"Allegory of the Cave" Working from the perspective that Plato's view on the nature of reality—as allegorized in the Allegory of the Cave—is correct . . . What are some specific examples...

"Allegory of the Cave"

Working from the perspective that Plato's view on the nature of reality—as allegorized in the Allegory of the Cave—is correct . . .

  1. What are some specific examples from contemporary society (namely, historical events, news stories, and so on) which could be seen as a modern manifestation or realization of Plato's allegorical cave?
  2. What is one example from contemporary society which either disproves or at least problematizes Plato's implicit views embedded in his cave analogy?  
Expert Answers
droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. The allegory of the cave presents the idea that, to people who have spent their entire lives in a "cave" or restricted environment watching images projected on a wall as if they are real, it is difficult and even undesirable to be asked to examine the truth behind these figures. In the modern era of television and the internet, this is a very relevant concept. The best strict examples might include, for example, people who lived under the Soviet Union and who saw the world only as the Communist Party wanted them to see it. The Communist newspaper, Pravda, presented a filtered version of the truth. During his time as leader, Stalin was presented to the people as being capable of absolutely anything. Those living under Communist rule expressed that they thought "if Stalin wanted to be a brain surgeon, he would be the best brain surgeon anyone could ask for." Stalin was worshipped almost as a godly figure. This was not realistic, but when Communism crumbled, people found it difficult to readjust to the reality beyond the cave the USSR had provided (see the film Goodbye Lenin). Less extreme versions of this can be seen in smaller propaganda campaigns, such as when the British government, after the defeat at Dunkirk during World War II, turned the defeat into a "propaganda victory" or morale booster. 

2. Perhaps the largest problem with Plato's allegory is that it suggests someone external to the cave must enter it in order to free the people trapped inside. Returning to the example above, we can see that this is not always the case. The USSR was not brought down by people external to it, such as the United States and Great Britain, but, instead, largely by people living under it. Anti-Communist resistance in Poland was a major cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union: in the 1960s, anti-communist revolutions (like the Prague Spring) spread across the USSR. These people had not been freed from the cave. Instead, while living inside it, they had come to understand that the shadows were only shadows. The Allegory of the Cave is problematic because it suggests that people are not responsible for making up their own minds when presented with false information. In reality, if this were true, political shifts would not happen.

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