Plato Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein 2 - Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” An allegory is a symbol that generally has one metaphorical interpretation as opposed to many interpretations. One might actually argue that this “Allegory” has more than one interpretation and hence question whether it is truly an allegory. The usual interpretation of Plato’s story is that the cave is the human consciousness that is being kept “in the dark” through learned patterns of response or belief systems. Such a consciousness is “tied up,” restricted in its freedom to think, and because it doesn’t know any better it believes the shadows on the cave wall are reality. It is unable even to see the firelight that allows the shadows to form on the wall. Should such a consciousness somehow escape from its bonds, it would first be astounded by the firelight; should it leave the cave and go out into the daylight, it would at first be blinded by the intensity of the light and then astonished by all the other sights, sounds, and experiences to which it had never before been exposed. (This is what happens when someone in third dimensional reality suddenly has a glimpse of a more “enlightened” reality.) If such a consciousness were then to return to the “cave” and attempt to bring its new understanding to the prisoners there, those prisoners might think the enlightened one crazy, or they might even kill him. (This, perhaps, is why it is said a prophet is without honor in his own country; people are afraid of change, of experiencing “new” realities, and they will often “shoot the messenger” who brings forth the new.) See: "The Allegory of the Cave" from Book VII of Plato’s Republic Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily