Advanc'edge MBA / October 2003
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Philosophy In the previous issue we spoke about Plato, in this issue
we shall discuss his ‘The Myth of the Cave’
- Sharmistha Khobragade Bagul
T he myth of the cave describes individuals inadequate, unstable imitations or copies of the
chained deep within the recesses of a cave. Forms. Forms exist, but they cannot be grasped
Bound so that vision is restricted, they cannot through the use of sight or the other senses. Although
see one another. The only thing visible is the wall of the visual universe is changing and full of
the cave upon which appear shadows cast by models contradictions and deception, the Forms exist as
or statues of animals and objects that are passed perfect, unchanging models.
before a brightly burning fire. Breaking free, one of The Form of Goodness, then, is the only thing that
the individuals escapes from the cave into the light is really good; any other object, which we regard as
of day. With the aid of the sun, that person sees for good, whether a job or a cow or chocolate mousse,
the first time the real world and will have many features, which
returns to the cave with the detract from their goodness.
message that the only things they Over time, their goodness may
have seen hitherto are shadows disappear entirely. If the
and appearances and that the goodness of an apple pie is its
real world awaits them if they taste and appearance that taste
are willing to struggle free of and appearance will change over
their bonds. However the others time; the pie will grow stale and
don't believe him and finally then mouldy, and it will no
they kill him. longer be good. But the Form
The shadowy environment of the cave symbolises does not change, and it does not gain or lose any
for Plato the physical world of appearances. Escape features, since it consists of nothing but goodness, so
into the sun-filled setting outside the cave symbolises it simply is Goodness. To know Goodness itself,
the transition to the real world, the world of Forms, therefore, one must grasp the unchanging Form.
which is the proper object of knowledge. As the allegory of the cave indicates, the only thing
Having divided the world distinctly into the one standing in the way of knowledge is our insistence
we see (lower-world) and the other we know only that the visual universe is reality and that knowledge
using our mind (higher-world), Plato also holds that is secured by using our senses to interact with this
things in the higher world, like the objects outside universe of changing, complex objects. Plato's theory
the cave in the allegory, are more fully real. This is that, since we already have and use a different
notion is probably the hardest for students to grasp: mode of cognition, which reveals different objects,
Plato seriously means that tables, cows, watermelons, anyone can leave the level of belief behind if they
and other objects that you see and touch are less real will only discipline themselves to turn away from
than the Forms perceived by our intellect. sense perception and the objects of belief.
Plato regards the real objects of our physical reality
Thus spake Plato knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared
and how not to fear what ought no to be feared.”
(427BC - 347BC)... from Protagoras.
“By education I mean that training in excellence
“Arguments derived from probabilities are idle.”
from youth upward which makes a man
passionately desire to be a perfect citizen, and
“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good teaches him to rule, and to obey, with justice. This
rhythm depend on simplicity.” from The Republic. is the only education which deserves the name.” In 61
“Courage is a special kind of knowledge: the Speakers Sourcebook I, by Eleanor Doan, 1960