Plato, Allegory of the Cave


  • 429-347 B.C.
  • Student of Socrates
  • Writer of Socratic Dialogues
  • Teacher of Aristotle
  • Created The Academy at Athens
  • Created a unified system of thought

The Allegory of the Cave

allegory \ˈa-lə-ˌgȯr-ē\ noun. 

: a story in which the characters and events are symbols that stand for ideas about human life or for a political or historical situation

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

Plato was trying to accomplish and communicate the following:

  • The difference between appearance and reality
  • Enlightenment
  • The beginning of the Theory of the Forms

Key Terms (as Defined by Plato)

  • Appearance:  That which our senses present us. Our   perception of things.
  • Reality:  Pure objects, concepts exclusive of   perception.
  • Enlightenment: Complete understanding and knowledge of reality.

The Allegory in Short

  • Men (humankind) are prisoners, shackled and forced to stare at a wall
  • Behind the men is a fire 3.Behind the fire are other men, puppets, and objects
  • The fire casts a shadow of those men, puppets, and objects on to the wall
  • The prisoners believe the shadows are reality
  • Breaking lose from the shackles and looking beyond the fire enables us to see true reality

The Allegory in Reverse

We can have a lot of fun with technology and the Allegory. When we use social media, we tend to only present the very best views of ourselves. From Instagram filters to Facebook bragging, we share only that which makes us look good, thus becoming the puppeteers and holding our followers in shackles.

Read the Allegory of the Cave in full.

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