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Cody Johns
English 220-23
Ms. Alapin
The Cycles of Education and Understanding
The Cave is symbolic of the perception of ones reality realized through seeing, feeling, hearing,
taste, and touch. Through the use of these our main senses - we each create our individual
understanding of reality. Education is exposure; exposure leads to change by altering ones
perception of reality and subsequently, of their philosophy on life. A journey through education,
as a journey through new experiences can lead to the unshackling of chains of the uneducated.
Without similar exposure, or education - the prisoners in the cave are no more able to understand
the free-mans new-found reality, than he can understand the one they continue to know.
New ideas learned through education can ultimately, alter ones perception of their
surroundings. Questions of higher education are present throughout this allegory and correspond
to modern day philosophy echoing dialogue on the need for higher education and its true purpose
in life. Some things that strike the senses, dont invite the intellect to examine them because
theyre sufficiently judged by perception (Larson 183). With perception also brings insight,
things that are easily noticed by some may go unnoticed by others. Upon returning to the cave
the free-man is essentially bringing back the knowledge learned, to those still surrounded by
shadow. This suggests the returning prisoner conveys his new experiences. The allegory of the
cave, is symbolic of the transformation experienced by the uneducated when given the
opportunity to learn.
The limited understanding of the prisoners constructs their world. It can only be
contradicted by exposure to new points of view. But our argument indicates that the power of

learning inheres in everyones soul(Larson 179), Not even the prisoner that is released
understands what is going on initially until enough time is spent beyond the cave. How could the
prisoners posing as the uneducated, immersed within the shadows believe what they are seeing is
anything but reality?
The prisoner is at first obscured from the views of reality, his view is only of the wall that
reflects the shadows, where he doesnt fully comprehend what he is observing. His lifestyle and
way of learning has been completely accustomed to that of which he is chained to and focused
on the wall as his existence. His views can be related to that of someone who is captured by a TV
screen, and takes all information received at face value. He believes all he sees to be true, and the
other prisoners in the chains do as well. The Prisoners even begin to come up with creative
competitions, and ways to challenge each other regarding who can guess best as to what is
passing by them through the shadows on the wall, coming off of the fires behind them. As the
scene unfolds things become interesting, and only the chosen prisoners are allowed to see the
manifestation of their understandings of reality increase. Certain prisoners are allowed to become
free, and more or less are picked by the supreme individuals who have them chained. If genuine
education leads us back to ourselves (Thompson, 2001), then does the story of the philosopher
returning to the cave provide us with greater meaning then we originally believed? (Alex
Gendler). This is a blessing and also a challenge for those chosen, for it forces them to
experience their surroundings and see where they are truly living. This type of experience is
synonymous with one exposed to education, at first it challenges you and makes you question
everything, and then allows you to experience your new knowledge.
Leaving the cave is symbolic with someone who is seeking new knowledge. The prisoner
while still in the cave represents someone who may yet know that he or she wants to learn. At the

beginning of the allegory, Plato states, Next, I said, compare human nature in its educated and
uneducated state to the following situation: (Larson 174). The message that is seen here is that
once the single prisoner left the others, and returned, his thinking had changed and this in turn
altered his perception of himself and his surroundings. Education is the exposure experienced by
the single prisoner that leaves the cave. He no longer sees the shadows; he now sees the reality
from which they were cast.
The prisoner that leaves the cave is symbolic for someone going out and seeking new
information i.e. education. Some things that strike the senses, dont invite the intellect to
examine them because theyre sufficiently judged by perception (Larson 183). Upon leaving the
cave the prisoner is not immediately able to perceive his surroundings, things are overwhelming,
much like in a new environment when you are surrounded by education and new ideas manifest.
At first, you may not be able to perceive discrepancies in problems or types of work that you are
studying; with a trained mind you eventually begin to understand more of what you are learning,
further progressing your knowledge. And here, hell conclude, that this is the giver of seasons
and years, curator of all in the visible sphere, the cause somehow all that hes used to see
(Larson 177). With his new knowledge and education obtained, he now understands what the
other prisoners could only comprehend through his same experience. This message that Plato
explains is that this man is no longer who he once was before, he is know educated with new
knowledge and perceptions.
Upon leaving the cave the prisoner is stunned. At first, everything is overwhelming,
much like education, and learning something new, the prisoners body and mind then begin to
make sense of his new surroundings and organize his perceptions into place. And finally, I
think, the sunnot an apparition in water or in some other foreign setting, but himself by himself

in his own placehell be able to see him and contemplate what hes like (Larson 176). The man
achieves this newer sense of self he is no longer who he was before; he now has a higher
understanding. The prisoner is no longer motivated by the games that were once played while he
was chained, and the prizes that were received, this no longer has meaning to him and he is in a
transformative state where he can now contemplate that which he could not before. This is
similar with someone who is educated, and can use his knowledge to draw on different
information gained, to experience what he now understands. With this powerful knowledge
available to the prisoner, he now returns to the cave where he was chained, he can fully
recognize what the objects in the shadows are, and no longer is swayed by the illusions that once
were. Perception and education are synonymous, and Platos message implies that the prisoners
in the cave are no less capable than he who was brought out of them into the light.
Experiencing new ideas, and thoughts, directly relates to those without education. If
genuine education leads us back to ourselves (Thompson, 2001), then does the story of the
philosopher returning to the cave provide us with greater meaning then we originally believed?
(Alex Gendler). The exit from, and return to the cave is symbolic of the not knowing before the
knowing. The metaphors connecting the prisoner chained with education are relatable through
the five senses that he uses to examine his surrounding when freed. Starting at the beginning of
the Allegory the prisoner has no sense of who he truly is. He has no knowledge of what his
surroundings are and his only reality is that of which is at face value. Only until later when the
prisoner is freed does he fully realize his potential and the capability of what he can truly
The prisoner begins in the cave with the illusions of everything around him taken at face
value, similar to someone who is entering into the vast understanding of education. The journey

begins when the chains are released and he is thrown out as a free-man able to contemplate his
surroundings seeing more than just the images of shadow. Fully changed, now able to
contemplate what he sees, his return back to the cave where the shadows are cast onto the wall is
no longer the same. The prisoner is now educated and able to truly understand the shadows of
what he used to believe were reality and can now experience them for what they truly are.
Helping others from the shadows to the light is a metaphor for bringing the uneducated to
education. Once the prisoner is immersed in the light of understanding, only then can he realize
what he didnt know.

Works Cited
1.! Gendler, Alex. "Plato's Allegory of the Cave." YouTube. TedXTalks, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 11
Sept. 2015. <>.
2.! Plato. "Book 7." Trans. Raymond Larson. The Republic of Plato. Arlington Heights, IL:
AHM Pub., 1986. 174-83. Print.
3.! The Allegory of the Cave by Plato: Summary, Analysis & Explanation. (n.d.). Retrieved
September 29, 2015, from
4.! Trumpeter, A. (n.d.). The Allegory of the Cave by Plato: Summary, Analysis & Explanation.
Retrieved October 4, 2015, from
5.! Williams, Indi Marie. "Embodiment of Truth: The Educator In Plato's Cave." Conference
Papers -- National Communication Association (2007): 1. Communication & Mass Media
Complete. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.