Going to the movies is fun. You get your candy and your drink and are taken away into a fictional world for two or three hours, then leave the theater and get back to reality. But is what you’re going back to really reality? Plato said no. In the “Allegory of the Cave” (chapter XXV) in the The Republic he proposes that we all live like people in a movie theater, only he uses prisoners in a cave to illustrate the situation. He creates an image of prisoners, chained down in a cave, so all they could see was shadows created by puppets in front of a fire on the cave wall. Their reality was merely the shadows and it is the same for us (as the common man.) According to Plato, our reality is nothing more than figurative “shadows.”
Everything in the cave can be attributed to a part of society. The fire can be equivocated to “unwisdom” (229) or even evil, and in society is created by the greed that some have for power over others. It is the driving force behind the entire scheme to misrepresent reality. By controlling what people believe is reality, they in turn gain control of the people by telling them what is true and what should be valued, which gives them the power they crave. The fire (greed) is necessary for the shadows to be cast, without it nothing at all could be seen. Without the fire, the puppeteers would have no purpose, no reason to hold the objects up at all. Without the greed for control, society’s “puppeteers” would not have any desire to misrepresent reality.
The puppeteers are the manipulators in society (the greedy people). People in a variety of different positions act as the puppeteers. Anyone who tries to skew reality for his or her own personal gain is a manipulator. Religious and business leaders, as well as politicians are all likely candidates for the role of the “puppeteers” because they often control people’s realities. Religious leaders convince massive amounts of people that their ideas and their religion is reality. Business leaders use advertising campaigns to persuade people into believing their products are the best and will change their lives. Politicians often manipulate issues to make people see them their way. In conjunction with each other, all of these manipulative forces basically dictate society’s values.
These “puppeteers” take the objects and let their own greed (fire) distort them, so only a small portion of what is “real” is revealed (in the form of a “shadow”). The objects are equivalent to the sermons, the add campaigns and the political agendas of world leaders. Because they have nothing else to look at, the prisoners (society as a whole) believes these shadows of reality to be true, because the manipulators have not given them any other options.
When the relationship between the “puppeteers” and the “prisoners” is examined more closely, the question of whether or not the manipulators actually know what reality is must be addressed. The answer is that they don’t. They still only see what is inside the cave, and the enlightened world exists solely outside of it. Most of them actually believe in what they are promoting, which are essentially just “artificial objects” (228). Plato’s Theory of Forms explains that one can only have beliefs and opinions about material thing, and the only thing that one can know is science (and universals.) Because these
objects can’t be known, they can’t be a part of the universal reality that exists “outside of the cave” or as in society beyond the boundaries of the material, manmade world. In the “Allegory” as in life, the only people that are “enlightened” (who know the true, universal reality) are those who leave the cave somehow, or those who see beyond our material world.
The prisoner who is set free and ascends into the light experiences a great deal of pain, “Suppose one of them set free and forced suddenly to stand up.and walk with eyes lifted to the light, all these movements would be painful.” (229) Imagine the shock that
would come from realizing that the whole world as one knew it