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Thread: Allegory of the Cave.

  1. #1

    Default Allegory of the Cave.

    While I haven't considered myself philisophical or adhere to such situational explanations to explain the human condition, I found this topic of great musing tonight.

    Allegory of the Cave - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Does this idea of imprisonment relate to our congnition of purpose? Can such an idea expose the shallow definition of human intuition? Have we ultimately defined fullfillment despite it?

    The Allegory of the Cave points out an idea first proposed by Plato and then expanded upon by a series of dialogue between Glaucon (Plato's brother) and Socrates. Certainly an interesting insight to the possible limits of human-kind's predisposition to environmental conditioning. The notion that we are subject to illustrative definitions to define our boundaries.

    Can this be indicative to our current definition of purpose? How much does the 'Keeping up with the Jonses' ' factor into this idea of imprisonment? Is our vision only limited to what is fancifully played before us? Can our curiosity reach beyond definition?

    The final and most important question:

    Have we as a human-race become destitute to definitions provided us?

    The reason that I ask in such curiosity is that I perceive ultimate individuality is lost to definitions of obligation and the sense of wonder is stifled accordingly.

  2. #2

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    I think Christof in The Truman Show said it best: "We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented."

    The Allegory of the Cave works on many levels (sociological, psychological, theological...). It is a story about education and knowledge. When the prisoner is freed he gains knowledge that he couldn't have dreamed of in his last construct. Have you seen The Matrix? It is another example of Plato's musings. Neo wakes up and realizes reality is fully different from what he had always known throughout his life. How could he have known otherwise? His brain played out a dream, a life, in connection with others. I think that's the important part of all - The Matrix and The Truman Show and The Allegory of the Cave. Other people confirmed and supported beliefs.

    We are ultimately prisoners in our own bodies and brains and inside our own cultures, or, more broadly, human culture. Our world is shown to us through five senses, no more and (usually) no less. Apparently, scientists say there are no colors in the universe. Our eyes tell us that the grass is green and the sky is blue, but these colors are constructs of our eyes and the optical centers of our brains. We pick up light in a certain specific way. It's so peculiar, colors, that we can't even tell if your red is the same as my red. Maybe my red would be your blue. It's impossible to figure out. But bring one of our scientists back a long time ago, before the scientific community gained a good foothold in the world, and tell people "there actually is no blue or green or red!" and people will stare wide-eyed. Of course there is, they'd say, pointing to the green grass and blue sky. It's right there.

    Onto a theological perspective, this is the reason that religions mainly stay within geographical boundaries. Grow up in India, there is a great chance you are a Hindu. Grow up in North America, there is a great chance you are a Christian. Grow up in Iran, and there is a great chance you are a Muslim. Why? That's the reality with which they are presented. In certain areas, that is the culture. If everyone around you says that Allah is the one true God, then so it is. Other people talking about the teachings of Buddha either make no sense to you, or you want to kill them for their heresy. Then bring science into it, and suggest that maybe there's not very much evidence for supernatural beings, and face the wrath of those who grew up absolutely certain that the shadow game was all there was.

    To answer your question about keeping up with the Jones', this is a common issue in sociology and it definitely relates to Plato's cave. It is part of our ideology (a.k.a. the beliefs about the shadows on the wall) and we generally accept a great deal of materialism and consumerism. Some people buy 400 dollar purses, for example, and believe this to be very normal. They believe that a certain label on a purse makes it better than the same purse without the label. It's all shadows on the wall, of course, but try to tell them otherwise. "You just don't understand," they may say, with the best of intentions. Or perhaps they just shun you, as is also customary to do to other female beings without the bag on their hand with the silver circle encasing five silver letters.

    People hate it when their beliefs are questioned or turned upside down. Socrates I believed was the one who said that perhaps the prisoners would kill the freed ex-prisoner who came to teach them new things. I can understand why. Think of how most ancient scientists / astronomers were treated during the middle ages. Think of how Socrates himself ended. He was found guilty of "corrupting young minds" and sentenced to death (by poison.) He brought new ideas and musings; and was killed. Most people with new ideas and musings are treated in such a manner. Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi. If there's one thing that most people hate, it's hearing a new perspective.

    The only reason perhaps that we have not become fully (intellectually) destitute is that through all of this, people are still freed from their shackles and can see more than the shadows on the wall. There are luckily true thinkers out there and there continue to be. It may have something to do with a person's natural intelligence, or other traits, but we still have these people, these escaped prisoners, and we also have people who are willing to listen and learn about new ideas. I think that is what ultimately saves humankind from a life in a cave.

  3. #3

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    Frogsy, as you stated that free-thinkers were often scorned or killed for their musings alone, Galileo was another example. He has been dubbed "the father of modern science" and yet, in his time, was put on house arrest in his later years for heresy (stating that the sun is the center of the universe and the earth revolves around the sun). Hard to imagine it now but the popular belief was that the sun revolved around the earth. His discoveries went against popular belief and the Holy Office convicted him of going against current understanding. This, much akin to the Allegory of the Cave theory.

