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Worthy Life and Worthy Death in Plato’s Allegory of The Cave

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In human history, many instances have shown that what was believed to be true was not actually the truth. The long-held paradigm that the Earth is the center of the universe was reversed by Galileo’s announcement that it orbits around the sun and is not the center of the universe. In the process, however, he was forced to kneel at the Roman Inquisition. His scientific beliefs were based on a long period of research, but society has traditionally embraced Geocentrism and did not accept his new claims. In fact, a similar case existed two thousand years before Galileo, which is the death of the Greek philosopher Socrates. His disciple Plato sets Socrates as the main speaker in his book The Republic, describing what an ideal nation is. Through the well-known allegory of the cave, Plato not only figuratively reveals the idea of the immutable world of truth, but also metaphorically describes the poisoning incident of Socrates who was forced to die for the idea of justice.

We first need to look at the allegory of the cave. Prisoners in the cave have “their necks and legs fettered, able to see only in front of them”. Prisoners, who have only lived on the wall all their life, know nothing about what is happening behind their backs and do not even feel that they are tied up. They believe that the shadows they see are all in this world. One day, a prisoner is released from the chain and taken out of the cave. He realizes that the shadows he has ever seen are not real things, and finally concludes that the sun “is in some way the cause of all the things that he used to be”. However, even if he returns to the cave again and tells convicted prisoners the story of the real world behind the wall, he will mock him rather than accept it. The confinement of the hands and ankles of prisoners is that they are under social constraints from birth. Also, they are looking at the same direction means our convention of seeing things from the same perspective. The prisoners in the dark cave suggest a human being as a prisoner of social convention. They are punished or penalized for disregarding contemporary conventions, morals, and laws. In addition, presenting one’s subjective perspective differently from convention becomes the target of vigilance and elimination of conservative intellectuals. The same is true of Socrates’ death. In other words, the prisoner who broke the chains went out of the cave, saw the sun, and entered the cave again symbolizes the philosopher Socrates.

Through the allegory of the cave, Plato renews who Socrates is as a philosopher and what he means. Socrates wanted to invite Athenian citizens to the world of Idea through the law of justice and good. However, the intellectuals of the mainstream of Athenian society at that time eventually ended up sentencing him to death, as his philosophy, which was completely different from their rational knowledge, started penetrating into the people. They judged their status to be shaken and decided to execute him. In the end, Socrates was willing to drink an unjust poison. Later, his disciple Plato succeeded and developed his teacher Socrates’ philosophical thoughts and wrote a book The Republic that informed the world of what was right and had a great influence on human intelligence. The allegory of the cave, one of three allegories answering why a philosopher should rule the country, is reminiscent of the death of Socrates. Socrates, through reason, reached out to the world of Idea from the cave, the world of shadows. He also saw the sun out of the cave and came back to bring people to the real world. He tried to change the direction of the student’s eyes to the right object, as he had said: “education takes for granted that sight is there but that it isn’t turned the right way or looking where it ought to look, and it tries to redirect it appropriately”. Socrates tried to help people realize that the everyday knowledge that they knew was wrong. He emphasized that the knowledge they had considered as the truth is actually the untruth, and this has traditionally been misrepresented as justice, which is deceit manipulated by the ruling class. Eventually, Athenian intellectuals said that “he’d returned from his upward journey with his eyesight ruined and that it isn’t worthwhile even to try to travel upward”. This is why Socrates died. Just as Socrates asked Glaucon, “as for anyone who tried to free them and leads them upward if they could somehow get their hands on him, wouldn’t they kill him?”, the intellectuals in Athens poisoned Socrates.

The allegory of the cave implicates that Socrates, who experienced the world of the sun and returned to a dark cave, was killed by the Athenian citizens by reason of revealing that what they see and believe is actually mere shadows. Through the death penalty, Socrates has shown how critical intellectuals are like. Also, he has been a model for the present because he held his attitude to death and became an example of intellectuals. His death can be interpreted as our task to think about what worthy life and worthy death are. Giving up one’s life in certain situations and choosing their ideals has been a constant practice in human history, and Socrates is a good example to think about again. The question of whether we can make that choice when it comes to the situation, or whether it is right to do so, will remain an ongoing task.

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Worthy Life And Worthy Death In Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from
“Worthy Life And Worthy Death In Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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