The Allegory of The Cave: Relationship Between Human Senses and Virtual Environments

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 3916 |

Pages: 9|

20 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Words: 3916|Pages: 9|20 min read

Published: Apr 29, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The philosophical point of view
  3. Summary of the Allegory of the Cave
  4. Interpretation
  5. Conclusion


Have you ever asked how true is our world? What is that makes people feel? How do they develop the feeling of being a part of the natural world? What is the relationship between human senses and virtual environments? Philosophers and scientists have pointed out for centuries the delusional nature of this world. For human perception, sensations are necessary in order for the brain to receive the information necessary for survival.

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The senses feed the brain with data. We all grew up knowing the five traditionally recognized senses that are: hearing, smell, vision, taste, touch. Despite the general belief, human senses are not limited to those five who bring information from the outside world, but there are also the senses that bring information from the inner world. Information from the inner world may alert you about pain, hunger, thirst, balance, etc. Therefore, the senses can be divided into external and internal.

The basic principle of the external senses is that a sense is any system that reacts to physical phenomena and corresponds to a point in the brain. Thus, the basic senses include the following: pressure, itching, hunger, thirst, the ability to distinguish the cold from the heat, the ability to know where the members of your body are, the ability to control the movements of your muscles, the sense of time and so on. The senses are the source of all our knowledge of material external reality. We can not know anything about the forms of matter or the forms of motion but only with our senses.

Internal senses are the mind, intellect, opinion, imagination, and feeling.

The philosophical point of view

The French philosopher Rene Descartes, has been considered as the “father of modern philosophy”. In 1637, his book Discourse on Method has the phrase “Cogito, ergo sum” which means “I think before I am” was the main term to apply his doubt to anything to see if something remains in the end. He says that he necessarily exists if he is thinking and in his opinion can not prove that other minds can exist, but only his.

In Meditations on First Philosophy 1641, he conceived that the mind differs and is made of a different substance from the body, even if it seems that they interact with each other. He believes that the mind is separate and could exist without the body.

Descartes points out questions about human knowledge. He was skeptical and doubt all human sensory experiences, as a result of that our senses could be illusions or products of hallucinations. As part of his theory and beliefs, the truth and treasure of the mind are innate ideas. To his way of thinking there are three different kinds of ideas: innate ideas, external ideas, and ideas that he made and inverted. He claims that can not trust the senses and the only thing we can be aware of is the soul. He argues that the physical world can not exist if the sensory and phenomenal experience is the only way to reality.

However, if physical science was a guide to reality, then the phenomenal world would not exist. He disagrees that humans are directly connected with physical objects. Looking at any object, humans can not directly perceive and understand the external world, because they only recognize the phenomenal qualities, that came from the sensory fields. 'Dubium sapientiae initium - Doubt is the origin of wisdom' - Rene Descartes

In contrast to Descartes’ theory and according to the principles of the philosopher and modern empiricist John Locke, innate ideas does not exist in the mind but only sensory knowledge. He insists that if humans’ minds had innate ideas then everyone that had a mind should be aware of them. But, he says is true for people to understand something they need to be taught and some never learn. Also, for him, innate ideas cannot be innate if the mind can not conscious of those ideas.

The senses have the capacity or the predisposition of the mind to receive and perceive ideas. He calls those ideas – sensations, which arrive or perceive in this way in the mind. Therefore, the external senses are receiving ideas through the stimulus of exterior objects. In this condition, the soul will remain passive as long as the body is affected from the external senses, because the soul can not change the way that receives or prevent the perception of the idea. To synopsize, his purpose was to study the origin of human knowledge and his conclusion is that all that knowledge is coming from the sense experience and the mind does not have innate ideas but only sensory knowledge.

On the other hand, in 1710, around 20 years later, the philosopher George Berkeley, criticized Locke’s theory, about the independent and dependent sense qualities in the mind and casual realism. He believes that knowledge comes from experience but in a different way. He criticized Locke’s point of view, about the existence of the external world, and in his opinion, things from the senses can not be reality.

In A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge 1710, he says: “...number is so visibly relative, and dependent on people’s understanding, that it is strange to think how anyone should give it an absolute existence without the mind. We say one book, one page, one line, etc.; all these are equally units, though some contain several of the others. And in each instance, it is plain, the unit relates to some particular combination of ideas arbitrarily put together by the mind”.

He argues because humans experienced many things that originate in the mind and in his opinion the only theory that is available to empiricists is idealism, the vision that physical objects do not exist. Berkeley believes that there is no world without the mind and all objects that humans experience in their lives, are mind-dependent ideas.

In much the same way, the British philosopher David Hume, had the same opinion as Berkeley’s, that humans do not experience directly the external world. But he was skeptical and still does not agree with Berkley’s idealism, the non-existent of physical objects. Hume connects Descartes’ rationalism and Locke’s empiricism to prove that humans gain knowledge from both, that come from external stimuli and innate ideas.

