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Armando Barquero
May 7, 2014
Maya Alapin
ENGL 220-035

Allegory of the Cave view on Education
Plato in his Allegory of the Cave, presents us with the big idea of education. I, as
many people, have an interpretation of Platos view on education. People who are uneducated
are typically people who dont want to know what is going on in the world or just have one
perspective of life. An educated person is one that should be a leader. Not only can this
person be book smart but most importantly they know about life and the world. In my
perspective, Platos Allegory of the Cave has to do more with education and how education
leads to leadership to protect societys natural rights to life, liberty and property.
In order to explain Platos view on education clearly I have separated my paper into
different sections. I will start with the introduction of the Allegory of the Cave and explain the
scenario presented to us. Following the introduction I will discuss the meaning of the educated.
Later I will explain the meaning of what Plato calls uneducated. I will also talk about my
interpretation of Platos view on government and how it should function. Finally I will conclude
by tying all of my points together in the conclusion.
I ntroduction
In the story prisoners are chained to the floor forced to see only one wall since birth. The
prisoners cannot move or look around. There is a pathway behind them where people with
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animals pass by daily. The prisoners cannot see the people passing by nor can the people see the
prisoners. All the prisoners can see is the shadows of the people passing by. According to Plato,
because the prisoners have never seen anything besides that wall and the shadows in the wall this
is what the prisoners believe to be real life. Later one of the prisoners is set free and forced to go
outside the cave. He is amazed because he has now seen a different version of life; the sun,
nature, light, humans, animals, etc. The prisoner goes back to the cave and tells the other
prisoners that the shadows seen in the wall are actually people, and that there is another life
outside of the cave. The prisoners in disbelief think he has gone insane, as all they have ever
seen is the shadows on the wall and the other prisoners. The prisoner stays and tries to educate
the other prisoners about the real world.
According to Plato, education has to do with leadership. A person who is well educated
should be a leader because he will teach the uneducated. Plato knew that many people are power
hungry and the interest of the community is not their number one priority. Plato makes the point
that an educated person should be willing to put societys interest first before personal ones.
According to Hannah Arendt in a published journal she states the following, only the Sophos
who does not know what is good for himself will know even less what is good for the polis. The
Sophos, the wise man as a ruler, must be in opposition to the current ideal of the phronimos, the
understanding man whose insights into the world of human affairs qualify him for leadership,
though of course not to rule (Arendt, Web). In other words, Arendt believes a person who has
insights in world human affairs is meant to be a leader. Interpreting Hannahs quote, an educated
person is a leader, thus an educated person is one who knows about world human affairs.
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Based on the Allegory of the Cave, Plato believes the responsibility of the educated is
to teach the uneducated about world human affairs in order to have a productive society. A
society that will live to the standards of love and no hate. In the story the man that was set free
and was able to see real life for the first time returned to the cave to tell the other prisoners about
real life. In other words, educate them. He failed as the prisoners did not believe him. However
the point being is that the free man decided to stay and sacrifice his freedom and happiness to
educate the others. According to Andrew Holowchak, the free man is attempting to free the
other prisoners from the shackles of ignorance and lead them to the light of truth (Holowchak,
Web). He goes on to say there is no guarantee that he will succeed but he must try to educate.
This is the definition of a leader according to Plato. A leader must be willing to give up his
freedom and happiness to educate others for the benefit of helping society and leading them in
the right direction. Plato is right about this as we can see this today in our government. For
example in the United States our President is getting criticized, hated and is probably not as
happy as he has been before but he does it for the benefit of the country. It does not always work
out that way. Plato warned us that people are greedy for power; those people are not meant to
lead. Those people are not meant to lead. Tyrannical people like that are not educated in world
affairs and will not have societies interest as a number one priority.
I know shift my focus to answer the following question: who are the uneducated and why
are they uneducated? In Platos Allegory of the Cave, the uneducated are represented by the
prisoners who are tied in shackles and chains. The chains are holding down the prisoners to one
view on reality or just one perspective. These prisoners cannot move or see anything else but the
shadows; they represent reality to the prisoners. They do not know the shadows are formed by
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animals and humans nor do they know the fire provides light for the shadows to appear. They do
not know any better, they are uneducated.
In Platos scenario, the uneducated men are those who are ignorant and do not know
reality. In Boaz Tsabar view, Our classroom students, for that matter, are either wise (for
thinking they know everything there is to know) or ignorant (for being self-content and happy
with their current state). Yet both these states of mind appear to promote a mental block
(Tsabar, Web). The essence of Tsabars argument is that people who think they know
