The Allegory of the Cave in Different Perspectives

The Allegory of the Cave, written by Plato, is an interpretation of a conversation between Socrates, Platos mentor, and Glaucon, one of Socrates students. The Allegory of the Cave can be interpreted several different ways. Imagine men in a cave chained up by their necks and legs, forcing them to only look forward at a wall. An opening behind them lets the light in. Above the burning fire and chains, there is a road. Have these chained men ever seen anything else of themselves or others beyond the caves shadows made by the fire?

Some people would say the truth is only perceived by the shadows seen n the walls of the cave. What if one of these mens chains were taken off and he was free to leave? Would the man feel pain when seeing the real world? Would he be confused on believing what is real? Would it make a difference if the chained man was briefly educated about what he was going to see first? Perhaps he would understand and not be confused about what is real. Will the man think what he saw before was much more real than what he sees now? Questions like these will bring different opinions and meaning to The Allegory of the Cave.

Whose interpretation, if any, is correct when explaining the meaning f The Allegory of the Cave? Does it have mathematical meaning, explain a vision of the whole world, or is it just a comparison to the field of social work? I personally feel that The Allegory of the Cave is a great explanation of how people in the world live. People are just like the men chained inside the cave, people only know and believe what he or she might have seen. Outside of the cave is the world around us. People are very narrow minded beings, a persons perception on life is only from their own experiences.

When the chained men are let free is when people finally realize what is going on in the world and not ust what is around them. The Allegory of the Cave can be interpreted with different meanings, such as Michael OLearys theory of the cave being a place away from the world. Michael OLeary believes The Allegory of the Cave is Platos explanation of the education of the soul towards enlightenment. He sees it as what happens when someone is educated to the level of a philosopher (OLeary). OLeary also explains that Plato contends that the men must go back into the cave or return to everyday world of politics, greed, and power struggles.

The Allegory of the Cave also attacks people who rely upon, or are slaves to, their senses. The chains that bind the prisoners are the senses (OLeary). Even though OLeary has a reasonable explanation as to why he believes what he does, which includes solid evidence, his interpretation may not necessarily be correct. The shadows might not be what people rely on as the truth. The cave might not be an interpretation of a persons sheltered life from the true reality. Michael OLeary might be correct about the meaning, but at the same time Plato could be trying to explain something else.

The Allegory of the Cave can be also interpreted by using metaphorical imagery. Socrates, in Book VII of The Republic just after the allegory, stated that the cave was our world and the fire was our sun (Jerry H. Gill 1). Major assumptions inherited within the metaphorical imagery were made by Plato. Plato also says that the path of the prisoners was mans souls ascent to knowledge or enlightenment (OLeary). Plato helped introduce our world of sight with an intellectual world of opinion. A persons world of sight allows a person to see things that are not real, such as a perfect circle.

Plato calls this higher understanding of the world abstract reality or the intelligible world (OLeary). He compares this abstract reality with the knowledge that comes from reasoning and final understanding (OLeary). Abstract reality is a reasonable explanation on Platos The Allegory of the Cave. Using abstract reality is a form of looking deeper into the real meaning and using symbolism to explain what is there. On the reality or physical side, our world of seeing, in the stages of a persons growth, first recognizes images (the shadows on the caves wall) then objects (the models the guards carry).

OLeary states to understand the abstract really requires the understanding of mathematics and finally forms of all things (the world outside the cave) (OLeary). Using mathematics to have an understanding can help to explain the situation. According to Alfino Flores, The shadows of mathematics are what many students have dealt with for years; Regression tendency in many teachers and students; Parallel of Platos The Allegory of the Cave; How the cave is a mindset in mathematics; How math teachers must convey real, live, mathematics and still deal with standardized tests (OLeary).

Mathematics problems can be interpreted in many different ways, just like the cave can be. In mathematics, a problem can be solved in different ways which may conclude different solutions. The Allegory of the Cave can be read by different people and interpreted with different meanings just like a mathematics solution. A persons understanding of the physical world is mirrored in a persons mind by his or her ways of thinking (OLeary). Imagination comes first and is then unfolded by a persons real beliefs.

