The Allegory of the Cave is a deep theoretical philosophical scenario that is being described by Plato in the form of a progressive conversation which begins with Socrates having a fictitious conversation with his brother Glaucon. The conversation between both brothers deals with the lack of knowledge of humanity and the ethics that society has created. This story envelops the reality that comes forth through knowledge and the willingness for man to seek the truth. Once man has been made aware of this, all he desires is to share this with his fellow man and free them from their oppression of ignorance. In this scenario Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine a cave that is occupied by prisoners who have been in the cave since childhood with their legs and necks shackled by chains where there movement is restricted and their visibility is limited to one side of the cave. Behind the prisoners is a gigantic fire and between the fire and the prisoners is a walkway which is used by people who often pass through carrying an array of objects.
Unable to turn their heads and only knowing the shadows the prisoners begin to see this as their own reality. Socrates begins to explain to Glaucon, what if one of those chained is released from their cave and walks into the real world where they are mesmerized by the light. Gradually the prisoner begins to feel fortunate and begins to become accustomed to his new world and. When the prisoner begins to slowly identify everything in his new world he begins to realize that the outer world is a true world and that the cave world is a fallacy. Soon he finds himself remembering the others still shackled in the dark cave and begins to feel disappointed and compassion. He also begins to contemplate that he would rather be a slave in the outer world than be a king inside the dark cave world. Although he does not want to enter the dark cave world, he goes and makes an attempt to persuade them that the outer world is the real world the prisoners begin to mock him.
He still tries to persuade his former companions the outer world is the true world and what they see on the wall are merely shadows of true object. To no avail the prisoners ignorant friends refuse to believe him and eventually kill him. I have experienced my own cave situation before when I took a new supervisory position over at Lackland AFB. Four years ago, Brooks AFB was being closed which meant that all military and civilians would be moving onto other positions at other bases. I was fortunate enough to finally get an offer to gp to Lackland and be a supervisor of a section. I was extremely excited at the opportunity because I would be working in a different area, the job would be completely different than what I was normally used too, and I would also meeting a new group of people. However, what I did not expect was the backlash and harsh treatment that I was going to endure for the short period of time I held the position.
As soon as I met the Division Chief of the new section, he immediately stated, although I was pleasant, personable and my background was impeccable, I was really not wanted there and they would make sure that I didn’t last long. What I found out was that I had apparently taken the position from one of their people and they of course were not pleased. This caught me off-guard and I immediately felt I was on the defensive. Because I was on the DoD Priority Placement Program, I was unable to turn the position down because if I did, I would be on my own to find a new job. Nevertheless, I decided regardless of their behavior, I was going to make the best of the situation and move forward with their blessings or not.
Unfortunately, meeting with the individual whose position I had taken, my new boss and the individual began grilling me about a job that I was really not familiar with; I guess to try to get me to fail. In fact, another employee even accused me of stealing the position; I was trying, but at a cross roads because I did not know what to do, I felt surrounded by anger. After the interview and tour was over I was so disappointed, angry, and frightened that I actually became sick. However, I pulled myself together I made a decision that I was not going to let this deter me, so Monday morning I showed up to work ready to go and prepared to do the job that I was hired to do. Although, I did find a bit of hope in this messy situation, the individuals I would be supervising were pleasant and made me feel very welcome. Fortunately, after a few weeks, I was offered another position at Fort Sam Houston doing my desired career path, which I gladly accepted.
In fact, karma came back to the individuals who gave me a hard time at the previous job, because after I gave my notice, the individual who I had in their words “wronged” decided that she no longer wanted the position and left herself. Moreover, the same individual who previously belittled me asked me to stay, but I of course gave him a resounding “No Thank You” and never looked back. I believe the situation I encountered had some similarities to Plato’s story. I felt as if I was a prisoner chained to a position where I had not clearly seen the reality around me.
It was not until I left Lackland for a brighter and much clearer position that I realized how delightful life could be when you are not only living in reality, but enjoying it. In conclusion, Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is a narrative of how we go about our daily lives; never venturing to far from our comfort zones, which are our “caves” and how we are prisoners of our own truths. In addition, we as a society place so many different types of conformities upon one another and when anyone shows any kind of peculiarity they are ridiculed and shunned.
Huard, R. L. (2007). Plato’s Political Philosophy : The Cave. New York: Algora.