Prof. Duddy ARCH1101.OLC5 | Prof. Rosen ENG1101.LC07

The Allegory of the Cave

Thanks to Alvin for reminding me that I didn’t publish this week’s discussion posts! I was wondering why there were no comment notifications!

One of the texts we’re working with this week is from Plato’s The Republic. It’s called the “Allegory of the Cave.” It’s a difficult text, but one that is broadly applicable to life, to learning, to society, etc. It’s part of that Core Books project I referred to in the syllabus. It’s hard, but something we can work through together. The videos can also help us through the text. What’s important here is that we find something that we can work with, not that we understand every part of the text. We’re coming into it in the middle of things, and we’re using it to help us think about our own educations so that we can write interesting, powerful things. This is not a philosophy class, and I don’t expect you to digest the text as though it were a philosophy course. But if this kind of writing, or these kinds of issues speak to you, please let it take you where you want it to.

CONTENT WARNING: the Plato text and related videos are about people who are prisoners and represent their maltreatment.

Here’s the written text:

Here are three short videos for Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”:

  • start here for a good overview of this section of the text and the philosophy behind it
  • and another one that might help us understand it better:

To help us discuss the text, respond to each of the following bullet points in its own paragraph:

  • Consider the different roles people are playing in the story. Are there those who could be described as “students” and those who could be described as “teachers”? How so? In general, what traits differentiate students from teachers? Can you make a case for being able to see some of the people in the “Allegory of the Cave” as playing both the role of teacher and student?
  • Write a paragraph discussing what you believe the purpose of education to be. In making your case, you may address any or all levels of education. You might also compare or contrast your ideas with those of Plato.
  • What metaphors does Plato use to describe education and knowledge? Are these new, or have you already encountered them elsewhere? What do you think about these metaphors for education and knowledge?
  • If you read my comment about Paolo Freire’s distinction in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, especially Chapter 2, between the banking model and problem-posing education, reflect on how this relates to Plato for you.
  • Come back by Wednesday to respond to classmates’ ideas. I’ll do the same.


  1. SiniaB

    In the story “Allegory of the Cave”, there are 2 different roles that are played in the story which is a student and a teacher. The students would be the two men who remained to stay chained and the teacher would be the one man who left the cave to explore. Some of the traits that differentiate from the students and teacher is that the teacher is willing to be open to new ideas while the students are not as open minded and are stubborn to be introduced to new things they’ve never been taught before. While watching one of the videos of “Allegory of the Cave”, i’ve noticed that some people played both the role of being the student and teacher. The one man who was later on released and able to go outside the cave played both roles of being the teacher and the student. At first, the man was introduced as the student by being taught what things were just by the shadows on the cave wall. Eventually, He was released and brought outside where he discovered things he had never seen before. He goes on to play the role of a teacher as he goes back inside the cave to tell the other two men what he saw and enlighten them on what things really are and how there’s more to things than just shadows being shown on the cave walls.
    I believe the purpose of education is to enlighten not only ourselves but each other. Sometimes people aren’t willing to listen but they rather stick to the same ideas they’ve been taught rather than opening their minds to things they’ve never been introduced to. This is similar to what was shown in the videos of “Allegory of the Cave”. The videos interpret the same idea. The man who was released from the chains and brought outside the cave tried to tell the other two from the chains so that they could see the same things he saw but they were stubborn and didn’t want to.
    Plato uses metaphors to describe education and knowledge. Some examples of these metaphors are the sun being compared to the lack of education. As the other men who refuse to be released not only lack sun but they also lack education that they refuse to receive. I think it was a good idea for Plato to describe education and knowledge in the way that he did.

    • Jayda White

      What stands out to me in your comment is how you stated that the prisoner that escaped played both the role of a student and teacher. This is something very obvious however I didn’t pick up on it or even thought about it and to my knowledge haven’t seen anyone else say. In Plato’s Allegory of the cave I only really saw the teacher and student as the prisoner that escaped and the ones that didn’t. But in order for the escaped prisoner to become the teacher, he had to be a student first and learn in this case the more real reality.

