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Explain Plato's Analogy of the Cave

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Plato uses his analogy to help describe his philosophical position on the main difference between the physical world and the Realm of Forms.

Plato's analogy begins in a cave which is representing the prisoners' world and reality. This represents the world based on our experiences. The prisoners are chained to the ground so they cannot turn around since they were born and so, this is the only world they know, using their senses. There is a walkway, a fire and a wall. People carry objects across the walkway causing their shadows to reflect onto the wall that the prisoners are facing.

The prisoners in the analogy represent the people that are ignorant and are happy with what they know and decide to not question anything in order to know more about it. They believe that the shadows they see on the wall in front of them are real when actually; these shadows are illusions and the prisoners' virtual reality. They believe that what they have learnt from their senses is right and choose not to rethink it. The shadows projected onto the wall in front of the prisoners are similar to the idea that Plato holds. Plato claims that the objects we see in the physical world aren't real and are just imitations of their Form in the Realm of Forms.

One of the prisoners chained down then releases himself. The released prisoner represents the philosopher in the analogy as he's the only one out of the few who chooses to question things around him. When the released prisoner sees the fire, he is confused but he quickly realises that the shadows are unreal. The exit to the cave is uphill making it hard for the prisoner to leave the cave. This shows that when you go out and question things to find out the truth, it's always hard to do so.

When the prisoner has successfully escaped the cave, he sees the outside world that is new to him. In the beginning, he only knew of the shadows and that was his reality. Now however, he sees objects as they truly are in full perfection. The world outside the cave represents the Realm of Forms. The sun allows the prisoner to see the objects in the outside world showing that the sun in the analogy represents the Form of the Good as it gives all the Forms their shapes. From this representation of the sun, we can make out that the fire in the cave is like a superficial alternative of the sun which comes from the sun as the sun is the Form of the Good.

Plato believes that we should not rely on any of our senses as any knowledge that we gain from them cannot be true and that true knowledge can only be found in the Realm of Forms.

When the prisoner has found out more about the real world, he returns to the cave to tell his fellow prisoners about his findings. When he does return to the cave and tries telling them about his findings, they don't listen and laugh at him. If the prisoner is persistent



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