How does the allegory of the cave relate to the Theory of Forms?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the philosophy of Plato, Forms (or Ideas) are abstract, perfect, unchanging concepts that constitute what is ultimately real. The objects that we see in the world around us—the world of time and space—are but copies of some higher, deeper reality. In other words, they are copies of the Forms rather than the Forms themselves. As such, an investigation of the spatio-temporal world cannot provide us with the truth. Only a rational comprehension of the Forms can do that.

Plato illustrates this point with his famous allegory of the cave. The men who have been chained up their whole lives in the cave can only see the shadows of men appearing on the wall. As they have never seen actual men before, they take the shadows for the reality.

This is the position that most people—i.e., people who are not philosophers—take in relation to the spatio-temporal world. They look around them and see a world of objects, which they unthinkingly regard as constituting what is ultimately real. But in...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 965 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team