      • Kevin Giron

        I agree with what you wrote and what Jayda mentioned. That’s very important to understand that he began as a student learning what he was taught his whole life. However he was able to blossom and grow into a teacher after he was freed. A word you used was explore. That’s very true for a teacher as they explore and expand their knowledge in order to create new ideas and then use that to teach others. I agree with what you said about the purpose of education being to enlighten ourselves and others. I wrote something similar saying that the purpose for education is to learn and use your knowledge to teach others.

      • Luka Vardoshvili

        I think that the prisoner which was the “teacher”, did not get education by himself and he did not became teacher from nothing. I think he was given an opportunity to get education when he was freed. The teacher in this story is the person who decided to give that prisoner freedom, and gave him an opportunity to see the outside world (get education). the prisoner became teacher only when he got educated and decided to tell the other prisoners about it.

    • Stacy Amaya

      I agree, the prisoner that was release was both the student and the teacher. Being released into the outside world learning about the different things that are outside and bringing that information bake to the other prisoners but refuse. The two two prisoners are both the ignorance and stubbornness that was mentioned to the video in government while the prisoner that went outside was the self rule. their are those who seek knowledge and those who refuse it.

  2. Alvin Kalicharan

    Considering the roles people play in the story, I’d say there are definitely people who have the role of student and a teacher. For example, the guy who gets his chains out and has the ability to go outside the cave and explore was at first a student until he saw the new things. The teacher in his case was the outside world and it made him discover a whole new life. He then becomes a teacher and tries to explain it to the other two who are chained up however they don’t understand one bit of what he is saying. A teacher has traits such as being someone who is experienced and has the ability to enlighten one another. A student is someone who is eager to learn and is much less experienced compared to the teacher. I can see the guy who got his chains released playing both the teacher and student role because when he was released, he went out to the outside and started exploring and was very eager to learn new things about the outside world. After he was finished exploring the outside world, he was educated with a ton of new ideas and wanted to explain and teach it to the other two who were in the chains however they did not understand him at all.

    I believe the purpose of education is to enlighten us with all the knowledge we desire. It is to prepare us for the future, a way to see the world in a much clearer view. “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows”, stated by Sydney J. Harris and I believe this is the purpose of education due to the fact that we would be nowhere without it today. We need education for jobs, to advance in society, to make wise decisions, etc. Education is something that helps us in any form or way. To relate to the ideas of Plato, the guy who got his chains released and found the outside world and discovered new things is his way of education, he saw a whole new perspective on life and wanted to share it with the other two who were chained up however they weren’t enlightened enough to understand what he was saying.

    One metaphor in the text that Plato uses to describe education and knowledge is that, “Education isn’t what some people declare it to be, namely putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like putting sight into blind eyes”. I could see where he was coming from but only because of reading his story and how the other two guys were limited and would never get to understand the outside world. This is definitely the first time I heard a metaphor like this towards this topic and I would have to disagree with it to an extent because people in this day in age have the power to do anything. There are almost to none limits anymore with education.

    Between the banking model and the posing education, they relate to Plato for me because in both models, they both demonstrate how they provide for change because in the banking model, since the teacher is the banker and the student is the receiver, he is receiving all the ideas and memorizing them causing his mindset to change. Even though the posing education model is a total opposite from the Banking model, in the end both the teacher and students view on the topic change because the teacher presents the material for the students consideration while considering her earlier considerations. As well as Plato’s story, ever since the guy got freed from his chains, his whole view on life changed because he saw the outside world and learned all about how the outside life was.

    • Kevin Giron

      Reading your comment was interesting since it made me look at the allegory in a different perspective. You mentioned that the outside world can be considered a teacher and now that I look at it, it makes sense. A teacher doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical person teaching you. Your surroundings and environment can also teach you a lot. You can also be your own teacher. I also agree with what you mentioned about the freed prisoner becoming a teacher. He tried to teach his fellow prisoners but they wouldn’t listen. He definitely has the traits of a teacher, as you mentioned, since he not only enlightened himself but tried to enlighten others. Now its up to the student to learn and use it in his practical life and expand to create new ideas and teach others. They will then become a teacher.

