Applications of the Allegory of the Cave

After talking about the Allegory Of the Cave, it seems, from my understanding, that Socrates’ opinion of the world around us is that it is all just a concept that we turn it into. A pencil is only a pencil because that’s what we say it is, otherwise it would just be a combination of wood and lead. So far, from my understanding, everything in our world does not actually exist or is just an attempt to create something that cannot exist. This concept and understanding has mad me wonder what the point of learning this and understanding the forms is? For a quick summary of the Allegory of the Cave, a prisoner who sees a shadow of a dog on the cave wall all his life is dragged up the cave to view the fire and the puppet of the dog and then ragged out of the cave to see a real dog and see the sun and then sent back down to rule over the other prisoners. My question is; why does the prisoner need to understand that the shadows aren’t the truth in order to rule the other prisoners? Why does viewing the sun and the fire and the actual dog make him any more qualified to rule then any of the other prisoners? I understand the forms now more than an average person. I know they exist and I know they tell us that everything is merely a concept and everything is just what we make it. Essentially, I am further up the cave than the other prisoners. I know there is a fire and a puppet so to speak. Although I recognize there is much more study to be done and I am not a philosopher, knowing the forms and understanding they exist has changed absolutely nothing about the way I see the world. A chair is still a chair, a chalkboard is still a chalkboard and I feel no more qualified to rule anything than the average person. So if this bit knowledge has changed nothing about me, what is the point of learning? And what is the point of fully learning it? The prisoners seem perfectly content to stare at the shadows without knowing of the sun and the real dog as people seem perfectly content to call a pen a pen instead of realizing it’s just an imitation of their concept of a pen that can’t actually be. Why does fully realizing this concept make a person a more qualified ruler? Even if you fully understood the forms and the form of the good, it does not change anything in the physical space around you. Nothing will actually change. The shadows are still on the wall, the imitation of the pen will still exist in the physical universe and the perfect pen will not and cannot, so what’s the point of being unsatisfied when nothing can be changed? And what does the knowledge of the forms change about the way someone rule that makes them a better leader?

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2 Responses to Applications of the Allegory of the Cave

  1. sarahbrgr says:

    I think the Allegory of the Cave can be compared to modern day education. Why are we at the Eastman School of Music? To gain further knowledge of music. In doing that, perhaps we are trying to understand the form of music. Why would someone study music in grad school? To gain even more knowledge. The more we know about music, the closer we get to its form. We strive for things like perfect intonation and perfect tone because that’s what’s closest to the forms. The more education we pursue, the further out of the cave we go. If you look at who “rules” over things, it’s the people with more education, or those who have been dragged further out of the cave. For example, Professor Mackin “rules” over us because he is far more educated (and perhaps some other reasons). While I don’t quite understand why the ideal ruler would know “the good,” the Allegory of the Cave can be applied to more than just understanding the good and why a desk is a desk.

  2. slee192 says:

    This is quite true. I had actually thought of similar things to this when I read this passage in the Republic. Why does one have more power than another? As I commented on your post about truth, nobody has the same beliefs. There are always some qualities that are somewhat different. A very weird way that I look at this the fact that everyone in the world was once babies, dumb and stupid. We all came to this Earth with the same qualities. However, what I don’t see is why one baby gets to have power over another? It seems quite unfair. If everything else is the same except for the personalities of the people, then why is it fair for one person to rule over another? Everyone has a say, and even people that we believe should be neglected. Just because they aren’t us, doesn’t mean that we have the right that they are lower in status than us.

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