Thoughts on the Cave

The allegory of the Cave is one of the most famous in philosophy. Plato develops a really relatable and understandable allegory to describe knowledge itself. This defining and describing of knowledge can help support different views on education. One can get a better sense of the world and knowledge, and more importantly how they are divided by examining this allegory closely. He clearly splits them into an intelligent type and a wisdom type, the first being "having sight put into blind eyes" and the second being having "your soul turning around." One can not thrive without the other to truly benefit a person.

The allegory of the cave points out two different types of knowledge and education in the world. On the first hand, you have the knowledge that is told to you and expected to be believed and accepted. This is exemplified by the images on the cave wall created by the puppets and figures with the fire. This knowledge represents the more learned, intelligent knowledge of the world. It is explaining a type of knowledge that is more based on memorization, fact and being told it is truth without having a personal way and connection to back up this reasoning. This is the knowledge that the allegory does not promote for it is not the knowledge that philosophy is based on.

The second type of knowledge is what is truly learned by experience. It is not the knowledge that others tell you and explain to you. This is the knowledge represented by the sun and the awakening of a soul upon finding the entrance to the cave and able to see the real world. It can not be learned by reading facts, memorizing things or just having faith on what others have told you. It has a personal connection with the person through experience and a type of individual devotion and connection. This is the knowledge that the allegory does promote for this is the knowledge that philosophy aims for.

Plato is putting great emphasis on this second type of knowledge. He is promoting an awakening of the soul to experience and view life as it is meant. This is a knowledge more based on wisdom, a kind of knowledge that is not just earned by reading books and memorizing facts, but rather exploring, questioning and pondering the world. Plato pushes for this type of knowledge not only as a philosopher but also as a human. He expresses the importance of aiming for such knowledge to better yourself and expand your mind, body and soul. It is not just about having the answers but rather having a completion to grow in life. He strives for a kind of balance between the physical and spiritual world.

Education in school for the most part is the first type of knowledge. It is "having sight put into blind eyes." Throughout school you are told facts and expected to believe they are true. In some instances you are allowed to personally justify them, usually through experimentation especially in science. For the most part though you simply read books filled with knowledge that others have proven in one way, shape or form and just accept them to be true. This is a kind of intelligent knowledge.

It is hard to truly teach a more "you soul being turned around" type of knowledge in school, though. It is much easier and more affordable to simply mass produce books telling of information and facts for students to learn. One must take this into consideration. One can not be expected to learn everything first hand. That would require more time than a person has to spend alive. That is why there are certain types of knowledge that tend to be more accepted through secondhand information. For knowledge where there is no known cause or effect, such as the case with subjects like creation, religion, and other more philosophical and ancient subjects, it is hard to give truth by telling it to others. Therefore, when such subjects are taught in school they usually provide guidance for the student to find the answer and not a direct answer itself.

The knowledge I have experienced, for the most part, is the "having sight put into blind eyes" type. It has simply just been teachers giving you a bunch of information and you accepting it. As stated earlier, it's the easier of the two types of knowledge to teach. In truth, it is the only of the two types that can be taught. While the other can be directed to and given guidance, only the first type can be taught to others. It is created by a series of facts, information and knowledge. This is why it is what makes up school. More importantly, it greatly balances the other type of knowledge. By a combination of both and not just one, a person can truly get a more sense of completion and understanding of the world.

It is a fact that we live in a society, and to ever have a chance to reach a type of enlightenment that Plato and other philosophers emphasis we must thrive in our society. An intelligent knowledge of acceptance and relating to others is achieved through this first type, and with this we are able to coexist with other humans and benefit not only ourselves but our species. It is vital to our survival, maybe not on all levels or subject matters, but enough that it keeps us going in a productive and positive way. One can debate the extent of this potential and power, but it is present.

On first view it might seem like education is deficient if it can only teach one type of knowledge, but on a second look it makes more logical sense. Each knowledge serves a different purpose in general. The first type is the type of knowledge that helps a person adapt and grow in society. It is almost like a manmade recollection that helps define what we are as a species. While a lot of it can seem mundane and boring, requiring certain preferences in learning and personal taste, it does help give a better sense on how the world works. But it does not explain the world in ways beyond human powers and thought. The second type is the type of knowledge that helps a person grow and adapt in life itself. This is more of the "beyond" human powers and thought type of knowledge. It is independent of the social structure and culture that the first type of knowledge can be derived from.

Plato is not wrong in his definition of knowledge and education or in his allegory. While I agree that the second type, this more worldly and wisdom kind of knowledge, is more important in the long run, the first type is a necessity to the world structure. Without it, societies and cultures would not thrive as they do, nor would history have unfolded or developed as is. Most likely it would not have prospered as well. There would not be a growth and evolution of man as a species. Without the knowledge being passed on from generation to generation and culture to culture, there would be no new finds or discoveries to improve life. These two types of knowledge are two completely different forms that compliment each other to create a well rounded and balanced person. It may be almost cynical to say that without others telling you what is the truth in certain subjects and views you would not be able to live as well as you do, but if one can realize the defining differences between personal and social knowledge as outlined here , then it really is not that unfathomable.

Source by Jake Rose

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