What is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?
and why this metaphor helps those who have moved abroad.
I was amazed when reading about Plato’s allegory of the cave even though I’ve never studied history, political theory or ancient greek philosophers. The wisdom this story still teaches us, and that it is still so relevant today could help some of the problems relocated people face.
Let’s look at the following.
- Plato’s allegory of the cave?
- Why is this wisdom helpful?
- When beliefs and assumptions are currently shaping your world?
- How to use this for your benefit?
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?
Over 2000 years ago, one of history’s famous thinkers Plato explored the allegory of the cave, a famous passage in the history of philosophy. It is a short excerpt from the beginning of Plato’s book, The Republic.
There are many different interpretations of the allegory, and we are likely to have our own, but the one I’d like to present is from the perspective of living life abroad.
The story goes like this.
There was once a group of prisoners who since childhood had lived in an underground cave. Their hands, feet, and necks are chained so that they are unable to move. All they could see in front of them, and for their entire lives, was the back wall of the cave. All that they had been aware of and subjected to was what they saw with their own eyes.
Behind them, was a walkway or path and a fire. Now and then people, animals and puppeteers would use the walkway to get to where they were going. They created shadows or silhouettes projected onto the wall in front of the prisoners. The prisoners were, therefore, left to think that what they were looking at were real things. They were not aware of the nature of reality, additionally stuck with the concepts of their perceptions.
These prisoners believed that the shadows they saw were “the truth.”
When one of the prisoners’ shackles becomes rusty and snaps, he starts to look around. He looks around and discovers the fire and sees the real things that have been casting shadows on the wall. Plucking up his courage, he stands up and gets sent out of the cave by the guards. His time spent living in the darkness ends, and he now starts to see real life.
This change has a profound effect on him, and he is understandably bewildered. Wholly bewildered and realising life as he had known it, was not flickers and reflections on the back of the cave. He finally looks at the sun, sees the world and everything surrounding him but begins to feel sorry for his fellow prisoners who are still stuck living in the cave.
So, he goes back into the cave and tries to tell his fellow prisoners the truth outside. But the prisoners think that he is dangerous because the information that he tells them is so abstract and opposed to what they know. The prisoners choose not to be free because they are comfortable in their world of ignorance, and they are hostile to people who want to give them an alternative view of the world.
Why is this wisdom helpful?
It could be said that Plato’s allegory of the cave is a metaphor and metaphor meanings are very individual. This is no right or wrong answer here as all that there ever is, is the meaning we assign onto things.
However, I believe it is a reminder that not everyone will understand you or your life abroad or be happy for you when you decide to live a certain way or change your outlook on life.
But what about the person who escaped the cave?
When we have moved abroad for love, a better quality of life, escaping a bad situation, adventure or job opportunity.
We have to remember
Successful women living abroad have no fear, speak out their truth, have confidence. They are persistent, have a good network, a positive attitude and set goals. They also know themselves, learn continuously, see things from different perspectives and are focussed.
Living life abroad changes you, as you have dared to think and act differently from the crowd.