The Plato’s Cave is an allegory of Plato, which describes the relationship between man and knowledge.
Here is the summary of the myth: in a cave there are prisoners, chained since childhood and unable to look behind them, where a fire is burning. These prisoners can only see some shadows cast by the fire on the wall in front of them and, since they are unable to imagine what happens behind them, they believe that such shadows are the only existing reality. Those shadows are instead the projection of what happens outside the cave: the everyday life of men living outside.
Plato imagines what would happen if one of the prisoners managed to free himself: the man would start walking towards the exit of the cave, feeling more and more pain in his eyes, which are obviously not accustomed to the light. Once out, he would first be dazzled by the sight of the sun and then, slowly, he would be able to see better and would begin to look at his surroundings, realizing that what he believed to be the only possible reality was not at all. The man would then go back to tell the other prisoners everything and to help them free himself, but having to get his eyes used to seeing in the shadows, he would be laughed at by the other slaves who, believing that the light has created damage to his sight, will not believe him and, giving no value to his words, they could even kill him if he would insist on showing them the way to the exit.
There main symbols of this myth are:
- the fire represents the knowledge;
- what happens outside of the cave is the reality;
- the shadows projected from the fire on the wall represent the opinions, the appearance of things.
- the Sun is the supreme idea of Good.
Plato, among the infinite lessons that each of us can draw from myth, wants to teach us how love for truth and knowledge can lead man to free himself from the conditioning of others opinions, in particular of those who do not want to start a path of liberation from their mental cages and inner growth. And not only that: those who are “chained” to their beliefs consider everything that is different from their point of view to be wrong.
Finally, what in my opinion is the most important lesson: the search for Good arises from the desire to free oneself from pride; it also requires the perseverance in undertaking a difficult journey and the strength in resisting judgments of others. But that’s the only way you get to enjoy the sunlight.
“We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light “