Then, opinions give knowledge through reasoning (learned through mathematics). Finally, the realization of forms is mirrored by the level of understanding in the ways of thinking (OLeary). The answer to the struggle for knowledge is the reasoning skills learned though mathematics as they are applied to understanding oneself. The men who are chained up are only able to see shadows of what they believe is reality; however, can they really perceive it as reality if they are only seeing a two dimensional picture in front of them?

In The Allegory of the Cave, Plato suggests that our ordinary understanding only shows us shadows of the eal, absolute world of unchangeable forms, the world of being, and not becoming. Many philosophers, mystics, and others have held a similar belief: that there is higher state of consciousness, an enlightened view, when the doors of perception have been cleansed, compared to the world which we ordinarily perceive as a world of shadows (Christian Wertenbaker 1). A shadow is a two-dimensional projection of a three-dimensional object.

Between the three dimensional object and the two-dimensional picture, information is lost causing only a dark outline of the original object. Given an adequate number of hadows, a person can perceive the picture and reconstruct a resemblance of the original solid object by once again using mathematical reasoning. Wertenbaker states that in Platos view, reasoning, seems to have the primary role in perceiving the world above the shadows (2). The shadows may be what is seen but there is always something further than the shadows, which is the truth.

In Platos cave the men can only see the shadows on the wall that are formed by the object and caused by the unknown. A person living in this situation would only presume that the shadows made up the real world. He or she would not realize that other objects truly exist, or that the shadows on the wall reflect the reality of the world never seen. The persons beliefs about what actually exists in the world would not correspond with what really exists (Frederic G. Reamer 1).

Some social workers worry that too many associates, especially those with a skeptic bent, may be living in Platos cave. Reamer states, That is, staunch advocates for, and practitioners of, empirically-based approaches labor under the distorted, incomplete impressions cast by the measurement tools currently available. 1) The shadows show a rough approximation of what really takes place in a social workers environment of troubled individuals and families in defenseless communities and organizations.

Being a social work major and having seen what happens in real life, social workers can be compared to The Allegory of the Cave. Social Workers go into the field understanding that the people they are helping and working with are living in severely bad to the ultimately worst situations one could possibly think of. These people know what kind of situations their clients might be living n, but the social workers are living in a cave just like the men in The Allegory of the Cave. Social workers are literally chained up and only see the shadows made by actuality.

The shadows are what a social worker may deal with at work. For example, they way help a battered woman escape from her husband. The social worker might feel pain for this woman, but in reality outside of the cave this woman has severely been hurt and is the only one who knows what pain she or he is really feeling. This can cause a social worker to not pursue his or her full potential in helping the woman because he or she has only seen the hadows and can only help from the little bit they have seen.

Another example is that a social worker might be working at a shelter making sure that families are provided with food and money to stay healthy and have a home. A social worker may interview these families and guide them to obtain a source of income for food and shelter, but he or she really does not know what pain and suffering this family has gone through. Being chained and only able see the shadows like a social worker handicaps the profession from helping these people to the full extent.

The Allegory of the Cave can be interpreted in many different ways. The different authors helped show that aspect. Platos The Allegory of the Cave showed mathematical meaning, many visions as a whole, and a comparison to the social work field. Even though these things do not deal with each other they all can be seen through The Allegory of the Cave from mathematical reasoning of how things can be seen differently by different people. After researching the different meanings of The Allegory of the Cave I came to realize how one story can mean so many things.

Even though I still believe that the cave is a persons own perception on things and outside the cave is the world; I can see how Gill believes it has a metaphorical meaning and OLearys reasoning for The Allegory of the Cave to be way of thinking. Also Reamer belief that social workers are in cave because they do not experience the same things that their clients do is a well thought out theory but I do not believe it is correct a hundred percent. Not just social workers live in a cave, the whole world is in a cave, blocking the real truth of what is around outside of the cave.


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