Plato’s Allegory of the cave

For this discussion, we will reflect on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and relate this philosophical story to our study of the arts. (Search YouTube to hear it narrated by the great actor Orson Welles.)

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An allegory is a story where the elements are symbolic. What do you see as the symbolism of the cave, the shadows on the wall, the prisoners, the man who escapes, the daylight outside? Do you know of other stories that make similar points?

The story assumes there are major difference between “appearances” and “reality,” and that “reality” is superior. What does this mean for the arts? Arts and letters may present “appearances” quite unlike what they are depicting. In short, the style of the arts is often not “realistic.” Does this mean that what the arts convey is always more like illusion than reality? Use an example and explain your thinking.

Have you ever accepted an illusion as reality? How did you recognize that you were mistaken? Did that recognition change you in any important way, or was it more like a minor correction to your perception? Do you think that people today live in a world of “shadows”? Are we imprisoned in some way, with our minds shackled? Explain your thinking.