The Allegory of the Cave by Plato narrates human capacity to perceive nature’s enlightenment and the subjectivity of knowledge. When approaching the allegory asking the ‘who’ question, one should identify that the scene involves Socrates telling the story and several people listening to him. The reading states, “the whole dialogue is narrated by Socrates” (Plato, 2017, p. 8). Thus, in this dialogue, the principles of human acquisition of knowledge are discussed.
From the perspective of ‘what,’ one should mention the dialogue between Socrates and his listeners. The allegory of the cave, which is at the center of the dialogue, holds that “human beings living in an underground den” are chained to the cave and only perceive the shadows, not the reality (Plato, 2017, p. 9). Thus, when released and unchained and exposed to the reality beyond the cave, they are incapable of grasping the true knowledge because they are used to the reflected images of the shadows.
When approaching the issue from the perspective of ‘when’, one should refer to the text. It is stated that the dialogue happened “the day after” the scene “actually took place” (Plato, 2017, p. 8). Thus, the observation that Socrates narrated was up-to-date and relevant to the audience. As for the time-related understanding of the allegory itself, the omnipresence of the discussed phenomenon implies that all human beings are always exposed to such a deteriorated perception of reality.
The place where the dialogue was narrated was “the house of Cephalus at the Piraeus” (Plato, 2017, p. 8). The whole narration is presented in the form of a conversation between several people. Socrates delivers his main points by describing the cave as an underground den with its “mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den” (Plato, 2017, p. 9). The people in this cave represent human beings with limitations of perception due to their life circumstances and the overall limits of the senses.
This allegory is relevant because the human capability of perceiving the general truth involves hard work and suffering. Socrates says that if the prisoners in the cave are liberated, they will suffer from pain and “be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows” (Plato, 2017, p. 10). Thus, humans need to go out of the caves and liberate themselves from the chains and work hard despite inconvenience to understand the truth and experience true knowledge.
Plato. (2017). The allegory of the cave. (B. Jowett, Trans.). Enhanced Media Publishing.