The myth of Plato’s cave lets us understand the way this philosopher understands the world. A relationship between physical things and the world of idea, which makes room for a reality full of light and shadows. On the one hand, we have reality as it is . On the other hand, we can find a fictional reality in which our beliefs and illusions play a major role. But before we go even further into this, what is Plato’s cave so exactly?
In this tale, there are men who have been chained in a cave all their lives. The only thing they can see is the cave wall. They have never been able to leave the cave. Nor have they ever been able to turn around and see the origin of the chains that bind them . But behind them there is a wall and a little further on there is a bonfire. Between the wall and the fire, there are men carrying objects . Thanks to the fire, the project’s shadows are projected on the wall. Thus the men in chains can see them.
I could see pictures that were lies and false realities. But how could I consider it as such? If that, from the moment I was a young boy, was the only thing I had seen.
A fictional reality
The men had only seen the same pictures since they were born. Therefore, they had no need or felt curiosity to turn around and prove what was being reflected. But it was a deceptive reality, it was artificial. These shadows distracted them from the truth . But one of them dared to turn around and look beyond these pictures.
At first he felt confused and everything disturbed him, especially the light he could see in his back (the fire). Then he began to feel distrustful. Had he believed that the shadows were the only things that existed in this world when this was not true ? Each time he moved forward, his doubts tempted him, with the possibility of going back to the shadows.
Still, he continued with patience and effort going forward. Little by little he became accustomed to what now seemed so unknown. But when he ran back to tell his partners that, they received his news with scorn. Contempt that reflects the dissatisfaction these cave people felt about what the adventurer told them.
Application of the myth of Plato’s cave in real life
It’s funny how this vision we get from the myth of Plato’s cave can be applied in reality. Remember that we have accepted many absolute truths as our own, without stopping to question them, without questioning whether the world is actually similar or very far from this ” truth “.
Eg. to think that a mistake is a failure that can affect whether we abandon a project at the first setback. But if we do not allow ourselves to be influenced by this idea, we can cultivate our curiosity, and the error will cease to be a demon completely charged with negativity. Thus, this change in perspective manages to make us stop fearing it. Plus, it will also make us willing to learn from it when it happens.
Leaving Plato’s cave is a difficult process
The man in the myth who decides to break free from the chains that imprison him makes a very difficult decision . Far from being appreciated by its partners, this decision is seen by them as an act of rebellion. When he decides, he embarks on a lonely journey, overcoming that wall, climbing towards the campfire, giving him so much distrust and awe. Doubt bothers him. He no longer knows what is right and what is not.
He has to break away from beliefs that have accompanied him all his life. Ideas that form the basis of the rest of his beliefs . But as he moves towards the exit of the cave, he begins to realize that what he thought was not all true. Now… what can he do? He must convince those who mocked him that freedom is a reality they can strive for if they decide to break away from the apparent stage in which they live.
Ignorance is no longer an acceptable reality
The myth of Plato’s cave shows ignorance as a reality that becomes unpleasant when we begin to become aware of its presence. Given the slightest possibility that there may be another possible version of the world, history tells us that our inertia is pushing us from breaking it down because we now regard it as a threat to the established order.
The shadows are no longer projected, the light has ceased to be artificial, and the air now caresses my face.
Maybe because of our human condition, we can not put that shadow world away. But what we can do is make an effort to make these shadows more and more clear and acute . Perhaps the perfect and iconic world of ideas is a utopia for our human nature. But that does not mean that renouncing our curiosity is better than surrendering to the stage of settling in what we already know (or think we know).
As we grow, doubts, incoherences, and questions help us remove the substance from our eyes, which at times has made our lives much harder than it really is.