Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave": A Summary

Socrates: "Why do people think philosophy is bullshit? Let me put it this way - imagine you're in a cave, all chained up so you can't turn your body at all, and all you get to look at is this one wall. Some assholes behind you are making shadow puppets using the light from a fire and making echo noises and that's all you or anyone else chained up has seen or heard all your life. Sounds terrible, right? Except it's all you've ever known, shadows and echoes, and that's your whole world - there's no way you could know that, really, you're watching a slightly-improved M. Night Shyamalan film.


"In fact, you get pretty good at understanding how the patterns in the show work, and everyone else chained up is like, 'Holy shit bro, how did you know that that tree was going to fall on that guy?' and you're like, 'It's because I fucking pay attention and I'm smart as shit.' You're the smartest of the chained, and they all revere you." 

Glaucon: "But Socrates, a tree didn't really hit a guy. It's all shadows." 

Socrates: "No shit, Glaucon, but you don't know that. You think the shadows are real things. Everyone does. Now shut up and let me finish.

"So eventually, someone comes and unchains you and drags you out of the cave. At first you'd say, 'Seriously, what the fuck is going on?!' Well, actually, at first you'd say, 'HOLY SHIT MY EYES' and you'd want to go back to the safe, familiar shadows. But even once your eyes worked you wouldn't believe them, because everything you ever thought was real is gone. You'd look at a tree, and say 'That's not a tree. I know trees. And you, sir, are no tree. THAT DOWN THERE is a tree.' But you're wrong. Down there is a shadow of a tree.

"Slowly, as your eyes got better, you'd see more and more shit. Eventually, you'd see the sun, and realize that it's the source of all light. You can't see shit without the sun. And eventually, you'd figure it out. Something would click in your brain: 'oh, shit, that IS a tree. Fuck me. So... nothing in the cave was real? I feel like such an asshole.' But it's not your fault, so don't be so hard on yourself.

"Finally you'd want to go down and tell everyone about everything you've discovered. Except, and here's the hilarious part, they think you've gone fucking crazy. You'd say, 'Guys, real trees are green!' and they'd say, 'What the fuck is green? THAT is a tree over there.' And you'd squint and look at the wall, but you know you're fucked because now you're used to having sunlight, and now you can't see shit. So they'd laugh at you, and agree that wherever it was that you went, no one should go there because it turns people into dickheads.

"Philosophy, same thing. The soul ascends and apprehends the forms, the nature of everything, and eventually the very Idea of Good that gives light to everything else. And then the philosopher has to go back to the cave and try to explain it to people who don't even know what Green is, to say nothing of the Good. But the philosopher didn't make up the Good, it was always there, and the only way to really make sense of it is to uncover it for yourself. You can't force knowledge into a dumbass any more than you can force sight into a blind man.

"So if you want to learn, be prepared for a difficult journey, and be prepared to make some mistakes. That's okay, it's all part of the process. True knowledge must be obtained the hard way, and some people just don't want to see the light."


--


If you liked this, be sure to check out my other Platonic summaries: Crito

129 comments:

  1. This is actually a really clever way to make philosophy more accessible. I studied engineering so for me to pick up a philosophy text is a massive challenge. Thank you and please keep it coming!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holy shit dude! Ya I like numbers better!Im in the same boat and this summary of this allegory made way more sense.

      Delete
  2. Now that's enlightening Broseph, keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dude brah, I think you, like, blew my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think you're onto something..

    ReplyDelete
  5. If you do Kierkegaard make sure you point out the logical flaw he is guilty of when he applies different criteria to two sides of an argument.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bro, that was like, enlightening.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Does anyone else read this is a Boston accent?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why the hell hasn't anyone thought of this before? Oh well, now we have you. I love you man!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Bravo, bro. I can.t wait until you do heidegger and Hegel

    ReplyDelete
  10. Pleas keep blowing my mind.
    This is the beginning of something magical. Same thing in podcast form would be pretty neat too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Keep this coming and you'll have a enough material for a book. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Can you do the divided line, as a companion to this?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Isn't the same thing about God?

    ReplyDelete
  14. That was awesome, Bro. Seriously. I have seen and read more Myth of the Cave summary/video/power-pointy/you-tuby crap than anyone on this freakin' planet should ever want to slog through, and you, Bro, have made it work.

    ReplyDelete
  15. An excellent summary of why philosophers are terrible.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I will keep the shadow trees, please.

    Cognitive dissonance is a slave driver.