  3. zafar abdukahorov

    The story “allegory of the cave” there are 2 roles represented in the form of the student and the teacher. For example in the story when the man in the chains gets loose and leaves the cave to explore the things he has been seeing all his life through shadows now he’s considered the teacher when he comes back to tell his friends in the cave of what he has seen are the students. But in this case when he comes back to tell his friends in the cave they don’t understand what he is trying to tell them because they can’t see what he has seen, all that they know is the shadows they’ve seen all their lives. A teacher is perceived as a person that has experienced or seen and is trying to enlighten others. A student is a person that’s eager to learn but in this case the men in the case have no knowledge of the outside world. I believe the purpose of education is to teach us to perceive our surroundings and give us knowledge. An example is “When one of them was freed and suddenly compelled to stand up, turn his head, walk, and look up toward the light, he’d be pained and dazzled and unable to see the things whose shadows he’d seen before.” from selection of republic -7 i feel like once this has a meaning that if we have the freedom to see and learn without “chains” holding us from learning that our perspective of things would be more different. In other words adding to Plato’s ideas once the man in the chains got and went outside was enlightened by what he was seeing and then he was more educated of what he was seeing all his life. Plato uses metaphors to explain education and knowledge one of the examples was the sun compared to lack of education. Basically saying that the man who was freed is trying to educate his friends on what he has seen during the time he was out but they lack eagerness that’s why they refuse to listen to the man. The whole of this was telling us that knowledge and education is important and without it we’d be ignorant.

  4. Jose Bocio

    In the story “Allegory of the Cave”. I think there are teachers and students. Why? Because since the three prisoners in the story were in the cave their whole lives, they lost their sense of reality, thinking that everything is based on shadows and echoes. In the way one of them manages to escape and know the world of real reality. In fact, this prisoner learns that there is a life and that makes him want to show it to his fellow prisoners, but they reject him because they still believe that reality and life are just shadows and echoes, making them fall into a trap in their own ignorance. It makes them a teacher who learns new things to prepare their students and students who disagree with the teacher because they believe in their own things.

    I think the purpose of education is to create new ideas and diversity. There are people who are ignorant and refuse to learn new things. If you don’t learn new things, you won’t be able to understand or respect other people’s idealism. I firmly believe that there are so many problems in the world because there are people who do not want to accept other things besides what they know and believe. Plato’s ideas are similar to mine because people have to explore the reality we are living in and learn new ways to approach problems.

    Plato uses metaphors to describe education using shadows and lights. The shadow represents the ignorance of the prisoners who did not believe the one who had come out of the cave, the light in the way that one of the prisoners comes out of the cave, recognizes reality by overcoming the shadows and opens his mind to new ideas. I think this metaphor is great because it makes people understand that opening your mind to recognize new ideas will make you better. Ignorance will get you nowhere, but education is your future.

    • Jayda White

      What stands out to me in your comment is when you spoke the purpose of education and how it relates to Plato’s Allegory. I agree with what you said about how people refuse to learn new things and are ignorant. Similar to how in Plato’s Allegory on the cave the prisoners didn’t want to learn and stuck in their own belief like you said “making them fall into a trap in their own ignorance.”. This all relates to everything regarding learning whether its a religion or a subject. That’s why a lot of people are stuck where they are at mentally nowadays.

  5. Johnathon Abrego

    So what do you think when it comes to education, school right? You walk in at a specific time do ur class “work” and when the bell or alarm goes off you move on to the next work place, seeing that students are mostly controlled by a bell, somewhat like a prison. Being that prisoners only know one thing which is to go by the bell, lunch ends by the bell, time outside ends by the bell so on and so on. In the story we see prisoners and some got lucky to get unchained and let outside for a while with us knowing that they have no knowledge about what’s even out there. The guy comes outside and starts seeing things, taking in and learning these things that he has never seen before or even forgotten of. And so he goes back inside into his chains, but what’s the difference between the prisoners and him now? Well the guy that went out now has knowledge and experience and a will to now inform the others or as we call teach them. Making the others students and the guy who went outside a teacher.

