(514a-520a) to compare "...the effect of educationand the lack of it on our nature". It is written as a dialogue between Plato's brother Glauconand his mentor Socrates, narrated by the latter. The Allegory of the Cave is presented after the metaphor of the sun(508b
513e). All three are characterized in relation todialecticat the end of Book VII and VIII (531d
534e). Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe names to these shadows. According to Plato's Socrates, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
The Allegory may be related to Plato'sTheory of Forms, according to which the "Forms" (or "Ideas"), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Only knowledge of the Forms constitutes real knowledge.
contains similar imagery to that of the Allegory of the Cave; a philosopher recognizes that before philosophy, his soul was "a veritable prisoner fast bound within his body... and that instead of investigating reality by itself and in itself it is compelled to peer through the bars of its prison."
Socrates begins by askingGlauconto imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been imprisoned since childhood in such a way that their legs and necks are fixed, such that they cannot move their heads and are thereby forced to gaze at a wall in front of them. (514a-b) Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway. Along this walkway is a low wall, behind which people walk carrying objects "...including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials." (514c-515a) In this way, the walking people are compared to puppeteers and the low wall to the screen over which puppeteers display their puppets. Since these walking people are behind the wall on the walkway, their bodies do not cast shadows on the wall faced by the prisoners, but the objects they carry do. The prisoners cannot see any of this behind them, being only able to view the shadows cast upon the wall in front of them. There are also echoes off the shadowed wall of sounds the people walking on the road sometimes make, which the prisoners falsely believe are caused by the shadows. Socrates suggests that, for the prisoners, the shadows of artifacts would constitute reality. (515c) They would not realize that what they see are shadows of the artifacts, which are themselves inspired by real humans and animals outside of the cave. Furthermore, the prisoners would 'assign credit and prestige' to whomever among them could quickly remember which shadows came before, predict which shadows would follow and name which shadows were normally found together. (516c-d)