Tag Archives: Plato Cave


Written by Ada Den Hollander

I must have been about 15 or 16 years old when I read Plato at school. Plato, the Greek philosopher who lived from 427 -347 BC and is still regularly quoted to this day. I actually wonder now what I understood about his philosophies at that young age, but at the time I was not at all bothered. I found it interesting, we discussed what we read in class and I thought I understood everything very well. Plato’s most famous writing is, of course, the allegory of the cave in his work Politea (State). I am going to write that allegory here in my own words but clearly based on Plato. With a conclusion of course, otherwise I could have sufficed with a reference to Wikipedia.

Six people sit in a cave, all with their arms, legs and necks chained to the wall. As a result, they can only look one way, straight ahead. They have never been outside the cave. A fire burns at the narrow opening, leaving only a faint glow from the sun. People or animals passing by outside the cave or things carried alongside the cave are projected onto the wall by the fire, causing all the prisoners to see only shadows. It may look like this:

For the prisoners, the shadows are the reality, they don’t know any better, they’ve never seen anything else, and no one has the urge to ask questions. One day one of them escapes. Once outside, he doesn’t know what he sees as soon as his eyes have adjusted to the harsh sunlight. What beautiful, colourful pastures. And then those animals. He is totally overwhelmed by so much beauty. People look at him strangely, but kindly greet and smile at him.

As excited as he is about his discovery of a completely different world outside the cave, he decides to go back to the cave and tell the prisoners about his experience. After his eyes have adjusted to the darkness, he starts telling his story. The prisoners start laughing out loud. They’ve never heard such nonsense. Colour? Beauty? A bright sun? Are you crazy? Ridiculous. The reality is here and nowhere else. Get lost.

There is nothing for the escaped person to do but to leave and begin his adventure outside the cave, called life.

The meaning of this allegory may be clear and seems to apply extremely well to the chaotic situation in which the world finds itself today. Government leaders try to keep us in our cave, putting fear into us, new knowledge is not heard by the governments and is dismissed by the people in the cave.

Fortunately, more and more people are starting to wake up, protesting against the inhumanity and undesirability of the measures. Now the political leaders only have to admit that new insights have taught them that mistakes have been made. How difficult can that be? We all make mistakes and we learn from that. Don’t we? Why not them then? Are egos too big? Or maybe they should take a look at the extremely rich people getting richer every day. Follow the money and see where you end up. No surprise for me there.

I would suggest listening to people on YouTube for instance who dare to ask questions, who organise protests and share their medical knowledge.

What can go wrong with that? You can always go back to your cave.

(edited by Julia Thomas)