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Through The Cave And Back Again

Through The Cave And Back Again

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Published by A.L.R. Garlow
Examing Plato’s famous allegory from another angle, fresh with modern references (from Batman to Occupy to Natalie Portman) and classic philosophical roots (Impartiality, Relativity, the role of Empathy).
Examing Plato’s famous allegory from another angle, fresh with modern references (from Batman to Occupy to Natalie Portman) and classic philosophical roots (Impartiality, Relativity, the role of Empathy).

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Published by: A.L.R. Garlow on May 26, 2012
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A Modern Critique ofPlato's Allegory ofThe Cave in Book VII ofThe Republic


This text is intended as supplementary reading f those or seeking f urther examination and discussion on the highly noted dialogue. It is f f download and reproduction with attribution ree or to the author f non-commercial purposes. or

Through The Cave and Back Again by A.L.R. Garlow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

INTRODUCTION Chapter I Being the Protagonist Chapter II Being the Collective Chapter III The Outsider's Dilemma
2 4 13 20

“Imagine mankind as dwelling in an underground cave...”

Did you know that Glaucon was Plato’s older brother? If you didn’t until now, do not worry – this question is not to test your minute knowledge of Plato’s family tree or the small details of his Socratic dialogue. Instead, I bring up this point of Greek trivia to perhaps highlight how the famous “Allegory of The Cave” has come to ultimately dwarf other aspects of Plato’s narrative piece out of massive popularity, though for fair reason. It is common – at least among those vaguely interested in philosophy and/or critical thinking – to have some sort of knowledge on The Cave, even if one is not read in the entirety of The Republic (which is very much worth reading nonetheless). And while the story’s universality of meaning (both relatively easy to understand and keen to generate discussion) is one of the many accounts for why it has become so popular a topic, it also creates a great deal of problems in the way we've structured our


perception of the tale. While rising in popularity it has also formed, for professors and students alike, the 'one true way' of summarizing the allegory. Unfortunately, this can hinder its use in philosophical debate. The common focal point of The Cave is often thought to be an examination of education’s nature, and the need to continually seek further understanding. The meaning of the story obviously favours the philosopher’s life, the “examined life”, though few will have reason to counter-argue against the protagonist’s actions. For as the reader, we see the main character’s enlightenment (both literal and figurative) and his attempt to share knowledge with his kind a worthy path. To argue against his actions, we would have to suggest that it is better for the character’s of The Cave to be ‘left in the dark’, and even the connotation of that phrase allows us to see its negativity. Plato’s persuasion is effective in having the reader ‘root for the home team’ of philosophy... when we are examining from the introspect of the protagonist. But what if we are to examine every aspect of the cave, not only as the protagonist, but as the collective and the omniscient? For a modern critique of Plato’s famous Allegory, we must acknowledge what it is like to be not only the philosopher, but the community. Over the course of this short reading, we will immerse ourselves in the lives of those left behind in the shadows of the cave, as well as re-examining the position of the reader as the omnipresent outsider.


CHAPTER I Being The Protagonist

The protagonist of The Cave’s story as related by Socrates to Glaucon, the individual that is released from his binds and allowed to venture, is where some readers often find themselves first and foremost. For when being the protagonist prisoner, we are encouraged to see ourselves as mere students, unaware of our full surroundings. This view of The Cave fits best with Socrates’ well-repeated statement of ‘All I know is that I know nothing’ and is perhaps where Plato’s account ofthe tale intends to place us. Our protagonist has the same background as any other cave dweller: from childhood, he had his neck and legs restrained in order to stay in one place, facing one cave wall. The fire behind our protagonist allows him to see the same shadows of figures as all others, or so we are led to believe, though with this we might raise an issue. Note that the eyesight ofThe Cave dwellers is essential to their perception of the shadows. Plato is likely assuming in his recollection that all within have equal ‘eye sight’, but this is a skewed interpretation of perception if we are to be using this allegory to represent practical humanity. Even those raised in nearly identical environments have the chance to perceive reality differently. To solve this small dilemma for now, let us suggest that some of the dwellers indeed have fairly different or impaired eye sight. Yet their limited knowledge makes it difficult for an individual to explain these perceptive differences to other members, much in the same way we might have trouble


