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Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” HMXP 102 Dr. Fike.

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1 Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” HMXP 102 Dr. Fike

2 Anouncements Those who do not have Plato must go get a text. Visit from Writing Center Tutor. Optional paper proposals due. Who will volunteer their papers for class discussion? Reminder: critical reading = marking your books.

3 Introductory Points Source: Plato’s Republic. Setting: Ancient Greece. Speakers: Socrates is talking to Glaucon. Format: Dialectic, “the tradition of continuing debate or discussion of eternally unresolved issues…Plato’s Dialogues exemplify this kind of dialectic” (Harmon and Holman, A Handbook to Literature). Give and take, Q&A. Title: Symbolism vs. Allegory –Symbolism: many possible referents. Example: Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” –Allegory: one-to-one correspondence between a detail in the text and something outside the text. –Therefore, an allegory, contrary to the head note CANNOT be “a symbolic moral fable.”

4 Diagram and Video ato/caveframes.htmhttp://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~loxias/pl ato/caveframes.htm w&feature=relatedhttp://youtube.com/watch?v=TYKNAdbhQ- w&feature=related

5 Exercise for Small Groups Get with a partner and figure out what each of the following details refers to: –Shackles/bonds/fetters –Shadows –Fire –“artifacts” (page 3, col. 2) –The light above (the sun) –“the things themselves” (page 4, col. 2) –Persons who view the shadows –Persons who leave the cave –Persons who return to the cave

6 Persons Who Leave the Cave Question: –What historical persons fit this category? –Who ARE they in our contemporary context? people? Examples?

7 More Questions What happens when someone who knows the truth (who has seen the light) goes back to the cave? Why would one do such a thing? Can you think of examples of such persons from history? From current events? (See the examples on the next slide.)

8 Such Persons Socrates (foreshadowing) Jesus Gandhi Martin Luther King RFK Benazir Bhutto Harriet Tubman You? What else do most of these figures have in common?

9 The Key to Understanding the Allegory Page 5, column 1, middle of the column: “The visible realm [the everyday world] should be likened to the prison dwelling, and the light of the fire inside it to the power of the sun.” In other words: Cave/“prison”:“visible realm” (real world)::“visible realm”:Forms (“intelligible realm,” “knowable realm” on page 5, left) Illusion is to reality as reality is to transcendent ideas (the really real).

10 In Other Words: Hierarchy Forms/Ideas Reality/The Concrete World Illusion/Shadows/Art

11 Point In allegory, something in the text represents something not in the text. In this case, the cave/prison represents the world in which we live. Thus education (i.e., getting out of the cave and correcting your vision) involves two things: 1) accurate viewing of things in the physical world (versus the illusions in the cave) and 2) getting in touch with the Forms or Ideas (the most real) that exist prior to and independent of things in the physical world. As the cave dwellers must climb up to the light, so those of us who live in the sunlight must seek the Forms of things.

12 Plato’s Hierarchy: A Gloss on Those Who Leave the Cave Here is the hierarchy: –Forms/Ideas (e.g., “the form of the good” on page 5, left col.) –Nature (“the things themselves” on page 4, right col.) –Art and other appearances like the false ones in the cave POINT: Although seeing things as they are in nature is a good thing, the middle position is still one remove from things in their essence or as they truly are (the Forms/Ideas). POINT: Leaving the cave is progress, but there is still a higher realm (“the intelligible realm” or “the knowable realm” on page 5, left col.) that must be apprehended. Illusions/shadows  concrete/real world  Forms.

13 Clarification Individual persons move from illusion (cave)  a correct vision of reality (sunlit world)  an intellectual life (ideas/forms, the knowable or intelligible realm). This is a movement from a lower to a higher spiritual/intellectual state. How things manifest in the physical world: Forms/Ideas (exist prior to and apart from the physical world)  a person has an idea that reflects a Form/Idea and then brings it into physical manifestation  someone incorporates that object in art (e.g., painting, literature).

14 Education What are the implications of this passage from page 4, cols. 1-2? “And if someone dragged him away from there by force, up the rough, steep path, and didn’t let him go until he had dragged him into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be pained and irritated at being treated that way?”

15 Next Question What metaphors does Plato use?

16 What Metaphors Does Plato Use? “the upward journey and the study of things above as the upward journey of the soul to the intelligible realm,” i.e., the realm of Forms or Ideas (page 5, col. 1). Seeing, vision. “this turning around” (page 6, col. 1) (Very much akin to the theological concept of metanoia, the idea of changing your mind, which enables repentance.)

17 Contemporary Analogy What movie that you have all seen illustrates this “turning around”?

18 Summary Education’s purpose is to elevate us from false appearances (self-deception), to things as they are (nature), to things as they may ideally be (Forms), i.e., to shift us from falsity to accuracy and then to lift us from the earthly/concrete to the transcendental/spiritual/intellectual. Implication: In order to be educated, we must turn away from misconceptions and achieve personal transformation by coming to understand things more nearly as they are.

