Wikipedia's Article of Plato's Cave Allegory
The Complete Text from Plato's "The Republic"
I would suggest reading those first. Now, the question for the essay was to summarize the analogy and then write your thoughts on it. The overall objective was to show that you understood it, and to show what your ideas on it were. That said, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my essay on Plato's Cave.
“The Cave” Essay
Plato’s analogy of the cave tells us how the world we live in is a cave of shadows. We must break free from our perception of illusion and enlighten ourselves, after which we must return to become guardians of those who remain in the cave. “The Cave” is flawed in three ways. Firstly; it proposes the hypocritical idea that being enlightened gives us the right to rule over others. Second; it punishes those who have attained truth by shackling them to the world they sought to escape. Finally; it demeans the unaware society in the cave as being unfit to attain revelation.
Plato’s begins by hypothesizing that our society has been fettered from birth; forced to gaze upon and listen too the sounds and images in front of them they perceive to be reality. He then goes on to describe how, if freed, we would ascend to the exit, curious about what lay outside. We would be forced to wait until dark, he says, as the light outside of the cave would be incredibly bright and painful to one who has been earthbound for so long. Plato describes this as our education, and that the only way to avoid the pain of the light is to approach it in a certain way. Then, we can complete our ascension and appreciate the truth offered by what lies outside. After that, Plato assumes that it is our responsibility to return to the cave to lead others to the road of enlightenment. However, he describes our clumsy return to society, stumbling blind through the darkness after being on the outside for so long. The people left behind in the cave would think us drunken, babbling idiots, and would not trust us nor would they follow our lead. Therefore, he concludes, we must instead become their guardians, ruling over them and protecting them from themselves.
There are significant cracks to be found in Plato’s egg of reality. One of the most glaring is his idea that we should be guardians of society. If we are encouraging those who are in society break free of their reality, then would it not be a hypocritical to then direct their civilization? That is what Plato really means by becoming guardians of those who refuse to attempt the journey to enlightenment. The logic of this fact escapes me, and it would seem much more sensible to either convince them somehow to ascend to the truth, or to simply leave well enough alone. Second, he places an incredible burden on those who accomplish the challenge of ascending to the sun. He makes them return to the cave to become guardians for those who choose to remain ignorant. Certainly, there may be some bond between the free-thinking and their fellow man, but wouldn’t all they be doing is changing what shadows society sees cast on the wall? And in this case, it would be just as well for them to have never left the cave in search of something greater. They could live happily in ignorance, or become enlightened to all these ideas and have no one to share them with. Lastly, Plato also degrades those who are not the best of society as unworthy to attain enlightenment and rule. There is a grain of truth in this, as we look with cynicism at our neighbours to the south, yet there is no justice in his decision. The responsibility of the enlightened is to: Lay out the clear choice of, “red pill, blue pill” for the people in the cave, and then do whatever they can for those who seek enlightenment to guide them to the sun. Let it be up to the citizens of darkness to ask for one of them as a beacon of light to guide them.
To conclude, I agree with the fact that every one of us should strive for enlightenment so that we may create a better civilization. I do not agree with his notions of elitism or his inclinations of social Darwinism. Finally, I absolutely do not agree with his illogical idea that after questioning reality, we should impose it upon others. Plato’s largely unmolested egg looks good at face value, but upon closer inspection, one can see that it cracks just as easily as all the other attempts at a perfect society.