explaining what we see colour as to someone else who sees colour in a whole other way, such as colour-blindness or full blindness. In this way, we allow the realities of the community to differ in subtle ways while still noting that the protagonist is generally similar to his kin. Then, we have the “puppeteers” who must be addressed in order to add clarity to The Cave. These puppeteers are peculiar at best, but even though the omniscient reader (detailed in Chapter III) understands how the puppeteers work, we must make it very clear that to be in the position of the protagonist means to act as if unaware to them, just as any other in their community. Unfortunately, the puppeteers do not fit into an application of representing humanity and only exist to aid in the progression of The Cave – for all intents and purposes, we could easily replace them with wild animals straying into this cave passing by the flames and exiting swiftly, or leaves floating in the breeze creating shadows. This would at least remove the idea that there are human figures which have somehow been able to hide their existence from the prisoners, making the tale more agreeable. I believe that these puppeteers have been more a source of confusion than of clarity, so it is best to not focus on them for great lengths if we seek a simple explanation ofThe Cave’s basic functions. Another detail of the protagonist’s upbringings, it is mentioned that the prisoners talk amongst each other,


give names and accounts of the shadows they see on the wall – we must recognize that our protagonist prisoner accepts these names and the many other things accepted in his culture on the subject of these figures. It is key to see the protagonist as the everyman, not unlike his cave mates at the beginning of the allegory. Though some may try to see the individual as superior or more likely (by some inherent intelligence or wit) to learn the truths outside his world as his release from The Cave progresses, this is a mistake. In a real world application, this not only suggests that truths may reveal themselves at random or by chance, but that they will not often reveal themselves to the entirety of a group at the same time – one may be separated from the rest with new information. This is to the misfortune of our individual, for he was not lucky enough to be given stronger numbers for his task. The instrumental purpose this serves to the philosopher’s persuasion is to show that the majority is not always correct, and that the unpopular philosopher with radical ideas is in the right. Perhaps this aggrandizes one’s own sense of rightness, which is why more than a single outlook of the allegory is necessary, but it may also give hope to those facing a status quo. What can be derived from this particular outlook is the emotional stem ofThe Cave: facing the fear, curiosity, and revelation of new ideas or uncovered truths. Unlike the era in which The Republic was first written, we


now face a myriad of media bombardments, social movements, and community activism which rely on the very notion of unearthing (or concealing) a certain reality that has been obscured from the general public. Though neither Plato nor Socrates knew of what was to come in our time, their philosophies have a hard-hitting resonance with these modern critical issues. Through the individual we experience that knowledge of greater reality does not come suddenly nor does it come as something that is always pleasing or obvious. Our first reaction upon release from the cave is pain as we turn towards the fire casting shadows. The heat and overwhelming light, dangerous and strong in their nature, are enough to overwhelm the protagonist. His earlier pretentions are here being challenged for the first time in his entire existence. As he is further introduced to the shapes that create his shadows ofreality, he may be even prompted to insist what he saw before is true. Are we to expect any other reaction than this deep rejection of what he is seeing? This may be the very same individual who later moves on to a better understanding of his surroundings, but for the time being, he is just a man afraid and confused. We should not mock him for what seems to be a weakness, but neither should these new ideas “back off” or “respect his beliefs”. If they do, he will be left to mull in his fear, which could grow into hatred or mistrust. What is best for the individual may not be the most polite, and so our protagonist is dragged


