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Symbols in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
In this essay, we shall comment on the symbols, and the symbology found in Plato’s Republic VII. In order to write this essay, we shall first offer a brief summary of the allegory, to gain a thorough understanding of the
Summary of the Allegory. In Plato’s allegory, he depicts the image of a cave where prisoners have been imprisoned since their childhood and forced to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind them, there is a fire; between the fire, and the prisoners, a raised walkway with a low walk showed the shadows of the objects people carry, in a puppet-like fashion (Plato, VII). Also, as they cannot see the people holding the objects, they believed that the voices they heard came from the objects, instead of coming from the people. When a prisoner is released and forced to look the fire, and the statues he gets confused and realizes that those things he saw were not as real as those he was seeing outside the cave. He understood that it was the fire what was projecting shadows, and giving him, a copy of the real images.DISCUSSION
Symbols in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In this part of the essay, we shall show the different symbols in the work, along with its interpretation.
1. Chains. Chains representeikasia, or ignorance, and the other prisoners who are in chains, represent the human ignorance, and the unwillingness to believe in the evidence posed in from of them. In the same light, the chains could also mean the material world and its limitations. In a material world, we would not be able to apprehend the being. That is why breaking the chains is the only way humans have to break the ties of the material world, and start the discovery of the spiritual reality, which is Plato’s ultimate goal. With the chains we are just puppets, breaking them means breaking free to take our own decisions
2. Shadows. The shadows represent doxaor the opinion. Since the prisoners are unable to see the world around, the shadows represent ignorance. According to Plato, opinion was the lowest form of knowledge and the farthest from the ideas. In the same way, perception represents an illusion, as to Plato the world of the appearance is false, and reality is something completely different. Shadows represent the opinion, as they are a copy, of the objects in the world.
3. Fire. Light represents the Platonic pistisor belief. Light is what allows objects to be seen, and reveals the objects around it. When the prisoner is allowed to see the fire, after leaving the cave, he understood that the shadows he saw where projected by the fire’s light on the wall. To Plato, pistis referred to the beliefs we have. In that way, our beliefs are like lights projected to our opinions turning them into ideal objects.
4. Sun. The sun represents the nous or the intellect. To Plato, the sun represents the idea, the realest of all objects. When the prisoner leaves the cave and sees that the sun is the truly responsible for the creation if the objects. The prisoner finally realizes that the difference between the truth from the falsehood, from justice to injustice.
Plato. The Republic. The Internet Classics Archive. Web.
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