In 1748, Hume published “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding” he insists that innate ideas are not useful for the external world and all useful knowledge is from the experience. He says that interpretations in human’s minds are made by habit, instinct, and thinking, not from the perception of the external world, and also, facts that human’s minds can understand are through the effect. In addition, he believes that there are thoughts in the mind, but he rejects Descartes’s theory that there should be a thinker. He could not find any evidence to prove that humans mind is a non-physical substance or it exists separated from the body. Also, he rejects science and argues that knowledge can not be connected to metaphysical truth. According to him, reality emerges subjective, because of the perception of ideas.

Going back 2.500 years ago, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato was convinced that the body and mind were made of different substances. He claimed that the mind is rational and it could lead to the truth. Instead of that, it is impossible to think that anything that humans experienced via senses could be true because they easily can be tricked.

Plato says that he can not trust the senses because people can confuse imagination and reality. He proves that people have often illusions or confuse one object to another. For example, if we out a straight stick in water, it can appear bent.

In the 5th century BCE, The Allegory of the Cave, which has been presented by the Greek philosopher Plato, in his work Republic’, was a theory that concerns humans’ perception. The Allegory has been described as everlasting because it is a reflection of our soul, effected of education and the lack of it on our nature.

Plato’s allegory has many meanings and theories, and the story below is going to explain you the truth between the illusion and real-world, connected through the ancient performance space in a metaphorical and literal ways.

Summary of the Allegory of the Cave

This Allegory tells us about a cave, beneath the earth, there are some people or ‘prisoners’ chained since their childhood, in such a way that they can only see the wall in front of them. They can not look back neither right nor left. Behind them exists an enormous fire. Between the ‘prisoners’ and the fire is a raised walkway, which some other people carry various statues of plants, animals, etc.

So everything that appears behind their back is represented as a shadow across the wall. These people throughout their lives, the only things they have seen are the shadows of things, and they have the impression that the shadows they see on the wall are the actual or ‘real’ things.

Also, the echo which comes from the statue carries whenever they speak, the ‘prisoners’ believe that these words or echoes come from the shadows. If one of the ‘prisoners’ of the cave succeeds to escape from the cave, if he manages successfully to climb his way to the sunlight, he is going to see the actual things, the real world which is not contained only from shadows, as he learned before.

He would realize the deceit he lived while he was in the cave. He will realize that the other ‘prisoners’, who are still chained to the cave, are immersed in the illusions. Once the freed prisoner is able to see the sun, to speak, and realize the truth, he would not want to go back to the cave to help and free the ‘prisoners’, but he would be compelled to do so.

When he goes back to the cave, he can not get used to the dark, he is trying to teach, to ‘open’ their eyes and free them, telling them the truth that the perception of their world was an illusion and the real world exists but is out of the cave into the daylight, is unsuccessful.

Because they are used to the dark and the shadows in the cave, that they do not want to see other things, ‘unreal’ for them things, and according to Plato, if they were able to reach out, they would kill anyone who attempted to drag them out.


The ‘prisoners’ who have been chained from their legs to the neck, are unable to turn their bodies or even heads, so they can not move or see anything around them. It is very important to limit their optical and mental horizon and to show them only those things that the statue carriers want them to see. Who are those people and what are they doing to them?

They are the people that carry different things such as animals, statues, plants, etc. and they hold whatever item they want, manipulating the ‘prisoners’. And they only can see the shadows of the real objects, and not actually the real object, which means for example we ‘receive’ the shadow of the education but this is only the idea of that and not the real side of it, which exists. Also, the carriers knew that prisoners can not see any colors or the exact shapes of the objects because the wall has cracks and was dissimilar, some objects appear in front of other things.

So, is not only that carriers trick the prisoners through the dark shadows, but also it seems that the ‘fake’ shadows are the educational system, that nowadays intentionally has been in the dark shadow. As an example: imagine 5 years old kids, who are about to go to kindergarten, the system automatically ties them, so the kids can not move or learn but only play with their games. But if they had a different system for them, at the age of 10, their mental stage would have had some knowledge and it could develop differently.

As statue carriers are holding their items and moving fast behind the fire, prisoners can not even focus and see what the figure is, makes me to think about the television and cinema those days and to express my worries about our society which does not allow us to understand and think about anything, because it moves very fast and if you want to analyze something and think about it, you need time. When constantly they move and change the figures on the wall very fast, how is possible to connect different things which does not make sense? They are mentally disconnected with the substance of things. They are always walking around, moving the items that hold, to prevent others from thinking and realizing stuff, on purpose of course, because they act deliberately and behave like that, for personal gain.

In 1957, in New Jersey, the US, an experiment by the social psychologist James McDonald Vicary, took place in many cinemas and theatre spaces there. Coca-Cola and popcorn companies participated in the experiment which it has as it is: he exposed the moviegoers to flashes a very fast image of ‘Hungry? - Eat Popcorn and Drink Coca Cola’, to see if the concession sales are going to increase.