everything are those who live in the cave because they cannot see anything else but what they
already know. Tsabar is right about uneducated people not being able to lead, because in terms
of human world affairs, if you are uneducated you do not know what is going on with the people
around you. Thus, because the uneducated person does not know about human world affairs, it
would be impossible for him to put societys interest as a priority. This references to living in
the cave. Plato believes that the role of human beings is to support each other and teach those
who are uneducated. If everyone is educated the society would rise as a whole and the natural
rights of people would be respected.
People who are uneducated are also those people who give up their natural rights of life,
liberty and happiness. I take this point back to leadership; many people are willing to give up
those rights to a ruler, king or higher power. Those people are uneducated, they live in a cave.
The reason being is because no one must give up their natural rights to life, happiness and
freedom. Those people who do are the ones who let themselves get governed by a bigger power.
Even today, many people can be considered uneducated because they do not care about the
political system in their country, they do not care about government officials in other countries
using military power against its own people, or many people simply do not care about crimes
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against humanity. They gave up their natural rights to a government that will then control them.
In Platos terms these people would be described as uneducated because they blind themselves
from the light of reality, give up their right or are happy with what they have.
Platos View on Government
Many of Platos works were based the issue of government injustices. In the video
Platos The Republic it is said Plato was really upset that one of his close friends and mentor,
Socrates, was put on trial and sentenced to death because the ruler at the time did not agree with
his beliefs. Platos number one concern was the people of Athens, which is why he encourages
people to learn about what is going on. Like mentioned before, Plato believes once people start
leaving the cave society will rise and leadership of Athens would be fair. Plato himself writes,
A good ruler is the one who offers that which is good, beautiful and fair (Plato The
Republic). Platos point is that government should enforce the idea of the natural rights to life,
liberty and happiness. In the government that Athens had at the time, those rights were voided.
The government had the right to kill who they wanted, take land away, and punish anyone they
disagreed with. This goes to the role of uneducated people; the people of Athens lived in
shackles most of their lives because they were being governed and made to believe anything
their government said. They surrendered their natural rights of life, liberty and property to a
ruler whose interest was not the wellbeing of his people but the wellbeing of the state of Athens.
Although Plato still believed there should be a leader to rule Athens, he did believe
whomever this person may be had the responsibility to educate the uneducated. Plato believes
that the best person to lead should be a philosopher. Plato decides a philosopher is more
qualified to be a ruler because he knows about good, beautiful and fair. I do not personally
believe a philosopher should be ruler just because he is a philosopher. Based on my minimal
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knowledge of philosophy, many philosophers disagree with each other and have different
perspectives in life and natural rights. However I do believe a person who knows good,
beautiful and fair is qualified to be a ruler, and thus his responsibility should be to spread his
knowledge to his people. For example, in the United States, we the citizens agree on a social
contract. This contract is not between the government and us but between each other. In the
social contract we give up our sovereignty for the purpose of protecting our natural rights. We
elect our own to represent us and we elect one of our own to be President. Unfortunately, many
of our own people do not care about our natural rights and lie to us in order to get elected.
In conclusion, Plato ties his overall idea of education, with that of human world affairs.
A person who is not afraid to stand up to the injustices that humanity has brought upon itself is
meant to be a leader. This leader is educated because he understands and will help protect
societys right to life, liberty and happiness by educating those who are uneducated. This person
will know about good, beautiful and fair. If you are uneducated you have given up those
natural rights, you live in a cave. In Platos Allegory of the Cave, the people in the cave are
trapped, they have no life, no happiness and they are in shackles so they definitely have no
freedom. This is why uneducated people cant be rulers, they idea of not having natural rights
and obeying one person is not societys best interest. Dont blind yourself, help educate others
who believe that living in the cave is the right way to live. One does not have be a leader in
government to help, but we can be leaders in our community as well. No one person should have
full control of the other, and no person should be scared of losing their happiness, freedom or
even life. That is the role of society that is the role of government, to protect the natural rights of
life, liberty and happiness.
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Arendt, Hannah. "Philosophy And Politics." Social Research 57.1 (1990): 73-103. Web. 11 Feb.

"Classical Greek Philosophy." Films Media Group, 2004. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

Holowchak, M. "The Paradox Of Public Service Jefferson, Education, And The Problem Of
Plato's Cave." Studies In Philosophy & Education 32.1 (2013): 73-86. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

Tsabar, Boaz. "'Poverty And Resourcefulness': On The Formative Significance Of Eros In
Educational Practice." Studies In Philosophy & Education 33.1 (2014): 75-87. Web. 11 Feb.