by force further into that which he protests. As the allegory this tale is, these actions might prompt the activist or knowledge seeker to say aggression is the only true way to bring about realisation. And while the more revolutionary may have utilized aggression, whether just or unjust, for their cause, the force exerted in The Cave is not honest aggression in the least. What we are witnessing as this imprisoned man is ripped from his comforting reality is an act of persistence and an act of constructive force. There is no doubt that those who drag our protagonist do not intend to harm him, especially with the life he has endured, and so there is no malicious intent to their action. Neither do these actions suggest that the man will never have the choice to return to The Cave, as he does later on. These beings that prompt the prisoner to explore are not prohibiting him from a return to ignorance nor showing a hatred for him. This, I believe, is how Plato truly wishes to interpret the act ofeducating: a determinate will to have the individual in the shadows be able to make a decision based on all accounts, and not just the ones he has known so far. The philosopher’s path here is not one concerned with etiquette or the false liberal notion of“respecting” a belief – perhaps one of the key reasons why Socrates was not esteemed highly by his government (and by “not esteemed highly”, we mean “put to death”, but the distinction between the two has not really been made until the more recent decades of history).


However, if our individual were to have been more obstinate in his refusal of coming towards the light, do you not think those dragging him would have been villainized? And does the individual not have every right to assert it is his body and his choice? This is a common assertion – when one feels threatened, the concept of rights is the easiest and most civil tool to rely on. Ifwe are to go off the basic understanding that all have rights so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others (a heavy claim, for some) then this protagonist may have a reason for objecting: he has the right to use his own body as he sees fit, so long as he does not inflict pain. The protagonist unfortunately will never see the bigger picture of the situation, and this is where the claim of rights fails. Where he believes it just to stay in the cave, others see it just to allow him the chance to explore elsewhere – though at the price offorce. Socrates explains that only after the individual has been dragged into the light can he reason about his situation. It is clear that Socrates places higher value on the long-term rights of the individual (his right to choose from all options, not solely the cave) rather than the immediate professed rights of the individual (what is comforting in the present moment). As a practical application, we must ask: when is it our time to reason? If we too are being dragged into new understandings, new truths, when are we truly ready to give a reasonable account of the situation? Surely we know that one


history lesson does not make us a history professor, but then how many lessons would make a professor? There is no simple answer for the individual – though it may rest on intuition, which is rarely seen as scientific or rational, but is the last hope for the moral prisoner. Ultimately, the individual is said in The Republic to “bless himself for the change” whilst pitying his previous cave mates. Then, the ex-prisoner returns to his seat in the darkness - just as one might go to church after denying a religion, seeking to ask questions of the churchgoers, or as one might go to their meat eating friends after giving up animal exploitation – but his eyes are once again filled with the darkness ofthe cave. He is said to blink profusely, unaccustomed to the new darkness. He is called a fool. After all the pain, puzzlement, revelation, uplifting hope, and devastation that our protagonist faced, he now returns to a world where he is considered an imbecile. If he furiously rants about the world above, his cave mates will ignore him and scoff. But, if he is to say nothing, he is torn from his place in their society and becomes alienated. In the best scenario, our protagonist will wait for the right moment: calmly asking questions now and again, planting the idea of the other truth into a conversation, never forcing but hoping to bring a glint of reason into the dull life of shadows. Once again we are faced with a situation where it is best for the individual to remain with a node of patience, but also in joint of action. If he misses the mark


and remains too obscene or too secretive, Socrates suggests to Glaucon that the citizens would be tempted to end his life. Would our protagonist face death? And what, in practical terms, would the social equivalent be to his death? Likely, he shall become the ultimate pariah. But for the small chance ofallowing all his fellow prisoners to feel the light, he feels the strong urge to try. A view of any situation from the individual’s eyes is bound to be one of an unavoidable emotional response, for such a first-hand experience is wrought with tough decisions and frustrating blindness.


