A summary of Socrates’ Allegory of the Cave from the book The Republic.
In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato discusses the interesting concept of the truth. The allegory of the Cave is only a small part of the book The Republic. The Republic is written as a collection of dialogues between Socrates and other influential Athenian figures, the allegory of the cave being a dialogue between Socrates and one of his students Glaucon. The goal of The Republic is to discuss the meaning of justice and to present and support the idea of societies being run by philosopher kings. It also defines the role and duties of philosophers in societies. The book is broken up into three main parts. Chapters I-V portray the ideal community and attempts to define justice. Chapters VI-VII concentrate on defining precisely what a philosopher is and supports them being the ideal rulers of societies. Chapters VIII-X discuss several practical forms of government and determine their pros and cons. The Allegory of the Cave is in Chapter VII of The Republic and is used through its study of the truth to define the role of philosophers in society and to support the idea of philosophers being the ideal rulers in society.
The allegory of the Cave starts off by Plato having Socrates create an imaginary world. In this world human beings live in an underground cave like dwelling. A long way up is an entrance which is as wide as the cave and is open to light. The human beings in this cave have been there since childhood, and the whole time they have been there they have been chained in the same place. They are only able to see what is in front of them and have always only been able to see what is in front of them because their bonds prevent them from turning their heads around. The only light supplied is a fire burning far above and behind them. Also behind them is a path stretching between them and the fire. Along this path is a low wall comparable to a puppeteer’s screen. Behind the wall are people carrying all kinds of artifacts and statues. For example, they carry statues of people and animals. These statues are projected above it for the prisoners to see. Some of the carriers talk and some do not. All the people chained below see are shadows of the image projected. Socrates states how the prisoners must know nothing except what they are shown and in every way must believe that the truth is nothing other than that.