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Flashcards in Plato Deck (36)
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How does Plato distinguish between knowledge and opinion?

For Plato, knowledge gained through the senses (empirical experience) is no more than opinion. Knowledge gained through philosophical reasoning is certain.


What is the allegory of the cave designed to make a contrast between?

between people who see only appearances and mistake them for the truth, and those who really do see the truth.


What is it like in the cave?

Some prisoners are trapped in a cave, away from a “real life.” The prisoners are chained and only able to look straight ahead at a wall in front of them, whilst there is a fire behind them. Between them and the fire is a kind of track with a parapet in front of it, rather like the stage of a puppet show.


Where do the shadows and echoes come from?

People can carry a variety of artificial objects made from wood and stone along the track making them move and sometimes giving them voices – like the puppeteers of a puppet show Shadows of the puppets are cast up on the wall in front of the prisoners caused by the fire. Since the wall is the only thing the prisoners have ever known, they are lead to believe that these shadows are entities in themselves and the only reality. Due to the flickering fire the shadows are poor quality and are merely images of artificial objects imitating real objects that exact in a reality the prisoners are not aware of. The prisoners experience echoes of the puppeteers pretending to be the artificial objects


What is the game that the prisoners come up with?

Plato suggested prisoners may have made up a game where they observe shadows passing by and remember their order of appearance so can make good guesses about which object will come next. This requires no philosophical insight, just a skill at guesswork. A person with real knowledge will understand that this skill has no value compared with a genuine understanding of reality – the world outside of the cave.


What is Eikasia and how does it relate to the cave?

Eikasia is the state of mind Plato refers to when discussing the prisoners in the cave – the lowest level of understanding


What happens when one of the prisoners escape?

Plato explains a series of events in which one prisoner is set free. He can stand up and turn around – finds movement painful at first, and is too dazzled by the light form the fire to see anything properly. As he becomes used to the light he realizes that his former view of reality was not accurate. Looking at the fire makes him uncomfortable and he wants to go back to looking back at the shadows again, when he was happy with his interpretation of the world. However he is forced outside in what Plato describes as a steep and rough journey. He as so dazzled by the sun at first he cannot see anything. However, the more his eyes get used to the world outside the cave the more he is able to perceive. He is able to look into the sky at nighttime first and then eventually at daytime. He begins to understand that the world depends on the sun for existence, the source of all light, reflections and shadows.


What happens when the former prisoner returns?

The escapee or former prisoner feels sorry for others in cave, goes down to tell them. His ability to see the shadows on the wall has deteriorated since his sight has been adjusted to the sunlight of the outside world. The other prisoners laugh at him and say his journey into the light was a waste of time because it spoiled his ability to see clearly. They threaten to kill anyone who attempts to set them free.


What do the prisoners represent?

They are people who just accept everything at face value and never ask questions or try to understand, therefore meaking their lives empty and meaningless.


What does the escaped prisoner represent?

He is the philosopher who wants to know what is really going on.


What does the sun represent?

The form of the good and philosophical truth and knowledge. It can never be directly observed but allows illumination of other things


What does the cave represent?

The cave shows that believers of empirical knowledge are trapped in a ‘cave’ of misunderstanding.


What does the game represent?

The Game represents how people believe that one person can be a ‘master’ when they have knowledge of the empirical world. Plato is demonstrating that this master does not actually know any truth, and suggesting that it is ridiculous to admire someone like this.


What is represented by the prisoners not wanting to break free?

The other prisoners reaction to the escapee returning represents that people are scared of knowing philosophical truths and do not trust philosophers. Could link to his teacher- socrates- who was condemned to death. The unwillingness of the majority to have their views challenged. We would rather believe in things that are un real because it is more comfortable.


What do the shadows represent?

The shadows on the wall represent an illusion of reality that the people viewing the wall try to interpret without understanding the truth; that the shadows are only shadows.


What is Plato showing with the allegory of the cave?

To show the importance of questioning everything like a philosopher does in order to distinguish between the unreal physical world and the spiritual world lit by the sun. He is highlighting that empiracal knowledge is flawed.


What does the journey out of the cave say?

That only people escaping the artificial world of the senses, containing shadows, echoes and guesswork, can know the truth. The painful realisation that what we have taken for granted is not reality


Who does Plato think is the best leader?

In Plato's idea world, society is led by the philosopher who has no distractions such as a family or material possessions to divert them from the correct way forward.


What are the criticisms with the allegory of the cave?

There is no concrete proof that either the world outside or inside the cave is real, so how are we to know which is the true world?
Aristotle criticized Plato's argument in his book Nicomachean ethics as he did not agree that the form of something has a separate existence over and above that particular.
Belief that only an elite can work out reality and have to go through mathematical and lose grip on everyday life to do it may be wrong.
His view of a philosopher ruling may overlook practical skills needed for ruling.
The Allegory is only valid if the World of forms is true, for which we have no proof.
Seems to underestimate the pull of emotions, desires etc. by saying the prisoner had no desire to return to the cave.
Gloomy cave does not represent the material world which can be beautiful
fails to make the distinction between the visible world and the WoF because the analogy contains physical objects.
Over-simplify and over-contrast the ordinary person and the philosopher.


What does the outside world represent?

Truth and reality - knowledge for Plato resides in the world of the forms. The real world in Plato’s Cave Allegory corresponds to the world of the Forms.


What does Plato say is the real world?

Plato suggests that the world we live in is a world of appearances but the real world is a world of ideas that he calls Forms.


What was the thinking behind the forms?

Plato believed that what we can see around us is a world of appearances, the material world.
He asks, what does it mean to be a tree or an animal?
In the material world, things like trees and plants and animals will all die out
The world of Forms, Plato suggests, holds the true Form of everything in our world and these cannot die


What is a form?

A Form is the idea about what a thing is
For example, there are many types of trees but when we think of a tree there are certain characteristics we assign to it – it has branches, it has leaves etc.
So, there must be an ideal tree in the world of forms. An ideal, which every other tree imitates.


What forms was Plato concerned with?

he was concerned with the ideal Forms of concepts such as Beauty, Truth, Justice and the Good


How did he link the concept of beauty to a form?

He observed that the term beauty may be applied to different objects and people.
However, there are many types of beauty
Plato suggests that underlying all of these is the real Form of beauty
And some part of the idea of beauty is imitated by all the different beautiful things.


What is the most important form?

The most important form is the Form of the Good. In the material world we can label things as good, but this does not tell us what goodness is.


What is the world of forms?

Plato says that there must be somewhere where these Forms exist
As a form is unchanging as it is not a physical object and it can never die, so it cannot be in the material world
Plato suggests that in our world there are only shadows and images of the Forms
When we are born, we have some recollection of what the Forms are – he suggests evidence for this is that we all have a basic understanding of what beauty is without being taught it
However, through our lives we lose the idea of the True forms


How does the theory of the forms link to the allegory of the cave?

The trapped prisoners represent the regular people who can only see the shadows of the true forms
The escaped prisoner represents the Philosopher who is trying to reach the world of Forms
The outside world represents the world of Forms, where the true form of beauty lies
The sun represents the form of the Good, as it is the source of all other forms.


What are the two worlds?

For Plato there are two words; the eternal world and the material world. The eternal world possesses the object of knowledge and is more real than the material world which possesses the object of opinion.


Why is it impossible to know reality from the material world?

The material world when it is in a constant state of flux and therefore it is impossible to know the truth of reality - “You cannot step into the same river twice”