Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave: Life’s Sock Puppet Show Versus Reality

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has been assigned to us, the good students, by our professor to examine and I gladly welcome this like an old friend. This allegory is one of the first bits of philosophical query I experienced so I’m a little biased when I say that I think everyone should examine this allegory at least a few times a year as a catalyst for refocusing one’s own life’s imagery. It’s a step in the direction of the light – of enlightenment – and outline the grades of pains and knowledge a person may acquire during their time of ascension toward expanding their knowledge and consciousness about everything around them and within them.  However, what I think is good for me may not be as much for the next person in the moment. Also this is me speaking from the entrance of the cave into the darkness and a person, who could be ascending looking toward the entrance of the cave and the light like I once did, may hear my voice spouting good pleasantries about the world outside cave but only see my silhouette against the abrasive light of day flooding in from the cave entrance.

So at this point, a person reading this may ask what the jibber-jabber are you talking about? The animated visual below should create fair ground to which I am referring to.

Now that the visual has been seen this is the blog prompt that has been proposed by the Professor:

  • Is there a parallel between the status of the prisoners in Plato’s cave and the spectators in a cinema?

My response is yes. Yes, very much so on a few levels. How so and to which levels am I referring to? Let me try to explain to the best of my abilities and as far as my understanding will allow me at this point in time with respect to the allegory.

When a person becomes a cinema spectator they will, to a certain degree, give themselves away to an understanding. The understanding being that of becoming part of the story, assuming the reality of what lies before them – the projection on the large all consuming screen. In seeking that immersion the story becomes the spectator, and as a group, they start to make decisions according to the objects on the screen before them in pace with the story and objects before them. An exchange of visual and aural information is at an interplay between the spectators and the ‘reality’ before them within the walls of the cinema whether the information is true or not. Just like the prisoners in the cave (except the cinema spectators are free to physically move around whereas the prisoners are not).

There is another layer to this scene too which depends on a social aspect. Again referring to the interplay of aural and visual information between the cinema spectator and the ‘reality’ on screen; it will resonant with the participants within the self contained walls of the cinema and words and phrases will only apply to that enclosed world at that time which the spectator will share, some deeper than others – depending on how culturally close in proximity the people are to the essence of the movie and it’s informational interplay, they will become more involved in that world around them because they can relate better by magnitudes. After the reality within the cinema is over they may or may by magnitudes take their experience with them, changing their world view (regardless of whether the information that was at play with them and the reality within the cinema was true or not – it will give them pause to consider the world around them like the prisoner exposed to the light of day and reality of objects outside of the cave exposed by the light).

Now, lets assume these cinema spectators left the theater, they have taken their experience with them, which may or may not have been presented to them as fictional or non-fictional, that experience will resound within their mind’s eye and may influence their reality about them. Should we pity any one of them who takes this experience to heart more than another because what they saw on the screen was fictional or non-fictional? Should we pity the one who takes this experience to heart more than another because what they saw was only an imitation, and if non-fictional then a lesser experience of the true and real event? Because only so much of the real truths, assuming the truths within the cinema were solid truths, could be conveyed with the small time frame within the imitated reality of the cinema movie itself. Some may say truth is stranger than fiction but what they saw was only a movie. Whereas can we say only reality experience outside of the cinema is the more solidly the truth in essence because the senses are not being fooled by an imitation of reality on a screen? Does anyone have the right to point this out to them by reason?

In regards to these questions, Plato had asked somewhat of the same questions in regards to those being educated, the Educators, the State and War. But in regards to a parallel or parallels between the prisoners of the cave and cinema spectators, I say there are, for the reasons I stated above.

I hope this blog post has somewhat piqued an interest in the Allegory of Cave. Again, I sincerely think this particular allegory is a grand philosophical tool mainly because of the picture it paints and the objects used to express inquiry within the allegory and everyone should read this allegory, especially for newcomers to philosophy.


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