Sie sind auf Seite 1von 3


- Pranay Gandhi
Socrates, one of the great thinkers of all time, in, The Allegory of the
Cave gives some valuable lessons to human beings. These lessons are
brought out in way that one doesnt have to go looking for the right answers,
but only ask himself the right questions? What does it mean to be an individual
or a philosopher? What does it mean, by ascending the soul into the intellectual
world? Once asked, he lets these questions go deeper and brings out
possibilities, which are most probabilistic in nature to be true. One has to keep
iterating over and over again to figure out what is one out looking for. Every
time you ask these questions to yourself there is a new revelation in you. And
importantly it is alluring enough, to see the way in which the message is
When Socrates and his follower, Glaucon just like any other teacherstudent relationship, share their thoughts via mediums of dialogue. Both of
them are taken to situations by these mediums where different avenues open
up in the mind. One has to travel through these avenues to find what one is
looking for. Not knowing, what is he here for, and what does he want to
accomplish, instead knowing why is he doing this in the first place? Socrates
humbly guides his follower to make the choice, a choice, which is more of in
line with the truth.
It all starts with a marvelous story of human beings inside an
underground den. And the den has a mouth, open towards the light and
reaching all along inside. These human beings have their legs and necks
chained since childhood, preventing them from turning their heads around.
With this, Socrates creates an illusion inside the head of Glaucon and the
readers. And inside that imagination where the prisoners are enslaved, a fire is
blazing at a distance on a raised platform and the prisoners can see their
shadows and the shadow of whats behind them, right on the wall in front of
them. Besides the fire on the platform, theres an elevated passage, which
passes through the cave.
This whole description of the cave, of the men and their situation not only
creates a mental picture inside the head but also creates room for metaphors.
Man has this unique ability to perceive what he sees by means of light and the
reflection of light, the existence of bodies and things in different colors around
us. The men, the shackles, the light of fire and the shadows when perceived
may be as real as they get in the perception but also inside the subconscious,
they start getting associated with different emotions and identities. For a
teacher to really influence the minds, he creates dots in the air and then leaves
it up to others to connect them for themselves. These dots are however placed
in a very thoughtful manner and each dot has a purpose to exist there in space.
The purpose is to provide a sense of direction. Socrates, a very wise man
choose to leave his legacy behind. Even after centuries, people find themselves
understanding themselves after connecting the dots left behind by him, making
him one of the greatest teachers of all time.
Socrates draws out more details to the picture through his word. By
having other men passing with different items in their hands. Their shadow in
the process of doing work becomes the only thing that the prisoners can see.
The prisoners, as they grew up confused initially. Man, innate with the instinct
of perfecting his senses, the prisoners in their own little work, comprehend the
shadows casted by the men seen carrying around items. The sound made by
the men moving around too becomes a source of information to them. The

