The Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s The Republic

Ancient Greece gave the world the philosophers whose teachings have laid the foundations of the modern science. Moreover, their works and thoughts have not lost their significance even nowadays. Such works include the Plato’s Myth of the Cave, which is presented in his book The Republic. Basing on a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon, the myth allows studying and understanding a philosophical question of pursuit of wisdom, and a technical issue of conducting a quality dialogue, which reflects the method of Socrates. Allegory of the Cave argues that people should strive to be release from the shackles of ignorance gradually coming to light, and to learn the truth; thus, the form of the myth presentation reveals the practical side of the Socratic Method application, which contributes to this philosophic search.

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The Plato’s Cave

The Myth of the Cave is Plato’s allegory aimed at explaining the theories of the philosopher. Plato describes a subterranean dwelling resembling a cave, where people are chained and are not allowed to turn to the light or look around. These people can only see what is in front of them. They sit with their backs facing the fire and the light that it gives. There is a wall nearby with free people behind it, who bring different things with them like the statues, household and luxury items etc. (“The Republic by Plato” 373). Prisoners of the Cave can see no other thing, except for their shadows, so they observe them, give names, but their present form, color, and the very essence of objects remain available to be studied. Similarly, the sounds that could be heard by shackled people are mistakenly attributed to the shadows. Evidently, as people do not see the real objects but only the shadows, they form personal understanding of them.

If anyone frees a prisoner and allows him or her to finally look at the things the shadows of which they have seen, a freed person will experience pain because of the bright light. Plato and Glaucon have recognized a high probability that the release of the prisoners of the Cave may enable them to understand and accept the essence of these objects, leaving them as the shadow of a mistaken perception (“The Republic by Plato” 374). If the former prisoner returns to the Cave, he or she will try to enlighten companions. However, this person will not be understood, but will seem ridiculous and insane until his or her eyes adjust to the darkness and the shadows replace the real objects again. Moreover, the continuously chained prisoners will argue that their comrade’s desire to become free has made the person blind, which may further force them to abandon any attempt to seek the light. Thus, Plato explains the individual’s aspiration for a higher idea and the society’s attitude towards such ambition.

The Pursuit of Wisdom

The Plato’s Myth has a deep philosophical background with the core idea consisting in the search for wisdom. A former prisoner of the literal and figurative senses goes towards the light and knowledge. He can overcome any force by his will or through another daredevil, who have challenged darkness. The Cave with chained people embodies a framework. It symbolizes the person’s lifestyle, focusing on the senses only – a limited ascetic existence. Whoever throws the chains makes the mental effort to assess what he has seen. The supersensitive perception and philosophic evaluation of forms are developed.

In other words, the Cave limits the visibility of human and his intellectual activity in such a way setting obstacles for the human cognition. Those, who have managed to get up and adapt to the sunlight, become outcasts among the chained fellows. If the people in the Cave saw sunlight only once, they would give anything to get out of the darkness. Unfortunately, the walls of Cave hide them from the light; and a lonely prophet has no trust. Philosophers are the former prisoners who have abandoned the darkness and learned to perceive the sunlight. None of them has a desire to return into the Cave, which, however, it is their moral duty because only they can help other prisoners to overcome ignorance. The Cave can be compared to the state. Plato never placed such emphasis on the perception of his images. Perhaps, he feared for his school and students. For that reason, he created the myth of the Cave in The State, thereby extracting the hidden meaning of the allegory.

Socratic Method: Strategy and Techniques

The Myth of the Cave proves the need for the pursuit of knowledge and the development of philosophical perception. However, it is actually much more than an exciting theoretical story. The style of the myth presentation suggests a method that can help in comprehending the truth and the Socratic Method is considered.

The overall strategy of the Socratic approach implies solving the problem given the personal perception of the interlocutor. The philosopher did not recognize a single truth, yet took into account any options for the development of dialogue, given the subjectivity. For a fruitful dialogue, he has used the technique of probing questions that do not expect a direct answer but help to gradually conclude the conversation. Additionally, the technique of periodical summarizing of the discussed information fixing the key points of the discussion as such is applied (Coffey). The mentioned approach is clearly observed in the discussion of the concept of objects and shadows, which are seen by the prisoners. Socrates asks Glaucon detailed probing questions, repeating, clarifying, and supplementing his answers, thus maintaining the discussion.

A large number of participants demand using the technique of two circles in scopes of the Socratic Method. The issues of the first circle are supported be an educator, who monitors the students’ discussion and does not allow departing from the topic. The second circle is created and maintained by the students themselves, who developed the accompanying topics in the context of a general discussion (Coffey). The Socratic Method is very popular and widely used for educational purposes.

Application of Socratic Method in the Life

Communicating in society, people faced rather difficult situations. The dialog could have started quite smooth. However, if the conversation flows into the heated discussion of anything, or communication was initially tense, it might be difficult to find the common ground and achieve understanding. Thus, it is sensible to apply the Socratic Method here.

Socratic dialogue involves setting the specific issues in the talks, which contribute to the work of thinking, concentration, and the adequate assessment of the current debate. These issues should replace any attempt of proclaiming the truth because interlocutor comes to the necessary understanding of matters, creating own correct options. Socratic dialogue can be conditionally divided into three stages – an agreement, doubt, and reasoning. The result is expressed similarly in three forms.

The interviewee becomes less controversial and it is possible to adequately voice one’s personal point of view. Furthermore, it becomes available to find the most effective approach to the arguments of the interlocutor. Thus, the Socratic Method allows conducting a dialogue in the most profitable and gentle manner, thus promoting the search for joint solutions.


The essay shows that Plato’s myth about the Cave is the complicated philosophical work, which emphasizes the need for knowledge and the desire to overcome the limited space of epistemological darkness. The Socratic Method can provide a substantial assistance in discussing philosophical issues. Evidently, the truth is born in the dispute, but the subjective approach to its finding should be taken into account. Therefore, Socrates’ technique of questions remains one of the softest and the most efficient approaches in the modern educational system.

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