Adam SmithSTS.002, Fall 2004Paper IIPlato’s Allegory – Unclear or Unknown?“[This study] forces the mind to arrive at pure truth by the exercise of purethought.”
The Allegory of the Cave
Plato’s words have rhetorical appeal. He offers the reader a path to pure truth – which nobody would object to achieving. A more detailed analysis of the statement,though, leads the reader to several questions. After all, what is “pure truth?” In this paper, we will discuss some of the ambiguities in Plato’s
Allegory of the Cave
andevaluate a modern historian’s attempt to clarify it. We will argue that Plato likelyintended to communicate the following: reasoning based on observation will yield faultyresults, and inversely, reasoning based only on thought will result in truths. In support of our argument, we will first highlight the ambiguities in Plato’s writing and arrive at thestatements above as best fit solutions to the ambiguities. Next, we will describe howDavid Lindberg
confirms our interpretation, but does not clearly define “imperfection.”We will conclude with an interpretation that attempts to resolve the remaining ambiguity by defining imperfection as variations from the median.In Plato’s
the character of Socrates tells an allegory to Glaucon. Thestory describes beings chained to the wall of a cave. The beings can only see the
See, Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave,” in
Science & Culture in the Western Tradition
, edited byJohn G. Burke (Scottsdale, Arizona: Gorsuch Scarisbrick, 1987), pp. 7-9.
David C. Lindberg,
Beginnings of Western Science
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1992).