CHAPTER II Being The Collective

Examining Plato's famous allegory from the perspective ofthe individual has shown us so far the direct emotional response of what it is to experience educational insight, while highlighting the struggle between knowledge and ignorance. While someone might say, "you'll never really know what it's like to be ____", chances are they are not referring to a lack of quantifiable knowledge. We may study rigorously the effects of the industrial revolution, apartheid, or sexual discrimination (for example), but the emotions that come with these experiences are hard to obtain. When Natalie Portman uttered the phrase "I'm not black, but I know what it feels like!" in an interview for ALLURE magazine (which she regretted and apologized for many times after realizing the slip) the outrage was not assuming that Miss Portman had never studied the effects of racial segregation and discrimination or that she somehow was unaware of them - the outrage comes from knowing that she, as many others, cannot feel the specific, unquantifiable experience of such emotions, though many tragedies in history may feel certain kinship to one another while experiencing trauma. Listening to the voice of the protagonist, we may never know how these specific emotions affected him (shock, stress, alienation), but we can acknowledge their existence and count them as an important factor in the equation. The protagonist’s voice brings a unique and valuable account into any event. If the protagonist brings these so-called valuable and


unquantifiable emotions into an examination of a sociopolitical issue, what is the need for the collective, and better yet, who do we really mean when we say “collective”? To be the collective assumes that you are one of many who is not the lucky (or unlucky, depending on your views) individual to face, by sheer circumstance, the blight of a truth. It is very likely that in many different truths and falsities, you and I currently sit in the position of the collective. For example, if your neighbour happened to be a serial killer at this very moment (don't go rushing out in panic) and you have the ability to call the police on him/her, yet you are unaware to their crimes, you would be the one in many on your street who has the ability to stop a murder quite easily, but does not have the knowledge to do so. Someone with the ability to change an unsatisfactory situation but does not have the knowledge is one ofthe collective. This is in contrast to the individual because the individual learns or already possesses the knowledge necessary to make a change. Is it necessarily bad to be the collective? Well, in the example above, it's hard to hold anyone truly capable. Should I blame you for not having a pair of binoculars up to your eyes, spying on your neighbours at all times? Were you at any given time put on neighbourhood watch duty? Are you secretly Batman, sworn to protect the city of Gotham? (If so, hello Bruce Wayne, I'm really honoured


that you're reading this) No, likely not. And yet, while not being obligated to any of these duties, it does not change the fact that the possibility of rectifying the situation will rest in the collective's hands. Let us imagine that the prisoners are suffering from an illness or certain pain from being trapped in the same position for years. It is the only kind of life they are familiar with, and so instead of ever thinking they need to remedy these pains, they accept them as the course of human life. It is likely that they do not see illness as a good thing, but do not have the specific knowledge to change it - they do not even possess the knowledge that their situation can be changed. There are many things that we in our own world are certain of, that we take as fact in a similar manner as the cavemates might take their own facts. Though we may say many theories are up to debate, the underlying assets of our factual basis still remain untouched – some theories are up for argument, while others are less so. Remember that the individual is dragged away from the collective, perhaps screaming and thrashing, or simply being removed by quiet force. Anyone in the community might assume that this individual is weak for not being able to fight back (and thus doubting his character altogether), but they also may assume that he is no longer one of their own kind. For all the community knows, the individual may have undergone torture and immense pain


in order to come back the ‘way he was’. If the individual is not able to explain calmly how he comes to his position of truth when he returns, there are many plausible ways to denounce this ex-prisoner as delusional or unsafe. The community believes they are only protecting their rights from an alienable threat: what if those who had informed this individual created a clever and elaborate lie, which they plan to use for their own gain? The collective finds it easy to doubt these truths for three major reasons: i. they cannot experience what he has first-hand, ii. the individual, once removed from the community, has lost all authority he may have once held, and iii. there are likely no hints of what he is telling them found within their own worldviews – if, for instance, the individual tells the community that there are slightly different types of creatures outside the cave but that they are still shadow creatures, the collective will find it similar to their own knowledge and be inclined to accept the theory. Unfortunately, the human brain as shown here works rather counterproductive to the development of discovery – if we are more likely to accept that which is similar to our own preconceived notions, we are not truly judging from an unbiased angle. Our own knowledge could lead us further away from the truth, but so long as it is reinforced by a collective, it shall skew our perception on many areas of research, particularly those in which we have already formed "traditional" views upon.


