Plato Explorations


  1. Plato chooses to create this section of The Republic as a narrative allegory. First, look up the word “allegory.” Analyze the meaning of some of the allegorical elements: the prisoners, the jailers, the cave, the shadows on the cave wall, the journey out of the cave, the sun, among others. How do they function in Plato’s narrative? This foundational narrative has many interpretations. How might Plato’s allegory be used to analyze education?
  2. Analyze the use of one of Plato’s sustained metaphors in the “Allegory.” Why does Plato say that “like ourselves” the prisoners in the cave “see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another?” How might we be prisoners like these characters and how do we escape from our imprisonment in the shadow cave?
  3. The final sections of Plato‘s “Allegory” discuss the ethical responsibilities of those individuals who have escaped the cave and perceived the “truth” of existence. He discusses how these enlightened individuals, the philosophers who have “seen the beautiful and just and good,” have a duty not just to contemplate the truth but to help govern the state. Is that true? How is this belief related to Plato’s idea of good government?
  4. In another interesting use of the “Allegory of the Cave,” Peg O’Connor uses the story as a lens to analyze the process of addiction and recovery. Read the New York Times column here: Do you think this is a valid use of Plato? Have you ever been trapped in a cave by something? Apply the “Allegory to help interpret another process, or, attempt to use the “Allegory” to interpret something from your experience—your education, learning to play a sport, an addictive behavior, or another example.