    Next is the question of what is even education. To me education is a tool or even a weapon, as we can use it to out smart many or even manipulate others to do our bidding. As an example let’s looks at a war or even a year before Labor Day where even children were working on machinery, do you think that the first thing that they were taught was about math or even the history of America back then? No they were taught on how to work and get things done, with working being the only thing they know then that is all they did, couldn’t read and couldn’t speak up and so they worked and worked. Another example I believe would be in China about the magnificent red book that everyone would read and then become a soldier since all it did was “teach” them of how wonderful and powerful there leader was which got them to serve and fight for him. All these example only show how peoples minds can be week and how “education” can be used to control and even overtake them.

    One of Platos metaphors would be comparing the sun to lack of education, since prisoners don’t get out and indeed lack education aswell as sun. Of course this is new to me because I never read about prisoners.

  6. Kevin Giron

    There are definitely those that can be considered teachers and students. In this case the teachers would be the philosophers and the students would be the ignorant people. Philosophers are able to take what they learn and try to expand on that knowledge and try to share it with those who just follow the masses. Teachers try and expand their ideas while students just learn and either forget or never apply what they have learned. The prisoners in the allegory of the cave may consider themselves as both students and teachers since they may feel as if they have learned everything and know what’s best for the released prisoner. They try to convince the released prisoner that he is wrong which shows them trying to be a teacher. However this isn’t the case. A Lot of people think they know everything but they really don’t. They are too proud to try and learn.

    I believe the purpose of education is to be able to learn and expand on what you learn. This allows you to come up with new ideas that can be constructive for you and the world in general. Furthermore, I believe people learn to also spread their knowledge to others which allows for collaboration and faster results of improvement. Education will allow you to learn skills you never knew of before and use those skills to teach and improve on yourself and the world around you. Plato tries to share his ideas to improve on the world which I agree with. When you try to teach someone something new they might feel as if it’s goofy and useless which is similar to what plato mentions in his allegory.

    One major metaphor Plato uses is prisoners and ignorant people. There are many people that are ignorant and aren’t willing to learn. They become prisoners to their own ideas and don’t want to expand on their knowledge. The free man is basically the philosopher since they are free to new ideas and allow themselves to explore and learn. These metaphors are new to me but are literally old. It’s a great metaphor as it allows plato to get his idea across in a more simple way that many can understand.

    “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the ‘banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits.” This quote definitely relates to Plato as the free man representing a philosopher/ teacher tried to deposit his own knowledge to the rest of the prisoners but they didn’t take it. The students are supposed to take what they receive and repeat the cycle, but like plato mentioned, a lot of people are ignorant and aren’t open to learning and new ideas.

  7. Andre.j.Chen

    you can consider the role of the prisoners as students and the escaped/enlightened prisoner as the teacher in the story “Allegory of the Cave”. Philosophers as described by Pluto are able to take what they learn from experience and expand on that knowledge as well as, try to share it with those around him. But there are those who are considered as “prisoners”, who reject the teachings and become ignorant or even hostile towards the person trying to enlighten him. This is what I believe the students are, don’t get me wrong there are those who accept the teachings of the truth and move on with their lives, but there also those who cannot perceive that reality and reject it as it would ruin their false reality.

    The purpose of education is to guiding those who do not know how our society works. The information that we get from teachers in schools are suppose to help us in life like getting jobs or having basic knowledge on how the job is supposed to be handled. As you can see with Pluto’s “Allegory of the Cave”, once the prisoner escaped from his false reality and learned of the bigger and vast world, he was enlightened, knowing the truth on how the world is. In other words, the prisoner learned how the world really works and is completely different from his past world.

    Some metaphors that I picked up when Pluto described education and knowledge was using the shadow and sunlight. the shadow of the cave a person’s current knowledge of the world and is how that person perceive reality. Or in other words, it’s where the ignorant and stubborn people are. The sunlight represent the overflowing knowledge of the real world, the light is basically enlightening the person on what reality is and how vast it is.

