The Cave Analogy Revisited


The analogy of Plato’s cave involves a man who breaks free of his restraints and emerges from the cave where he has always been held captive into the daylight where he can perceive depth, color, texture, etc. He returns to the cave and attempts to share an account of what he has seen with the prisoners who are still restrained. They cannot imagine what it was like for him to perceive ‘reality’. So, it is implied that the conception understood by the escapee is more accurate a depiction of reality than those held by the other prisoners.

Imagine; a variation on this analogy wherein the other prisoners are also able to perceive the world outside the cave. Maybe with the help of a camcorder or perhaps they are also freed. Can the prisoners then be confident that they share a perspective which allows them to perceive the world more accurately? What would that mean about a scenario in which the sequence of their experiences was reversed? Is it just as likely that men who were free until adulthood would regard imprisonment with the conditions described in the original analogy as enlightening?

What if you were to present to a person in the condition of ignorance a palette with the three primary colors and attempt to explain how all things appear as some combination of them when exposed to light? If I ask you whether or not, after convincing him, you had made given him a more accurate way to understand things: wouldn’t this be the same as asking you whether or not it had given him something useful?

When we deal with the abstract, we do not rely so much on our senses to construct impressions for us. Instead, we invent distinctions like color, the distinction between genders, between good things and bad things. To whatever degree these abstractions allow us to interact with and predict consequences within the physical world, we should regard them as sufficient. We should also be mindful that perceiving the world through various lenses only makes sense if it aids us in some way.


This is optional but not recommended.

The left craftily introduces distinctions while feigning objectivity. Their audience is meant to feel as though the messages they receive do not contain moral assumptions. However, relaying an abstract concept is a sort of endorsement in itself. They are saying “Hey, there are 10 different gender categories. One of them applies to you, or maybe more than one. I’m not telling you how to feel about it (sometimes) but you should know the distinctions.”

The problem is that all these social constructs are only perceived social realities. I think it is a bit ironic to make this point as a criticism of the left since it is the same point they use to deconstruct the social norms which have contributed to the success of many western nations. While it is true that things like traditional gender roles are socially constructed ideals, it is also true that things like multiculturalism and classlessness are socially constructed ideals.

Once we acknowledge that our ideas about people and society are no more than tools, we can focus on results. When individuals realize that they cannot be made to possess every material good or social opportunity that appeals to them, it is possible to accept limitations as a feature of life. If individuals dwell on inequity, there can never be an end to the conflict. We need to advocate for social norms that facilitate cooperation and good will. We need to take responsibility for our lives, even when some things are out of our control.


3 thoughts on “The Cave Analogy Revisited

  1. In summary; my problem with this analogy is that is assumes that the world perceived by the prisoner who was freed is somehow more true than the world perceived by the other prisoners. It reflects the vanity of Plato and of intellectuals throughout time. They assign a greater significance to their conceptions and label alternative views as delusional. This tendency is demonstrated in Thomas Sowell’s “Intellectuals and Society”. Great read.


  2. Read your comments on Christopher Haugens youtube video. Just wanted to tell you that I agree with you and found your criticism to the point and well articulated.

    Liked by 1 person

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