19 A Long Process Skeptical denial (you get laughed at if you espouse the new idea). Admission that the new idea may possibly be true Acceptance of the new idea. Full-blown paradigm shift (you get laughed at if you deny the new idea).

20 Implication for Values Pages 4-5: “Instead, wouldn’t he feel, with Homer, that he’d much prefer to ‘work the earth as a serf to another, one without possessions,’ and go through any sufferings, rather than share their opinions and live as they do?”

21 Homer, Odyssey XI, “Better, I say, to break sod as a farm hand for some poor country man, on iron rations, than lord it over all the exhausted dead.” --Achilles’s soul, in the afterlife From The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces: Beginnings to A.D. 100, page 359.

22 Distinction Achilles’s afterlife is in the place of the unhappy dead versus the Elysian Fields mentioned in note 3—the place of the happy dead. See also “the faraway Isles of the Blessed,” page 6, right.

23 Question How would you paraphrase Achilles’s statement? Here it is again: “Better, I say, to break sod as a farm hand for some poor country man, on iron rations, than lord it over all the exhausted dead.” What point does the allusion to Homer suggest?

24 What Is the Corresponding Point? Achilles says that it is better to be a wretched servant but to be ALIVE than to be a king in the afterlife. That is how much worse it is to be dead than to be miserable but alive. You fill out this side of the chart with your understanding of Plato’s point:

25 Basketball Paper A WU basketball player made an analogy to these passages in Plato and Homer in the following way. It is better, he wrote, to be a bench warmer for WU’s basketball team than to be a starting player for a lesser school’s basketball team. Thus the excellence of WU’s team parallels the apprehension of truth when one leaves Plato’s cave. The thing that he needed to consider, of course, is that seeing himself mainly as a basketball player was a form of deception no matter how good a team he played for. In this respect, he might have been a cave dweller after all, believing something to be superior to something else when both are illusory.

26 Problem with Note 2 It reads: “The shade of the dead Achilles speaks these words to Odysseus, who is visiting Hades. Plato is, therefore, likening the cave dwellers to the dead.” But this is not Hades (the underworld). Odysseus visits the dead in a meadow. He does not go down into Hades. The dead come up from Hades to speak with him. PLUS, Odysseus goes to the meadow to consult with Teiresias, the blind seer. In other words, the journey provides illumination and guidance. So the analogy is NOT between Plato’s cave and Homer’s Hades. The key thing is the contrasts that arise: living vs. dead; king vs. serf.

27 Irony The note accurately likens Plato’s “cave dwellers to the dead [in Homer’s poem].” BUT (!) if you consider the meadow in Homer’s poem to be analogous to Plato’s cave, then the implication is that one must descend into the cave in order to learn the truth because Odysseus visits the dead to gain essential information from Teiresias, the seer, who alone among the dead thinks clearly. Does Plato have it backwards? –His allegory says that seeing what is true helps us to understand what is false. But is it also the case that seeing what is false helps us to understand what is true? –And is it possible that one can live like Teiresias in the midst of illusions (i.e., in the cave) and still see clearly? Joseph Campbell says that the hero’s journey has three parts: descent  encounter (e.g., descent into hell or confrontation with a monster or a villain or illusion like the shadows on the wall)  return. The middle part of Campbell’s triad emphasizes the value of confronting negativity.

28 Transition In one interpretation, Plato is suggesting that it is better to be poor in the material sense and yet to see things as they are than it is to be wealthy but self-deceived. You might write a nice paper about why you think that this is a false dichotomy (or not). Cannot persons be both well off AND enlightened? See next slide.

29 A Christian Analogy Jesus: “‘Sell your possessions, and give alms [to the poor]; provide yourself with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’” (Luke 12:33-34). Jesus: “‘Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (Luke 18:22).

30 Transition Plato has been talking about persons who apprehend the truth, but then the text turns to ways of knowing and offers two possibilities.

31 Different Models of Apprehending the Truth The first one is on pages 5-6: “But our present discussion, on the other hand, shows that the power to learn is present in everyone’s soul and that the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body. … Then education is the craft of doing this very thing, this turning around…. It isn’t the craft of putting sight into the soul. Education takes for granted that sight is there but that it isn’t turned the right way or looking where it ought to look, and it tries to redirect it appropriately.”

32 Plato’s Meno This quotation makes it sound as if we have an inborn CAPACITY to learn, but in his dialogue, The Meno, he goes further. He suggests that we are also born with knowledge of certain things, and he puts forward the following theory. Anamnesis: Learning equals remembering what the soul knows but has forgotten because of its physical incarnation. Dialectic is a means of uncovering this knowledge: someone has to ask you the right questions.

33 Development of Anamnesis What things do we remember? What things do we learn for the first time? Do you even buy Plato’s distinction?