prisoners use these sounds in assisting them to perfect their activeness and
interpretation of their world. Socrates gives this information, creating vague &
strange images inside Glaucons head. Prompting Glaucon to empathize with
the prisoners. Feeling every sentiment they must be feeling, Glaucon asks
questions, as the senses of the prisoners must be demanding. Imagining,
wouldnt the motion of the people passing through the cave, create motion in
the air? And that would have helped the prisoners to compare the sound and
fancy the passers-by. Socrates too asked questions to Glaucons in a sense to
make sense out of this illusion. To make them believe, how the nature of events
would have happened, considering the nature of human beings? The prisoners
even when living on their own, end up creating a language amongst
themselves to be able to comprehend the images they are subjected to on the
wall. Start honoring amongst them to who identifies the passers-by and gratify
their sense.
Socrates, until now explored the sensitivity of man in the limited
resources he had to explore. But then he poses another question, that how will
man behave if he were to come out his own little world and approach the
unknown. What will happen to him and how will his senses react when facing
this unknown? Since the prisoners have started their process of connecting
with the exterior objects, how will one reflect on seeing either the object or its
reflection? Is the glass half filled or half empty? Such paradoxes keep hitting
them when one is now seeing the unknown. The symmetric crystal clear
phenomenon no longer seems ethereal and the mental framework is
completely disoriented. One asks himself, the glass I was seeing instead of half
empty or half filled, is this glass a glass in the first place? Instead of jumping
decisions just to feel the experience shouldnt I ask myself why? Initially when
the prisoner is shown the light, the illusion of the realities he was living in gets
questioned to a level that it gets shattered. He starts slowly to unlearn first,
with a lesson in mind, Theres no right or wrong. With every step towards the
light, with every inconvenience to his rationality he learns that its not easy but
just the truth. Even if there was a way to get back to living with a bliss in
ignorance, even if there was a way to go back, one will always chose not to. In
order now to realize the truth and more in it, I only have to bend my mind.
Knowledge will guide me, and more than that, without getting to worry about
the right from the wrong. Some uncertainty will prevail, but the closer he
moves towards the reality of existence, more clear vision will the prisoner have.
If the situation takes a person through highs and lows, he finds himself
getting closer and closer to the light with his experience and introspection. And
when the reality hits hard, the prisoner is forced into the presence of the sun to
confront himself, and circumstances make him adjust to it, in its own gradual
sense. Theres so much to absorb for him but still the blindness of ignorance
takes its time to wear off. Like they say, Its hard to find faith and believe. But
its near impossible to find reason when deceived once. Theres a lot of pain
involved, but one has to believe in oneself then. Socrates also points out that
there is an external stimuli too required for the process to initiate, for the
questions to start pouring in. Also to instruct when ones caught up asking the
wrong questions.
Glaucon cant help himself but agree with Socrates cause his mind too
finds it to be real. It too sees the truth for its simplistic actions are based on
rationality. When the prisoner finds himself amongst the people whom he used
to be with earlier, he sees the others are too dependent in their own systems.
Whenever he tries to bring about a change, the environment turns towards
hostility. Cause the others are not ready to realize the truth. And are too
involved with whats right and wrong, whats good or bad. The wise prisoner is
taken as an outcast cause for he is in control of his life. Even if the wise
prisoner shows them the path, the society is too afraid to walk the path. Cause

walking on the path unraveled before is full of the unknown. Not knowing the
future brings fear into the hearts of people. Denying this very instinct of
managing fear and moving towards change, would be denying us to become
human. All it takes is an effort to ask, to see for what it is and the answer is out
there. And the answer will find you instead when you keep continuing making
the effort.
Socrates makes a strong statement, Better to be the poor servant of a
poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live
after their manner. Once a person gets a hang of truth, once he sees reality
for what it is, theres no going back then. The soul once is on the way ascent
towards the intellectual words, this being Glaucons desire and the readers as
well. One thing that has to be implemented is that one should not get into
judging for whether right or wrong. Cause if you do then again the reality is
being clouded. The idea of good will appear only at the end of the path of
knowledge when one frees his mind from his own prison.
Presuming we are humanly dependent, arent we all slaves of some or
the other master in the world? It could be an individual, an organization or a
vice or anything. When Socrates starts having the dialogue, I picture myself as
Glaucon and listening to him. I kept thinking regarding the Allegory and how do
I empathize with it myself. What in me makes me believe that strongly in the
words of Socrates? And while imaging myself listening, I imagine again afraid to
see myself, in the shackles of the society. Its an inception inside an inception.
Where I have a glimpse of the light of the sun, and enablers like literature,
poems, novels, music, art, wine hinting me towards the direction of experience
and knowledge I want to travel towards. The norms of the Indian society had
developed a mental construct inside my head. I understand and respect them
as most of it has a cultural origin, but when people try to enforce them upon
me, I just dont belong there. It was really holding me down to explore and
express myself. And I am not the only one I hope. Very few are able to enjoy
simple and yet profound phenomenon like the wind on our face, the air we
breathe, and the fluidity music brings to our bodies. With rationality flowing in
the veins, theres no need to look for approval, theres no need to live in
contradiction anymore. I accept now for who I am, a misfit in the eyes of the
society and I couldnt careless.