In Book VII of The Republic, Plato paints a dark scene for readers. Imagine prisoners shackled in a cave, their heads chained in such a way they can’t look out into the world itself. They can only see manipulated shadows on walls, and that’s about all. Known as the “allegory of the cave,” this passage lets Plato offer commentary about the nature of reality and human understanding. In an episode of Philosophy Bites, Simon Blackburn (Cambridge University) talks with Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds about what Plato really wants to say here. And, above, some clever artists provide an award-winning animation of the cave scene using nothing other than clay. Big thanks to Eren at FilmAnnex for sending this one our way.
If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.
If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!
Free Online Philosophy Courses
Hear John Malkovich Read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Set to Music Mixed by Ric Ocasek, Yoko Ono & Sean Lennon, OMD & More
Orson Welles Narrates Animation of Plato’s Cave Allegory
There’s a better quality version of that same video (and a bit of an analysis of the allegory) here: http://berto-meister.blogspot.com/2008/07/platos-allegory-of-cave.html
Thanks for this – as a long-time reader of Plato. As a method of explaining concepts the clay animations are very effective. Maybe someone with a lot of time on their hands could do some more?
But what is reall..For the priosneer released his reality has changed conciderabely. But for the ones still chained, the cave is reality. This is Platos point I believe. Could this scratch the surface of awakenings, to discovery? Or does it emply one of the human conditions, that change, however good and breathtakeing, is looked on by fear and unacceptance.
Very well done!
The background music, incidentally, is a Rajasthani folk rendition of the Bollywood musical number “Kajara re” :-).
Awesome video…like a prisoner in the cave, it’s like being released to go outside and explore!
But most prisoners resist to what the freed individual has to say about the outside world. For the prisoners, the shadow is the only reality, and their ethics revolve around the reality of the shadows. If a freed prisoner talks about the outside world, it would obviously not be believed until they see it themselves
well done. For me this allegorical story fits very well with the idea of a more real world behind this dream world. Once in the more real world, after death, no-one can return,, but in the same shadow form to tell mortals left behind, for now, about the more real world, or ‘the other realm, as Anita Moorjani calls it, having experienced it, AND returned to tell us in the language of THIS world which is only able to give a faint idea of the other realm/life!!!
The allegory of the cave is often told to people in a cave ;) I liked the video.
People sometimes post things that imply that there is a real world away from my computer, this almost explains such a place.
Brilliant. An observation: The prisoners’ disbelief is rooted in their non-recognition of their friend (the person is seen as object). The interior of their prison remained unchanged.
I’ve always believed that going to the movies is a modern-day equivalent for this. People in a dark place staring at a wall with images from a light source behind them flickering on it, mistaking it for reality and making them less able to cope with the real world outside.
Van Helsing: [to Dr. Jack Seward] Jack, you are a scientist; do you not think there are things in this Universe that you cannot understand and which are true?