Too busy to blog, so I shall paste this thing I did for KI here. At least its a proper post, you won’t want to hear me ranting about the lack of time and how I’m going to die because I don’t understand this thing about physics and that thing about math.
Note to potential ‘plagarisers’ or people who are researching and stumbled upon this page (surely there are considering the frequency at which people google for sample essays on this— people like myself too): I don’t mind you copying anything from here, in fact I like knowing that people find it helpful in some sense but do comment to let me know : D
(But I shan’t post my Commonwealth essay until the end of March when the submission ends :O else there’s a high possibility that an identical essay might appear)
Identify the points Plato made about thinking and learning
Plato’s allegory of the cave illustrates how knowledge is limited or flawed when one’s deductions are made solely based on observations conducted through the senses. To attain a higher level of knowledge -1 (complete knowledge cannot ever be reached, we can only get gradually closer to it as the boundary of ‘complete knowledge’ gets further away. Refer to below.), we must be driven by a sense of inquisitiveness when dealing with the unknown. (Eg. If one were one of the prisoners, s/he should question if there is anything outside of this dome-shaped interior and if so what is it. This line of thought should gradually lead to a desire to investigate one’s surroundings. The chains holding them back should further encourage them to pursue the unknown-why is that the creatures on the walls (shadows) are mobile while ‘we’ are not? Where do they come from? Where is that place and can we see it?)
When exposed to new concepts and experiences, they should be treated with open minds and not be rejected simply because they do not correspond with the respective community’s existing definitions and boundaries of reality and knowledge. What one considers as ‘reality’ should constantly remain fluid and open to changes and one should also be mentally-prepared for what one might discover and not abandon the journey of knowledge-seeking just because what one gathered from the experience seemed to displace all past perceptions one had of the subject matter. The path to enlightenment often instills in us feelings of uncertainty and fear and what one has experienced might not appear to one as what one perceived as ‘enlightenment’ at all because how people respond to and deal with revelations are different.
In the case of Plato’s cave, where the ‘prisoner’ is sent back to the cave, it is a phenomenon more inclined towards resembling a nightmarish and damaging experience than an enlightening one as he is forced to reside in the same environment which has been observed by his time spent outside to be a false reality. He has been exposed to the concept of ‘liberation’ (of thoughts) and the journey back into what he has in the recent past, learned to regret after realizing that he had spent most of his life in a false reality, is contrary to what he plans to do about what he has just experienced. He now feels enlightened by his experiences and will naturally want to relate his experiences to his fellow inhabitants and ‘liberate’ them from the cave.
However, in that same environment, this additional knowledge will be an enormous burden to bear since the inhabitants of the cave not only refuse to follow him but also threatens to kill those who wants to ‘free’ them and judging from his ruined eyesight (and the strange and inconceivable things he claims to know from his trip), the inhabitants naturally deduced that ascending into the upper world would be anything but a form of ‘liberation’. The prisoner is now crushed by the newly acquired knowledge and he would certainly have been better if he had remained in the cave all his life if the dynamics towards him stayed the same in the cave.
From this, Plato illustrates how knowledge can only be truly garnered through (sometimes, forced) experiences and those who have went through a process of enlightenment are naturally eager to get others to experience the same but they encounter difficulties as what they have experienced has detached them from the norms of their respective communities and they are therefore rejected from the very communities they were in (eg. Copernicus’ claim that Earth is not in the centre of the solar system). It could also be said that Plato is drawing a parallel to Socrates who was executed while advocating the (however, widely-condemned) truth. This is where the truth advocated by the minority is being silenced by ignorance supported by the majority. Plato reveals how ‘truth-crusaders’ are often alone in operation. What the enlightened know, the others do not and disseminating the acquired knowledge via the senses (eg. narrating it) would not bring about enlightenment. It could only be attained firsthand by embarking on the journey from the bottom of the underground cave through the long passageway into the outside world. To Plato, education constitutes the teacher directing his/her students’ minds towards what is paramount and after which, allowing them to apprehend it themselves.
Plato also demonstrated how people prefer to take comfort in certainties when acquiring knowledge appears to generate instabilities in their lives. They do not seek for the truth when truth appears to be hard to accept-perhaps they do not wish to discover or acknowledge the unpleasant fact that they are prisoners. Plato also advises people to possess the courage to keep pushing the hypothetical wall of illusion and no matter how what we discover may seem contrary to our current boundary of knowledge and reality, we are nevertheless one step closer in the ever-expanding ladder towards complete knowledge.
-1 When the prisoners are in the cave, ‘complete knowledge’ might be defined as knowing what the shadows are and affirming where the sounds come from but the range of the definition expands to a larger infinity when the released prisoner finds out the truth about the shadows and sounds-he will now have ‘how did mankind come to exist’ and ‘is there someone up there governing my life’ etc, to contend with. In short, the more we know, the more we do not know but it is definitely better to keep up the ‘chase’ and know more. Plato also demonstrated this in the excerpt on how the released prisoner was ‘nearer to reality’ (note the use of the word ‘nearer’) when he was freed from his chains.
After all, the ‘outside’ world is just a larger cave consisting of many smaller caves including Plato’s cave.