At first we praised the individual’s outlook of the problem as an integral part ofunderstanding the situation, and yet as we delve deeper into the perspective of the collective, we may notice that it is the very reasons we pride the individual (to know the fear, motivation, and emotional response) by which the community can denounce them threatening. A valuable personal experience becomes, in their eyes, merely a ‘subjective’ viewpoint which ‘can be tolerated’. They will explain that everyone sees these things differently, and no one voice is truer than another – meanwhile, keeping the voice of the collective held in more regard. Many times the idea of “subjective truth” can be used to stifle new ideas and protect traditional ones. For example, one could defend their Jungian interpretation of a book that has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of said book by saying it is: a unique and subjective understanding, by saying “well, the author’s dead, so I could be right – who are you to say I’m not?” or by getting others to agree with their position (or in the very least, say they agree without believing in it). All in an attempt to protect their position, to have others conform to their understanding ofthe situation. In describing the collective’s desire for protection and conformity, it becomes easier to understand the odds of success in changing their opinion: putting the motivation and emotional response of the individual in a practical perspective. It teaches both the individual and the collective on a larger scale that any amount of hostility


towards misrepresentation of knowledge ultimately harms their chances of reconciliation – both sides have different motives for their actions, and to be hostile towards their way of expressing these motives rather than to take issue with the motive itself creates an argument which is bound to drift from the plot. However, one is not able to win an argument simply by telling the opponent to react to their position in a more diplomatic manner. Ultimately, the burden of diplomacy and civility is not going to rest on the community. As noted earlier in this chapter, the members of the collective do not feel as if they have been put on duty to strike down serial killers or burglars in their neighbourhood, mainly due to the fact that they can imagine someone else in their community taking up that job. For the collective, there is always the vague image of “someone else” taking care of the problem, being diplomatic and civil in dealing with new, radical ideas... even when this is not the case. Even if you are the root of the problem, it is possible not to feel responsible at all. As we come to examine the final perspective discussed herein, the outsider, it appears as if we cannot treat the collective – or even sometimes the individual – with full culpability, much like impartially taking care ofa child.


CHAPTER III The Outsider's Dilemma

As the omniscient viewing the collective, we can acknowledge that the collective has the power to change a situation even if they do not know of it – this can be as frustrating as foreshadowing in a play: the audience knows of a solution and is detached from the situation, able to make an impartial and thus rational judgement on the matter. To give an apt idea of this type of foreshadowing, it is by knowing Romeo's faults at the end of the famous Shakespearean play, mistaking Juliet for deceased, that we come to see him as the child he is. At the height of tension, he is reacting far too quickly and harshly to his emotional event. It would be very prompting for the reader to shout "wait a few minutes, you idiot!" knowing that what separated Romeo’s bad decision from a good one was a slight of impatience. Romeo is additionally caught in the politics of the Capulet/Montague war he cannot escape. His choices, even with the most innocent intentions, will be met with resistance. This theme is common in Shakespearean plays and in the abundance of romance novels hitting the shelves of bookstores today (particularly works like Nicholas Sparks' creations). What the fault of judgement on their behalf is good for: drama and anticipation. What it's not so good for: reality. Letting a character step outside their own problems to pause and think might ruin the flow of a story, but improve the real-life situation. Perhaps this is why not everyone enjoys a good philosophical text – being able to reason is not exactly the building blocks ofa plot twist or a tragic character.