    ReplyDelete
  17. well put, makes me think plato tried some shrooms and realized shit that is so unexplainable that they probably though he was crazy

    ReplyDelete
  18. I read the book, took a philosophy class, waded through the text, wrote several multiple page papers...

    And dude, you totally fucking summed it up. Good job.

    ReplyDelete
  19. @Alex

    Why should the fact that you studied engineering mean that you find a philosophy text hard to read? Engineering is pretty hard too so surely it should have prepared you for the reading of difficult texts.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dumbed down philosophy creates dumbed down philosophers. Although some might actually be insightful idgits. Never know. Savants be everywhere.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Nice job, although, as much as your kindness to us dumb animals shines through, the inherent arrogance of the Philosopher remains.
    As a typical 'Murrican swine, I give your effort 4.5 out of 5 'oinks' for dumbing it down--but then, being mere swine, how would I know how well you did, right?

    (Yeah, I know that our porcine cousins are actually rather smart, and probably smarter than the vast majority of the Tea Party's adherents. I don't care. I like pigs--married one, in fact. Got over it, though.)

    ReplyDelete
  22. what if the outside world is in fact a larger cave? seriously. ever since i saw pictures of a brain cell and the farthest pictures of the universe, and how similar they are... like whoaaaa dude it's just a never ending story omg let's go ride giant dogs!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. At first I was thinking "This is sacrilegious!" But them I realized the genius in it all, shows some major understanding, actually. Hats off to you:)

    ReplyDelete
  24. super cool man, but should Plato be giving this speech and no Socrates? Soc believed that he knew nothing, Plato had the Allegory of the cave.

    ReplyDelete
  25. @10:33 - Plato used Socrates as the speaker in all his dialogues, including the Allegory of the Cave.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thank You! This is exactly what i've been trying to explain to people! They think i'm crazy :P

    ReplyDelete
  27. Allegory of the cave is my favorite philosophical idea. Its crazy to think that even your perception might be comparitively smaller, maybe even to a great degree, than another persons. But how the fuck do you get out of the cave?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Dude, that's fucking stupid. Socrates didn't speak like that.

    ReplyDelete
  29. This is a great idea. By bro-itizing the allegory becomes a lot more accessible, and makes philosophy ,which can SOMETIMES get to dull and ethereal,a lot more funny and lighthearted. I'm trying to take philosophical quotes and points and relate them to every day life on my blog as well. I'd love to get you input. http://suburbanteenphilosopher.tumblr.com/

    ReplyDelete
  30. I figured that out too man. It makes sense. And sense is good, at least what we all conceive as sense is good for where we are today and now, but who knows what sense is though?

    ReplyDelete
  31. This really made me laugh. I think most people don't realize that when it comes down to it, Philosophy isn't speaking gibberish. Just because it uses a certain language and more bombastic words than most of us use in our daily lives, that doesn't mean the message isn't easy to understand. Most of the time, when we start to understand Philosophy, we realize the message behind it is intuitive after all. Good stuff here, dude.

    ReplyDelete
  32. All great truths begin as blasphemies- George Bernard Shaw

    ReplyDelete
  33. I'm definitely a fan of using the words 'shit' and 'fuck' to make concepts more easily understood.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Whoever wrote this, Marry Me, because you are a god.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Haha, love this. My high school chem teacher made us read the translated original and analyze it (??? nice chemistry), but I think this one does the job just as well.

    ReplyDelete
  36. If there's one thing every bro can agree on, bro, it's that we like some good Kant. Throw us a bone, we haven't had any Kant in months.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I hate you. That is all.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I really enjoyed reading that. I live by the philosophy that fun is the goal and love is the way.

    ReplyDelete
  39. your definitely a bromosexual... i mean that in the best way

    ReplyDelete
  40. Like trying to share and explain God to a bunch of philosophic shadow watchers. God was always there, but they can't see Him; and you can't make them see Him. They just laugh at you because they think you're crazy when in reality you have ascended to a level of understanding of the good that was always there.
    Just goes to show that you cannot teach spirituality to an empiricist...they either see or they do not, but that never negates the good (God) that was always there.

    ReplyDelete
  41. sometimes the shadow IS the tree.

    ReplyDelete
  42. NICE. I'm a philosophy major, and I liked this version better that the real one.

    ReplyDelete
  43. The shadow is never the tree once you have seen the real tree. You guys should read '' The World of Sophie '' I think that's what the English version of it is called. It's a novel on the history of philosophy, touching the surreal storywise, but it's a nice read about how philosophy developed over the years

    ReplyDelete
  44. Philosophers sound like assholes.

