Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Questions about Plato's Cave

If you are unfamiliar with Plato's Cave or only vaguely familiar, please read yesterday's post, which has most of the text regarding it.  The entire concept is fascinating and well worth extensive study.

  • How reliable a comparison is the suddenly freed person to a philosopher?  A philosopher, in this context, is taking a deep dive into the deep questions of life.  This separates the individual philosopher from the 'go along to get along' everyday person type.  Once they grapple with the deep ideas of ethics and the formation of the state, their life will be altered in such a way that they will be different than those who haven't.  That's obviously true on some level but is it overstated as well?  If you were at a party with various people, could you spot the philosopher?
  • Then there is the idea that what we perceive in regular life is the same as flickering shadows from an unknown (to us) source.  Does that imply some other type of existence that is dimly communicating to us?  Are we getting garbled messages from some place else or is the world really what we see it as?  (This was almost certainly Ayn Rand's big beef with Plato.  She fervently believed that reality gave us all the tools we needed to understand the world around us.  The idea that this information was simply leaking to us must have appalled her.)
  • Is there some kind of agent at work here?  The prisoners are bound and they see only shadows of puppets(?).  Does this mean that some other party must be . . . moving those puppets?  Or have created them?  Or am I taking the story too far?
  • The idea that I find most personally powerful is the idea that we need to give thinkers some time and room while they figure things out.  Criticism should be gentle and understanding.  (This rule is probably suspended if the thinker is too brash and arrogant, of course.)  
  • How much should we, the 'prisoner' really trust those outside opinions though?  Just because someone has told us that they have glimpsed an outside world that is closer to the truth, can we really be asked to simply go with that?  That probably depends on what exactly it is that they're telling us and how far from our normal experience they expect us to deviate.  But if the cave analogy is accurate, would we have any real gauge on just how far from normal is problematic?  The freed philosopher has better information than we do, certainly.  But how do you differ between madmen and those that have seen the truth?  (More worrisome, is there a difference?)
The ideas here are incredible but I'm not quite sure what else to do with them.  Think of them, certainly.  Watch for future references and arguments, I suppose.  But I'm not sure what else.  If I'm one of the prisoners, can I ever be in a position to judge?

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