As the omniscient viewing the collective, we can acknowledge that the collective has the power to change a situation even if they do not know of it – this can be as frustrating as foreshadowing in a play: the audience knows of a solution and is detached from the situation, able to make an impartial and thus rational judgement on the matter. To give an apt idea of this type of foreshadowing, it is by knowing Romeo's faults at the end of the famous Shakespearean play, mistaking Juliet for deceased, that we come to see him as the child he is. At the height of tension, he is reacting far too quickly and harshly to his emotional event. It would be very prompting for the reader to shout "wait a few minutes, you idiot!" knowing that what separated Romeo’s bad decision from a good one was a slight of impatience. Romeo is additionally caught in the politics of the Capulet/Montague war he cannot escape. His choices, even with the most innocent intentions, will be met with resistance. This theme is common in Shakespearean plays and in the abundance of romance novels hitting the shelves of bookstores today (particularly works like Nicholas Sparks' creations). What the fault of judgement on their behalf is good for: drama and anticipation. What it's not so good for: reality. Letting a character step outside their own problems to pause and think might ruin the flow of a story, but improve the real-life situation. Perhaps this is why not everyone enjoys a good philosophical text – being able to reason is not exactly the building blocks ofa plot twist or a tragic character.


This could lead us to believe that those who can make impartial judgements - those who will not suffer greatly from any mistake in action (say, deciding to leave for the bus 5 minutes later than usual, only to arrive and find out the bus was extremely early that day, missing an important event or being late for work)- should decide what to do in times of trouble. However, this would mean leaving the judgement up to another individual or party, which may feel to those involved in the situation that their fate is out of their control (Impartiality, to note, is also featured in lines of consequentialist and deontological ethics, though consequentialist impartiality has been criticized as being too strict). This also means that the outsider has little, if any motive for making the best decision, and can be influenced by egotistic or irrelevant means. There can never be an impartial judgement, for each individual is tied down to their own “way of thinking” as some might say. Although we may not be influenced by the politics of the cave, we are influenced by our own politics, and even our own moods and mental states. It's possible that if one revisits the story of the cave again and again, at different mental states and moods in their life, they are likely to read more or different values into the tale. So the perfect outsider to the problem must be impartial to the situation, but also personal? They must fear the consequences of their actions, but at the same time have no fear of consequences? Surprisingly, such a judge ofreason can be possible, even when it appears to be


paradoxical. First, we'll observe how the outsider can be impartial and yet somehow still personal to the troubles of The Cave. In fact, when it comes to the particular story of The Cave, I find it is with relative ease that one is able to create a balanced opinion both detached from the tale itselfyet attached to the types ofemotions which can arise from this particular situation. The first requirement of the clear-minded outsider is to understand the category of pain, fear, ostracization, and misconception and to (in a sense) imagine oneself feeling these particular emotions. Relate to instances in which one has felt something similar, and note that while this does not give you authority of "knowing exactly how they feel", you can grasp a sense of how these emotions may alter their opinions of a solution. Once the outsider begins to consciously develop a response to an emotionally-skewed reaction, (such as Romeo's reaction earlier referenced) they approach the method needed for getting their own ideas across to an audience. It is akin to knowing the opponent's position in a debate in order to have an excellent response to all sides. The opposition of clarity in philosophy is anything which attempts to completely bias the given supposition; the enemy of reason is the unreasonable. In this case, it is not only unreasonably harsh emotional reaction, but political and authoritative biases as well. The authoritative bias manifests in the second suggestion for the good outsider: they must fear the


the consequences of their actions. In The Cave, the individual will fear that his presentation of the real world outside of their knowledge will upset the authority of the collective, and any leading figure(s) of command from his cavemates can decide to outlaw or torture the character in question. They have the power to kill the individual for his thoughts. The individual, though in no way wrong factually as we come to understand, has reason to fear the authority/law merely because it opposes him and can threaten him. In the same respects, the outsider will attempt to make a rational decision (with the first requirement in mind) without those who ignore that first requirement (i.e. those all too moved by individual emotional responses) influencing his or her decision to state that opinion. Simply put, the good outsider cannot fear seeming too cold to their academic others and being pushed aside as "extreme", nor can they fear seeming too 'touchy-feely' or 'hot-tempered' in their decision by acknowledging that one actually must consider the emotions of those involved. Yet, they must in a way fear (or rather, prepare for) their academic others to respond with such rejections to their position, and in doing so necessitate a concise response as to why we need, as a well-rounded ‘omniscient’ viewer to The Cave, consider both "cold and hot" sides to any situation. To fear negative response to one's opinions of Plato's dialogues should not cause one to change their position entirely - like any debate, it should rather force the speaker (or author) to give the most in-depth response to the problem at hand.