    ReplyDelete
  45. The standard translations are accessible already, no? The reading of sophisticated texts produces sophisticated reading abilities, which cultivates a capacity for sophisticated thinking. I'm arguing that the value of studying philosophy is as much in learning how to access the meaning in the text, as in understanding what the meaning is or how it may be paraphrased. Every time I read Plato, I discover new nuances, little gestures of reinforcement or emphasis or distinguishing, which corroborate or more finely tune the paraphrasable, 'propositional' content. These additional valences are lost in any paraphrase, or recasting, like this version written in bro-speak. It would be good if this site were a point of access for people who would then go on to read the denser, more complex texts, and not a replacement for such reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not everybody has the time for the denser stuff, though. I'd rather read seven summaries on this site and get the jist of seven pieces of work than try to wade through something like Being and Nothingness until normal life forces me to do something productive. Cause then I only learned one really useful and probably applicable concept instead of seven.

      Write on, bro. I tell everyone I meet about this site. Unless they don't care about philosophy. Then I stone them.

      Delete
  46. I'd say that people is afraid to reveal themselves against society, Without knowing how many persons would agree to fight for a better change. At the end, society might think of them as a so called "nobody" overwhelmed by a thick bunch of stupidity on their (society) very same heads.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Your interpretations are priceless! Keep it up.

    ReplyDelete
  48. all we need to do is to escape from the chains and go out to see light...be enlightened. but we can't because we are used to seeing the shadows.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Fast food philosophy for american reader.. good job.

    ReplyDelete
  50. This is an almost complete bastardization, oh, oops, "bro-ization", of Plato's dialogue. I can understand the need to put these complex texts into more simple language - language that is accessible to a larger audience - but dumbing them down in the way done here is not helping anybody. Instead of translating it into "bro" language, explain what the nuances of the text are, explain the implications of all the metaphors used. "Fast food philosophy for american reader" is not a desirable goal.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hey, I like your stuff, but you missed a major point in the Allegory of the Cave. It's not that the dude gets untied by someone; it's that he realizes that he has a body and is chained. Then he realizes that he can undo the chains himself, that he is not stuck there. That's possibly the most pivotal point in the allegory, because he realizes the truth when all he knows are lies. THAT'S what makes it so difficult to get out of the Cave. The initial step is always the hardest. His jump from "I can make sounds/see/hear/recognize patterns" to "I have a body" is seemingly illogical. That's why so few people become true philosophers; not many people are capable of thinking that way. After that, it is the "prime mover's" (pardon the Aquinas reference) job to come in and get other people out. Also, you missed the part about the choice between being a "serf to a portionless man or king of the shadows." Because if the dude chooses not to go back and save people, or to go back and seem all awesome because he can predict the pattern even better than before but not try to save the others, then he really isn't out of the Cave at all, because true knowledge is ordered toward the Good. Excluding that from your explanation almost makes the whole article invalid. Otherwise, great stuff, bro. Keep it coming.

    ReplyDelete
  52. @4/5/11 12:50:

    From the text:
    "And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision,--what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them,--will he not be perplexed?"

    The words 'released', 'liberated', 'compelled', 'instructor', all seem to imply that he does not, in fact, unchain himself.

    ReplyDelete
  53. umm well I liked your story, but the swearing made you sound like a punk 14 year old.
    some phrases are what I heard in high school.
    "I am smart as fuck"
    "You can't see shit without the sun"
    really?
    I would have enjoyed your story a lot more if you didn't word it so...stupidly.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I'm the "Anonymous" from 4/5/2011 at 12:50.
    Of course, you are referring to all the other prisoners. But who was the FIRST one to release them? They are "released," "liberated," and "compelled," but by whom? Was it one of the people carrying objects? Surely not, because they are perhaps more deceived than even the people who are chained. Was it God? Then that divine urging must have come from within the mind of one of the prisoners. If God is the "instructor" of whom you speak, then it still holds that the very first person to come out of the Cave had to have some kind of internal realization. Is there any other person present in the allegory? No. In this allegory, the only people we are told of are the prisoners and the carriers. Logically, there had to be a "prime mover" (again, pardon the Aquinas reference), and that "prime mover" would have to draw his own conclusion, even when all he knows are illusions. That is what makes the Cave so profound. It makes the individual both the student AND the teacher, and each step in the process of coming out of the Cave involves self-teaching. The material can only be presented to each individual; it is the individual's job to process it and put it together in a logical way. Without the "prime mover," there would be no movement at all.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Thank you! This is great!

    In the cave we all are watching TV and learn the "reality" from them...

    ReplyDelete
  56. I am glad I stumbled upon your delightful renditions of classic philosophical themes.