34 Assumption: Reincarnation Plato believes in reincarnation. For example: “For a soul does not return to the place whence she came for ten thousand years, since in no lesser time can she regain her wings, save only his soul who has sought after wisdom unfeignedly, or has conjoined his passion for a loved one with that seeking.” Plato, Phaedrus, 249a “…he that grows better shall make his way to the better souls and he that has grown worse to the worser, and so, in life, and throughout the series of deaths, do and have done to him what it is meet the like-minded should do to their likes. This doom of heaven be sure neither thyself nor any other that has fallen on ill ways shall ever claim to have escaped; ’tis that which the fashioners of doom have established before all others and that which should be shunned with utter dread.” Plato, Laws X, 905a

35 A Clearer Translation “O youth or young man, who fancy that you are neglected by the Gods, know that if you become worse you shall go to the worse souls, or if better to the better, and in every succession of life and death you will do and suffer what like may fitly suffer at the hands of like. This is the justice of heaven” (my emphasis).

36 More on Reincarnation Plato believed in reincarnation. Do YOU? Someone once said that to know what you were in a past lifetime, look at your hobbies. Did you ever just KNOW that you had to do something in a big way? Do you accumulate knowledge and experience from lifetime to lifetime?

37 Extra Information on Reincarnation The following finds evidence for reincarnation in biblical quotations: qureincr.htm POINT: It is not possible to say that the Bible absolutely rules out the concept of reincarnation.

38 The Other Position The second position is on pages 5-6: Some believe that education involves “putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like putting sight into blind eyes.” Plato adds that “the other so-called virtues of the soul are akin to those of the body, for they really aren’t there beforehand but are added later by habit and practice.” What is Plato talking about?

39 Two Models What, then, are the two models that Plato is suggesting?

40 Answer Model one: When we learn, we are remembering things that we already have in our unconscious minds or in our souls. Learning = a welling up of what is within. Model two: We learn through practice, habit, repetition. Learning = imposing things from outside the self. Method: In each case, learning involves focusing our inborn sight in the right direction. What are the implications of these two models?

41 Possible Implications Re. model one: You are much more capable than we realize. We have inner resources that have not yet surfaced. Re. model two: You are insufficient and therefore need help (education and right reason, in Plato’s way of thinking; divine grace, in a theological paradigm). Or you are somewhere in between: you have inborn inner resources, but you also need help from others or from a higher being. What do you believe about your education?

42 A Key Virtue: Reason Page 6: “However, the virtue of reason seems to belong above all to something more divine, which never loses its power but is either useful and beneficial or useless and harmful, depending on the way it is turned” (my emphasis). POINT: Reason can be used for good or evil. The last column says that we should use reason/education for good purposes: “…we mustn’t allow them [those who have seen the light] to do what they’re allowed to do today.... To stay there and refuse to go down again to the prisoners in the cave and share their labors and honors, whether they are of less worth or of greater.” POINT: Education carries social responsibility. You must act.

43 Writing in Class Write a short paragraph that sums up “The Allegory of the Cave.” What is the “moral of the story”? What message is Plato trying to convey about education? You have 5 minutes. What did you come up with? My summary appears on the next slide.

44 Here is My Summary Plato says: In the physical world, we must focus on what is real rather than on what is illusory. Education involves turning from illusion to reality, and this can be a painful process. We must also contemplate the original Forms/Ideas (the most real)—Plato encourages us to become more intellectual. We are predisposed to learn, but we must exercise reason for good purposes. That includes helping others in the community.

45 Questions about the Self What can Plato teach you about the self—and about your self? –Are you a soul in a physical body? –Are you a spiritual being having a physical experience? –Are you a physical being that may or may not have an afterlife in the spirit? –Did you exist before you were born—did you have a pre-existence? –If so, did you carry over into this life any memory (perhaps unconscious memory) from previous lifetimes or from a spiritual preexistence? –Have you ever “just known” something as if part of you is remembering, though you have never experienced the specific thing in this lifetime? –Do you already have inside you all the things that you need, or do you need external reinforcement and support like education or divine grace? Is the answer perhaps that you need some of both? –Is it possible that what we consider concrete and real is actually an illusion? What is reality? –Is Plato’s story an allegory of going away to college? Of overcoming addiction? Of embracing a new idea?

46 Writing in Class about Possible Paper Topics What has “The Allegory of the Cave” helped you to understand about yourself? Write for five minutes about this and turn in your answer before you leave today. –Is Plato’s allegory the story of your own education? –Are you arranging the shadows on the wall? Or are you striving toward the light? Discuss and example. –Is it possible that all of earthy/physical existence is the cave? See St. Paul: “For now [on earth] we see in a mirror dimly, but then [in the afterlife] face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). –In short, how are we cave dwellers even though we would all like to believe that we see things as they really are? How are we self-deceived? –Might staying in your “cave” actually be a good thing under some circumstances? –Does Plato’s allegory suggest that something that you have always considered the Truth is merely a truth? END


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