The Allegory of the Cave

plato allegory of the cave

Get out of the cave and learn.

Plato explains the Dunning-Kruger effect (it’s probably the other way around).  If you are knowledgeable about a topic you tend to think you are an expert. So, people who didn’t learn for a test think they performed on average. If you are an expert, you tend to be humbler. I’m paraphrasing, but this is the gist of it. You gain knowledge by making an effort, and once you see ‘the light’ you can act rationally.Dunning-Kruger effect

The allegory of the cave involves imagining a group of prisoners chained in a cave since birth. They can only see the cave wall in front of them. Their only visual perception is that of shadows cast against the cave wall in front of them. The shadows are cast by objects on a raised walkway between them and a fire burning behind them. Only echoes of voices and sounds reach them. The prisoners mistake the shadows and echoes for reality, because that is all they know.

Socrates imagines what would happen if a prisoner were forcibly removed from the cave, and set free in the outside world . This seems to be an allegory for when a person is set free from illusion, and introduced to the “truth”. Socrates then describes how such a person would initially feel anger and discomfort at being pulled away from his comfort zone. If he was brought out into the light, his eyes would initially be dazzled, but he would eventually start seeing things for what they really are.

Other people still in the cave, would think that the enlightened person, has been blinded by the light and, if he tries to enlighten them, they would reject this, and they might think they need to have him killed.
The irony is that Socrates was sentenced to death for “corrupting the mind of the youth” with his philosophical ideas. He was the enlightened person.

The story

I listen to it on iTunes, with background story on the republic and the translator. The additional information helps to MacGyver* out the real meaning. I first read it in high school, and this story still intrigues me.

* MacGyver old(er) people speak for Pokémon. Example sentence: you have to Pokémon that out yourself.

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