  8. Jayda White

    The different roles in Plato’s “Allegory Of The Cave” relate to students and teachers. The prisoner that escaped resembles teachers and the prisoners who didn’t resemble students. The escaped prisoner who saw the reality for what it truly is who experienced more than the prisoners wants to teach and share the knowledge, very similar to the relationship between teachers and students. Teachers sharing knowledge of a subject they have experience with, a subject that they studied, a world they’ve seen that students didn’t.
    The purpose of education is to teach and learn, knowledge is a powerful thing and is the backbone to literary everything. The purpose of education is to inspire, to share more than what someone else knows. And education isn’t just school, It’s life lessons, knowledge, advice, and many more. The purpose is to give and take, take heed to what you were told, and do something amazing or productive with what you’ve learned. From Plato’s Allegory, you can see how a lack of knowledge will leave you in chains and oblivious to reality which is right next to you.
    The metaphors in Plato’s allegory used to describe knowledge and education are something I have encountered many times. For example, parents experienced many years of life and experienced almost everything we went through or soon will. Things are not always what they seem when you’re young and when parents try to steer us in the right direction and educate us but we are often rebellious because we think we know it all when actually we just know a “Lesser reality”. I believe these metaphors in Plato’s allegory are accurate relating to education and knowledge, I’m saying this from experience as a student and a teacher.

  9. Angie

    In the “allegory of the cave” , I would say those who could be described as “students” are all the chained men held as prisoners, since they are retaining all that they see. Also, those who played the role as “teachers” are the men that held the puppets up by the fire to cast shadows on the wall. However, the prisoner that was released and saw the outside world could be considered as a “student” and “teacher” since he tried to acknowledge all that he saw to his friends. As soon as he saw the real world, he couldn’t wait to share his findings, in the video we see how how he attempts to express what he saw. Usually, students tend to just be learners, and are exposing themselves to new information that they have to process. Meanwhile, teachers are the ones who guide the students, posses new material, and are more open to different perspectives.
    I believe the purpose of education is to maintain a professional degree that you want to pursue in the future, but also learn new skills that are valuable in life. Education teaches you things that you’ve never seen before, sometimes things that you can share with others, just like in the “Allegory of the Cave”, the prisoner who was released was anxious to share how the real world looked like.
    Some metaphors that Pluto uses to describe education and knowledge, is comparing the fire to the prisoners “imagination” which they thought was real, and educational. Another metaphor, was the chains representing the prisoners lack of knowledge and exposure. The prisoners were in isolation, and they weren’t open to the outside world. The chains deprived them from being outgoing, and they weren’t able to think outside the box. The only knowledge they were receiving were the shadows they were being shown, however the chains didn’t give them the opportunity to discover and learn on their own.

  10. shantal tapia

    Considering the roles people play In the story, the prisoner that escaped is resembling the teacher and student. The prisoners who did not escape resembles the students. The escaped prisoner was able to go out into the actual world and see the truth in the world for what it actually is. After learning what is outside of the cave, he goes back to the prisoners because he wants to share what his experience was like and wants to share the knowledge ha has gained. The relationship between the escaped prisoner wanting to teach the other prisoners is similar to the relationship between students and teachers. A teacher shares the knowledge they have to their students because seeing how they have experiences, the teachers are able to enlighten others. A student learns as they continue going through more experiences in their life, whether they are learning from a person or an environment.
    I believe the purpose of education is to gain knowledge through your experiences in order to use that knowledge as a way to guide others to help push them in the right direction. When I say “the right direction”, I mean to say pushing the student in the direction to where they can make the decisions that they are confident in when deciding what is the best for them. Education is meant to be taken in, analyzed or processed and used later on in life. Just in “Allegory of the Cave”, the escaped prisoner gained knowledge on the world that exist outside of the cave, processed his experience and used that knowledge to pass it on to the other prisoners.
    One metaphor that Plato uses to describe education and knowledge is comparing the chains to the lack of knowledge and experiences of the prisoners. Being in chains prevented the prisoners from being able to go outside and being able to learn. Another metaphor that Plato used was using the shadows and sunlight. The shadow represents ignorance and stubbornness. The sunlight represents the new knowledge a person is gaining.

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