Existentialism In Plato's The Allegory Of The Cave

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Existential Ideas of Two Distant Eras Ever since the creation of the universe and life, humans and other intelligent beings have questioned their existence. Forms of art such as music, paintings, and literature attempt to provide answers to and comfort in the presence of life’s toughest questions. Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” written circa 380 B.C.E. provides an early insight into the meanings of life for different individuals’ lives using existential principles much later defined by Jean-Paul Sartre. Over two millennia after Plato’s lifetime, Robert Frost’s “Design” published in 1936 takes the simplicity of flowing poetry also to an existential level. The philosophy of existentialism brings awareness of self to human beings which leads …show more content…
“The Allegory of the Cave”, in short, tells the story of a society in which the lowest class of humans live the lowest mentality of life in a cave; however, the narrator discusses what would become of one who hypothetically breaks out of the cave into the world of knowledge. This being, upon leaving the cave and seeing the light, begins to understand the world as he gains knowledge and preaches to the beings whom he left that something greater lies beyond their realm of understanding (449-457). The deeper meaning of this work symbolizes different stages or societal labelings of human life. The former analyzes the common approach to life: one is initially born with no knowledge and has no means of developing without guidance. As one is able to slowly get used to being presented with knowledge, he is then able to proceed through the next stages of life. The latter deals with humans placing labels and stereotypes onto other humans. In other words, even if one has already been through the first stages of life and therefore has been exposed to knowledge, this does not mean that that individual has actually gained certain knowledge. For example, those who live in poverty are thought of as not very well educated even though others who are in the same stage of life and not living in poverty may be very well educated. Overall, the use of allegory in Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” deeply …show more content…
“The Allegory of the Cave” speaks in the first person as a dialogue with a narrator who seems to be talking to another being who agrees with all of the narrator’s rhetorical questions and statements. Plato uses this style of writing as a catalyst for delving deeper into his philosophical ideas because the style’s rhetoric makes for an appealing read and gets readers interested in his ideas. As an example, a being who leaves the cave is the “guardian of all that is in the visible world” and is therefore responsible for how events unfold, to which the narrator’s companion agrees (452). The narrator’s statement here precisely describes the existential tenet that one man is responsible for how his actions affect all men. “The Allegory of the Cave” also holds existential ideals simply since it is written as a series of questions with the narrator contemplating the series of life events beginning in the cave. All in all, Plato’s literary use of point of view appeals to readers and embodies the principles of existentialism in a way that shows readers one literal way of going about

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