Introduce Section # 4: Privilege and Perspectives
Discussion: Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"
Questions for Critical Reading
Introduce Essay #4
• Plato was born around the
year 428 BCE in Athens.
Plato's birth name was
Aristocles, and he gained
broad, because of his broad
build. His family had a
history in politics, and Plato
was destined to a life in
keeping with this history.
A Brief Biography
According to Aristotle, Plato developed the
foundations of his metaphysics and
epistemology by studying the doctrines of
Cratylus, and the work of Pythagoras and
Parmenides. When Plato met
Socrates, however, he had met his definitive
teacher. As Socrates’s disciple, Plato adopted his
philosophy and style of debate, and directed his
studies toward the question of virtue and the
formation of a noble character.
Plato was in military service from 409
BC to 404 BC. When the
Peloponnesian War ended in 404 BC
he joined the Athenian oligarchy of
the Thirty Tyrants, one of whose
leaders was his uncle Charmides. The
violence of this group quickly
prompted Plato to leave it. In 403 BC,
when democracy was restored in
Athens, he had hopes of pursuing his
original goal of a political career.
Socrates’s execution in 399 BC had a
profound effect on Plato, and was
perhaps the final event that would
convince him to leave Athenian
After 399 BC Plato began to write extensively. The order in which he wrote his
major texts is also uncertain. However, most scholars agree to divide Plato's
major work into three distinct groups. The first of these is known as the
Socratic Dialogues because of how close he stays to Socrates’s teachings.
The period from 387 to 361 BC is often called Plato's "middle" or transitional
period. The major difference between these texts and his earlier works is that
he begins to establish his own voice in philosophy. Plato's most influential
work, The Republic, is also a part of his middle dialogues. It is a discussion of
the virtues of justice, courage, wisdom, and moderation, of the individual and
in society. It works with the central question of how to live a good life, asking
what an ideal State would be like, and what defines a just individual. The
dialogue finishes by reviewing various forms of government and describing the
ideal state, where only philosophers are fit to rule. The Republic covers almost
every aspect of Plato's thought. Book VII of The Republic is “The Allegory of
Plato founded a school of learning which he called the Academy.
Plato's school is often described at the first European university. Its
curriculum offered subjects including astronomy, biology,
mathematics, political theory, and philosophy. Plato hoped the
Academy would provide a place where thinkers could work toward
better government in the Grecian cities. He would preside over the
Academy until his death.
It was around 365 BC
this time that Plato's
famous pupil Aristotle
began to study at the
Academy. In 347 Plato
died, leaving the
Academy to his sister's
son Speusippus. The
Academy remained a
model for institutions of
higher learning until it
was closed, in 529 CE, by
the Emperor Justinian.
A GROUP PROJECT
Together, draw a picture of Plato’s Cave.
Label the significant aspects of the cave.
See pages 445-46
IN GROUPS, DISCUSS
“THE ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE”
CONSIDER HIS RHETORICAL
STRATEGIES, THE ALLEGORY
ITSELF, AND THE “QUESTIONS FOR
CRITICAL READING” (PAGES 453-54)
WHICH RHETORICAL STRATEGIES DOES
Allegory: a story in which the characters and
situations actually represent people and characters in
Dialogue: Asking questions that require simple
answers. Slowly, the questioning proceeds to elucidate
the answers to complex issues.
1. Describe how the people in the cave are
situated in Plato's parable. Why can't they
move their legs or necks to take a look around?
What is the only thing they are capable of
seeing? What is their only source of light?
2. What do these prisoners trapped in the cave
believe is real?
3. How does the prisoner react when he first sees
4. What are the stages of the liberated
prisoner's experience outside the
5. What is the response of the
prisoners to the news of the man
who has escaped about the world
6. Compare the perspective of the
freed prisoner with the cave
Questions for Critical
What is the
Glaucon? Are they
equal in intellectual
authority? Are the
concerned with the
How does the allegory
of the prisoners in the
shadows on a wall
relate to us today?
What shadows do we
see, and how do they
distort our sense of
what is real?
Are we prisoners in
the same sense that
If Plato is right that
the material world is
an illusion, how
would too great a
In paragraph 49, Plato
states that the virtue of
wisdom “contains a
divine element.” What is
a divine element? What
does this statement seem
to mean? Do you agree
does Plato make
between the public
and the private?
Would you make
What does Plato’s
allegory of the cave
tell us about how we
recognize the world?
According to the
allegory, how do cave
prisoners get free?
What does this suggest
What does the allegory
suggests about the
According to The Allegory of the
Cave, what is the main task of the
Who are the “guardians” or
Why should philosopher-kings
rule? Do you agree?
OPTIONS: ESSAY # 4
WILL BE AN IN-CLASS
ESSAY IN RESPONSE TO
EITHER PLATO’S “THE
ALLEGORY OF THE CAVE”
• Read A World of Ideas:
• Virginia Woolf "Shakespeare’s
Sister" (761-776) )
• Post #30 Questions (TBD) for
Critical Reading: (page 776)
• Post #31 QHQ Woolf