must go on.