His experiment was actually very successful because increased the sale by 57.5% of popcorn and 18.1% of Coca-Cola. To conclude, this hidden message had an impact on humans’ minds, and still today, those secret messages are on a bigger scale, controlling the human being. The same fact as in the theory of Plato, the images are moving so fast in front of them, influencing and controlling the power of people's mental and emotional behavior. As a result of their manipulating actions, the ‘prisoners’ in the theory of Plato are in other words, our generation today.

In the Allegory, the shadows on the wall are just the reflection of the real objects and the sound is not the actual sound coming from the objects, but from the statue carriers. In addition to above, as the statue carriers were acting and moving, they were also talking at the same time. If we consider, that the cave is an acoustic space, the sound has been multiplied and making an echo, because of the structural shape, as an underground closed space, their noise, which was uncontrolled and very loud, clearly have an impact on the rest people in the cave.

Similar to that is nowadays the environment in public spaces, which causes confusion in humans’ minds, and does not allow them to think clearly. For example, in most public spaces, the music is so loud that people can even hear themselves, but this does not make them worry about the fact what is real or not. They actually have fallen to a trap. They are the ‘prisoners’ of the cave. It is important to understand that not only the visual image but also the acoustic, increase the risk of negative effects on mental and emotional health.

Then, Plato says: imagine that someone of the ‘prisoners’ is set free from his chains because some internal cause has forced him to stand up, turn around and walk. What means internal cause? How this can help them to be free? This is the feel of despair when we go through many unhappiness or sadness situations in life. Because the soul is not used to those feelings, and in fact the situation makes them to ‘wake up’ from the deep sleep.

Suddenly, they realize that the situation they are accustomed to, can not give an answer to the questions of their soul. When this moment comes and depending on how strong their soul is, they would have to decide between those two options: if they want to stay in the same place and not change anything, or to be free and walk away to the outside world.

To put it another way, any story or performance have the ability to take human's minds and souls far away, but this depends on them and which way they want to follow – if they want to be taken away to see new, different things or to stay in the same place and be ‘grateful’ for what they have at that moment. This is about their point of view, opinion, attitude, and judgment based on their experience of life.

The first thing that he sees after his release is the fire. The fire that was behind them all that time. He thought that is the origin of the light and that make him feel frustrated and scared. The fire could transmit light but is not the origin of the authentic fire. The fire has to be ‘feed’ with wood, or in other cases with sacrifices, to last long. But in this case, it makes it one of the main manipulating objects.

The question is – what he is going to choose now? There are two different ways – the uphill, which is a very difficult way or the downhill, which would be very easy to go there. In the first case, that means to mature, to follow the way to uphill and go to the end and see the real ‘light’.

The second case is to learn a few more things, more than the ‘prisoners’ knew, but with the purpose to become one of the ‘statue carriers’, controlling the rest ‘prisoners’ of the cave. In these senses, they are becoming ‘tragic heroes’, because they believe that have seen the whole truth of the real world.

The person who escaped is going to face many difficulties. The first thing that he sees is an authentic and real object and not a shadow, as he used to see before. He barely sees a tree, which is in the darkness of the night and the moon’s reflection on the lake's surface. But the moon’s light is only a reflection of the actual light, transmitted from the original source – the sun.

To summarize, the three stages are: the reflection of the moon (on the surface), the actual moon, and the reflection of the sunlight on the moon. To paraphrase that, those stages are to test and prepare his soul for the real light of the sun. Skipping those steps could cause blindness of his soul.

In contrast to the sun, which represents the truth, justice, charity, kindness, and power, a moon is a dark object that transfers that ‘light’, but could also mean that can deceive people because is not the original source. They could be easily trapped in this visual deception. The next step to the way up, makes him to adopt the light from the moon as a normal thing and gradually to climb and reach the top. He slowly matured itself through the situations and experiences. His eyes are ‘open’ to the sunlight which affect him positively and helps him to understand many things that he could not before.

After this big challenge that went through, he has to face the last step which could easily cost him, his life. According to Plato, he has to go back to the cave, to teach, help, and give hope to the rest of the ‘prisoners’ who do not know about the real world. To take them out of that space, which hypnotized them and make them to be the ‘objects’ of the cave.

But the problem is that ‘prisoners’ can not believe or even hear him, because they are blind and deaf, whatever he says, for them means something unreal and crazy. It was very complex and impossible for them to understand what he says. And because they insist on what they say that could cost him his life, as it happened to Plato.

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This process, make us to develop our sensible and mental fields, of our soul. These days we all have to keep in mind that our and next generations could easily be affected from many non-essential factors, which can have bad influence on us. From the moment, that we have the Platonic thoughts or Platonism, and the Allegory of the Cave, that are a ‘treasure’ we have to take advantage of them, to transform and translate this theory based on our experience, to make us reach the top of our internal world.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Allegory Of The Cave: Relationship Between Human Senses And Virtual Environments. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from
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