    My original musings are perhaps more rooted in; Are we still in a cave? Have we again simply accepted what we know to be true as fact and again stare at the prevailing shadows, seemingly content in our wisdom?

    We as a human race could retort this by saying; What else is there? We have scientific tools and resources aimed at every possible entity or area of possible discovery.

    Early thoughts that I had as a young adult included the early Egyptians. Their accomplishments are still confounding today. They had a seemingly 'fast track' to scientific discovery, mathematics, and ethereal understanding. Of course this can't go without mentioning that they incorporated slavery as an accepted form of social construct, which by todays standard, is preposterous. But, I surmised that these types of 'beginnings' could be construed as a base of a branch on a tree. As the sequence of events eternally unfolds or unravels, is it possible that we have, as a human race, fatally grown the wrong branch? Do we in conjunction miss everything that may have been possible with our contentment?

    The term 'turn of events' comes to mind to illustrate this. If every action borrows cause and every cause is the result of action, the chain continues until there is a failure. Perhaps with this we work dilligently to prevent that failure. This idea that failure would change everything perhaps causes the ultimate instinct to continue the 'course' without question. I am reminded of the character in the series 'Lost' who was discovered in an underground bunker who spent his days continually resetting the clock to prevent an unknown catastrophe.

    Let me provide an example:

    If we had not invented the gas engine but instead invented something completely different to aid our need to travel quickly, would not the entire last 110 years be different? The discovery of this combustion type engine has changed the course of history significantly. Crude oil is now a commodity. Wars have been fought for rights to it. The landscape of the earth is modified in it's recovery. The environment we depend on is slowly being poisoned and altered because of bi-product and waste.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my car. I depend on it and enjoy it. But it is a blind love. I continue in my dependency despite the affects. I am also in no way trying to grand-stand here but offer up my own stupidity and hypocritical offenses.

    All this cannot go without saying: Of course we would be overcome in our attempt to abruptly re-course this ship but does it leave any doubt that we have become victims of our own accord? Have we escaped imprisonment through our vast areas of knowledge? Are we still in the cave?

    Edit: Upon re-reading your post, you mentioned that the world is shown to us through our five senses. I can dispute this by saying that our world can only be experienced face-value through the five senses but cognition, intuition, creativity, and emotion are all part of the human condition. Many creatures share the five senses with us but it is these 'extras' that make us human.
    Last edited by ilostthesheriff; 27-Mar-2014 at 12:08.

  4. #4

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    I have to wonder if either Plato or Socrates ever were actually able to step outside the cave, or if the cave concept was simply another belief to be toyed with. To me the shadows on the wall are beliefs, and the belief that there is something unseen causing these shadows is just another shadow itself. If we attempt to go outside the cave to experience reality how would we know for certain that we were "outside" and not just in a different part of the cave experiencing different shadows?

    I believe there is something unseen causing the shadows but I have no actual knowledge that this is true. If true knowledge actually exists then it's nature must be somehow self evident, needing no proof, no logical support, no citations.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    I have to wonder if either Plato or Socrates ever were actually able to step outside the cave, or if the cave concept was simply another belief to be toyed with. To me the shadows on the wall are beliefs, and the belief that there is something unseen causing these shadows is just another shadow itself. If we attempt to go outside the cave to experience reality how would we know for certain that we were "outside" and not just in a different part of the cave experiencing different shadows?
    This I can fully agree with and can see the reasoning in it.



    I believe there is something unseen causing the shadows but I have no actual knowledge that this is true. If true knowledge actually exists then it's nature must be somehow self evident, needing no proof, no logical support, no citations.
    As a human-species seeking reasoning it may be that we errantly seek absolutes beyond our own cognition. Perhaps we seek the perfect answer when the truth actually lies in realms beyond our perception. Perhaps we have become content with seeing and listening but fail to seek.

    The shadows perhaps illustrate our direction of gaze and expectations. We, in return, become slave to our immediate perceptions, thus, limiting us to repeditive behavior to re-quantify our superstition that we have knowledge of all that surrounds us. The shadows exemplify all that we need to see yet give false reason to trust what we don't see. We fail to question claims of validity in lieu of our own knowledge. Where does this leave us?

    Perhaps the proof of evidence stunts our growth. Perhaps the idea that there are more ingredients to bake this cake is reason enough to question our current understandings.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ilostthesheriff View Post
    Early thoughts that I had as a young adult included the early Egyptians. Their accomplishments are still confounding today. They had a seemingly 'fast track' to scientific discovery, mathematics, and ethereal understanding. Of course this can't go without mentioning that they incorporated slavery as an accepted form of social construct, which by todays standard, is preposterous.
    the latter is probably deserving of more contemplation.
    and, of course, not all shackles are iron; most are abstract, as you've already seen.
    for me, language also shackles, even though i love it. but it's through my loving it that i understand it's duality of nature, in that it's both freeing and restricting; that it's a comforter and a killer.
    and one of the hardest things to do is to try to think without words.

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