    ReplyDelete
  57. fucking brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Fantastic! Well done. I think if you use Einstein's criteria - 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough' - then you most definitely understand it well.
    Well done.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I dug it. Hard.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Really great summary. I think the best one is the second to last paragraph! It's all of it in a little but valuable kernel!

    ReplyDelete
  61. So...why exactly is Socrates explaining the Allegory of the Cave if Plato created it? And then you have to account for how Plato came after Socrates...

    ReplyDelete
  62. This is pure gold! I'm glad I found this site. Allegory of the cave is a timeless piece and you made it even more interesting by summarizing it using today's language! I love you bro! (not in a gay way)

    ReplyDelete
  63. This ia awesome.

    I read this article in my head as if Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys read it out loud to someone.

    ReplyDelete
  64. ^^Socrates didn't write anything. Plato wrote it all down. Even after Plato created more of his own ideas (like the allegory from book VII) he kept using Socrates as a narrator.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Sup? Perspective innit.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I can't believe you bro. Seriously, this website is an insult to anyone with a brain.

    ReplyDelete
  67. You are brilliant. Please do "The Apology."

    I am teaching an introductory philosophy class in the fall. Can I link my students here as a supplement?

    ReplyDelete
  68. That was crazy good bro, awesome stuff, will definately have to link in my blog!

    ReplyDelete
  69. I suppose all we're missing is the friendly jailer who temporarily freed us (though I assume Socrates was implying that the shackles were indoctrination/apathy and the friendly jailer was our own volition).

    In 'hard' science we can use what I want to characterise as evidential enlightenment to validate our intuition. Mental legwork preceding successful experiment, where we actually get to see the tree.

    Ironically, Socrates' tree gazing reminds me of the first line of the Hymn of the Republic: 'mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord'. Have they though, smarty pants? Have they really?

    I wonder how Hubert Dreyfuss using Heidegger's work to predict the failure of certain artificial intelligence projects fits into all this?

    ReplyDelete
  70. I think the greatest part of this is the irony that you're using a philosophical approach to explain why philosophy is useful XD

    ReplyDelete
  71. conviction is as much the enemy of truth, as the lie. neitzche

    ReplyDelete
  72. I had the exact same experience when I first tried mushrooms. When I came back to tell everyone that our perception of reality is not absolute but completely relative, they thought I was delusional.

    Maybe I should have left out that part about me crying and holding on to the grass because I was on a huge rock flying through space.

    ReplyDelete
  73. BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  74. You made me laugh! A good sign.
    Evolution at hand. First step is to realize we had been chaned. No fear; sooner or later, our eyes will get used to the light. A good "crazy" seer will sense where to plant the prescious seeds. Otherwise, s/he might be burned in the stack, or cruxified,or bomb blasted. Not fair! Be wise.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Thats the most down to earth explaination of perception that I have ever seen. Our eyes only see what is shown to them. Our ears, only the sounds we are expsoed to, the words we read, the ones shown to us.
    Now think of the true powers in this world. It is the conduits through which our sights, sounds, words and picutres are tunneled to us. As we sit in our comfortable sofas every evening and soak up the ourside world, remember it is the cave we are chained up in. The media is the puppet master playing the shadow show.
    Travel, interact and be sceptical, not cynical. Then allow all you see and hear for yourself to steer your image of reality. And lastly be wary of those that try to convince you that the tree is the black shadow.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Worth the read ... won't displace honest introspection but might serve as an introduction to it.

    A pox on the nay-sayers. If you don't like this, create your own site as an 'anti' to this site and nullify, if you can, the good that it accomplishes.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Bromontana, I googled The Allegory of The Cave Summary to refresh my memory for this Philosophy paper I'm writing and I found this. My peers in the library are upset with how loud I've been laughing.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Hilarious and accurate dialogue. Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  79. anybody that says that his use of swearing makes him sound immature, that's the point you dummies, he managed to trick you into reading a summary of something halfway intelligent just by swearing and using crude humor. its pretty smart by most peoples standards.

    ReplyDelete
  80. This seriously helped so much! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  81. Very well said. Pure truth

    ReplyDelete
  82. this is a really good clarification of the story..it really helps!

    ReplyDelete
  83. RAT FADDLE IS KING OF ALL!
    DARE OPPOSE HIM AND YOU SHALL BE SMITED WITH THE UNDYING WRATH OF ELDDAF TAR!!!

    ReplyDelete
  84. bro deepest rzpect from the heart

    ReplyDelete
  85. "So eventually, someone comes and unchains you and drags you out of the cave."

    Well, that's the only mistake you did here, bro: actually, socrates only talks about unchaining and turning the prisonner around (periagoge): the free prisoner does the rest all alone - gets out of the cave and sees all the trees and stuff. Which is important to understand the shit about sight you're talking about at the end: as the eye is attracted by light and there fore by the sun, so is the philosopher attracted by ideas and eventually the supreme idea.

    ReplyDelete
  86. If professors spoke in the fashion you do, everyone will get As in Philosophy!

    Thank you for your work!

    Much appreciation!

    Alex.

    ReplyDelete
  87. Brilliant! Thanks for your time. It was worth.

    ReplyDelete
  88. Thanks! Much appreciated. Makes somuch more sense this way.

    ReplyDelete
  89. this was truly helpful!today was my first day in Philosophy & I we're gonna discuss this next week :) I'm definitely gonna share this with friends!

    ReplyDelete
  90. that was easier to read the way u put it..lol

    ReplyDelete
  91. I think that everything should be converted into something as simple as this. Even though these things are written in "english" there is still a language barrier because most of the words are outdated for our day and age and makes reading things like this a chore compared to what I just read which didn't require a second time reading or trying to decipher what was being said.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Truly enlightening. Reading this was the highlight if my day in some aspects. Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete
  93. PhilBro, I cringe for you each time someone comments that Plato, not Socrates, should be the speaker. I also cringe when people say you should swear less. Fuck I'm itching for a new post! How ya feel about Plotinus?

    ReplyDelete
  94. i understand it soooooooooooooo much better thanks so much!!

    ReplyDelete
  95. Cool story bro, tell it again!No, but seriously, was quite fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
  96. I think you may mean epistemological? Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge, "How do we acquire it?", "What do we know?", "How do we know it?". The allegory of the cave is concerned with different stages of knowledge, or enlightenment, therefore directly linked to epistemology in being analogous to the study of knowledge. Here's a confusing example, lets say we want to know about an actual cave. We can watch a television program which will take ages of combined knowledge and compress it all into an easily digestible, 30 minute segment. As far as our knowledge of caves go, we are deep in the allegorical cave because we don't know much about actual caves.

    ReplyDelete
  97. OMG this was awesome!!! I know understand it completely & got a great laugh along the way! Thank you so much! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  98. Am I the only one who reads it like a stoner?

    ReplyDelete
  99. Quite helpful. you sure know how to cut through the bullshit and tell it like it is. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  100. Thanks bro!! this make everything much easier!!I couldnt control my laughter just now!! u save my ass!! now i can write my assignment with better understanding of the cave stuff~~thx!

    ReplyDelete
  101. This was helpful. Thank you, Broseidon, Lord of the Brocean.

    ReplyDelete
  102. It still in my mind. Thanks for share it in that way.

    Armando CL

    ReplyDelete
  103. Wow!!!!!!!!!!! wat an amazing summary,u helpd me so much i have got a test tomorow about this allegory,thank you so much

    ReplyDelete
  104. thank u for sharing, cause these shit are fucken hard to understand. before, i used to read this 5X and did not understand a damn thing, got me all piss off but with ur help of understanding this in a easier form, its aweSome !!!!!

    thank u

    ReplyDelete
  105. I've heard about plato's cave but theres a big difference beetween learning about how the world actully functions and being good at philosophy. We are moving out of the cave and its good people are trying to escape it but if you really want to tell us cavepeople about the outside world you gotta bring a flashlight.

    ReplyDelete
  106. I understand it much better now. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  107. Good summary, Bro.

    I also interpreted this allegory as a metaphor for:

    -Plato's Forms—the shadows representing the imperfect physical world that we are privy to, and the outside world representing understanding the perfect forms.

    -Dualism—we are only able to view the world secondhand (our imagination painting a "shadow" for us to view).

    Great work on Partially Examined as well.

    ReplyDelete
  108. hey nice one!!
    can u give any other example in our day 2 day life which is based on this very philosophy?

    ReplyDelete
  109. These days most people don't want to listen to anything more complicated than a 3rd grade reading book... So in school Ive been doing the same thing, explaining complicated things to people in the same "voice" as I would use in an every day coversation, like this, and it works so much better! Instead of people looking at me with An eyebrow raised like "what the fick are you talking about, white guy" they actually listen and understand. Just because it's deep and meaningful doesn't mean you have to ignore it. This will hopefully make people see that just because it's more than 3 sentences doesn't mean it's boring and useless- really, it's just like the analogy of the cave...

    ReplyDelete