A small fear of unpreparedness in another context might be stage-fright, which is often said to show that the actor or speaker truly cares about how well they perform, but eventually relinquishes enough of that fear to "go out on a limb". So these two suggestions for any reader come as follows: it must be possible to seek an 'unbiased' judgement, even though no such pure unbiased judgement will ever exist; and it must be possible to assert a position strongly without the intention of agitating a listener but rather the intention of informing and receiving constructive criticism from another mind. The individual often shows hints of this behaviour - he does not wish to enrage his cavemates, he has no vendetta against them (assumed), and he has two different perspectives on the truth of his surroundings. This is another reason why we may so easily slip into the role of the individual as examined in the first chapter, seeing as the individual does in many ways reflect what would happen if the outsider were flung into Plato's Cave. What some readers may find issue with is the way I suggest obtaining an unbiased judgement even though I quickly acknowledge after that no pure judgement of this sort can ever exist, as we are bound to human properties. I have examined in arguments exterior to Plato's dialogues the same exact issue - questions like "but does pure altruism really exist? Why would we call anything


altruistic?" or "does pure sustainable living exist? If not, are we all wasting our time?" Somehow, the idea that 'there is no human purity' disrupts these inquisitor's ability to think that any action should exist at all. If it helps them calm their stereotypic nihilism, they can simply reference the "purity" of Plato's theory of forms. But for others - what exactly do they mean by "pure" other than "I require this action to have something which is not physically or rationally possible”? Those who say "there is no 'pure' free will and so no free will at all" are among this kind. Pure altruism does not exist, for example, because even if we mean the best for others, we can still benefit by 'feeling good for doing the deed' and altruism is often cited as ‘selfless’, ‘disinterested in how they might personally benefit’. That does not make such an act 'not altruism', it simply means we are bound to human emotions and one of our motivators for acting altruistically. It is no surprise that this pure selflessness is impossible if we have a notion of the self. Pure sustainable living does not exist similarly, for even if we were to live out in the woods, needling and stitching our clothes together, we might be interfering with a delicate ecosystem, but we would also be removing ourselves from the influence of others - how one believes in a cause and does not intend to spread its effect at all, I would say they do not truly wish to achieve any goal and are doing it out of selfish reasons or symbolism. It negates the very


purpose of action. Once more, those who say free will does not exist because there are catalysts beyond our control are stating some basic ‘cause and effect’ and then suggesting that because of the nature of how the physical universe is solely able to function, we cannot have freedom. In their idea of freedom, unfortunately, not only can anyone fly to the moon whenever they want ("true freedom"), but they could also wish the universe out of existence (more of their "true freedom"). If there true freedom cannot exist because it is destructive bordering on negating, then they must redefine what they think of the term. It is required that there are limits to anything that is physically possible, save for maybe the actions of quarks (a different discussion altogether). This all leads to the relevant point: "If pure judgements do not exist"... this conception of a "pure" judgement is not possible, it is self-negating in nature. Purity is not a humanly achievable concept. Effort is the humanly achievable concept, and it is with effort that the outsider must read, re-read, analyse, and be open to discussion about the nature ofPlato's famous allegory. It is in this theme a conclusion is found: the individual is never ‘purely’ able to learn of his new world as he comes to know it with a myriad of heroically large emotions and ambitions; the collective is never ‘purely’ free of guilt, for there is always the ability to change and their lack of knowledge serves as no great excuse; finally, the outsider as examined here will never be able to speak to Plato or


or Socrates directly and are thousands of years away from the source of The Republic and have no ‘purely direct’ interpretation. “The examined life” does not dictate the compulsion for a flawless answer, but an honest one.


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