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The two different forms of vision in the allegory of the cave by plato

The Allegory of the Cave Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc.

  • But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms;
  • The cave allegory is from Plato's Republic; elsewhere in that work, he discusses the Form of Bed;
  • Much of it seems to be Plato's own view of how Socrates would have developed his ideas had he continued to do philosophy;
  • For example, I may go to the fairgrounds and see that a certain cow has been given a blue ribbon, an apple pie has also won a ribbon, and one farmer's corn has won a prize.

The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this. In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads.

All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave.

  • Then they realize their error;
  • Why does this theory work so well?
  • Thus, the punchline is:

The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. New York, Signet Classics: Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality.

They would think the things they see on the wall the shadows were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows.

So when the prisoners talk, what are they talking about? He thinks he is talking about a book, but he is really talking about a shadow. Plato gives his answer at line 515b2. The text here has puzzled many editors, and it has been frequently emended.

But he would be wrong. To see it, he would have to turn his head around. They are actually names of things that we cannot see, things that we can only grasp with the mind.

When the prisoners are released, they can turn their heads and see the real objects. Then they realize their error. What can we do that is analogous to turning our heads and seeing the causes of the shadows?

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Theory of the Forms Explained

We can come to grasp the Forms with our minds. But even without it, it remains true that our very ability to think and to speak depends on the Forms. The prisoners may learn what a book is by their experience with shadows of books. Likewise, we may acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. But we would be mistaken if we thought that the concepts that we grasp were on the same level as the things we perceive.