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  • Emptiness and essence

    I think with the first concentration of ending every suffering in mind, meditating on emptiness as absence of independant existence can b very useful to see the necessity of non violence, how we need things to be happy to be ourselves happy.

    Yet i try not to hold it as ultimate truth and coming from western philosophy i m still attached to the doctrine of essences we can find starting from Plato. For instance the number 1 or mathematics in general tend to make me believe in a world of essences.

    What do u think?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essence

    Essence

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Jump to: navigation, search
    For other uses, see Essence (disambiguation).
    In philosophy, essence is the attribute or set of attributes that make an object or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity. Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the object or substance has contingently, without which the substance can still retain its identity. The concept originates with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai, literally 'the what it was to be', or sometimes the shorter phrase to ti esti, literally 'the what it is,' for the same idea. This phrase presented such difficulties for his Latin translators that they coined the word essentia to represent the whole expression. For Aristotle and his scholastic followers the notion of essence is closely linked to that of definition (horismos) [1]
    In the history of western thought, essence has often served as a vehicle for doctrines that tend to individuate different forms of existence as well as different identity conditions for objects and properties; in this eminently logical meaning, the concept has given a strong theoretical and common-sense basis to the whole family of logical theories based on the "possible worlds" analogy set up by Leibniz and developed in the intensional logic from Carnap to Kripke, which was later challenged by "extensionalist" philosophers such as Quine.
    The English word "essence" comes from the Latin essentia, which was coined (from the Latin esse, "to be") by ancient Roman scholars in order to translate the Ancient Greek phrase to ti ēn einai (literally, "what it is for a thing to be"), coined by Aristotle to denote a thing's essence.
    Contents

    [hide]
    [edit] Ontological status

    According to Plato, essences are eide; species and forms separate of the sense's things. These forms are models of the sense's things, and represent genuine reality; sense's world is less reality; for instance, justice in relation to just actions. These forms are pure and eternal forms.
    Aristotle moves the forms of Plato to the nucleus of the individual thing, which is called ousía or substance. Essence is the of the thing, the to tí en einai. Essence corresponds to the ousia's definition; essence is a real and physical aspect of the ousía. (Aristotle, "Metaphisic", I)
    According to nominalists (Roscelin of Compiègne, William of Ockham, John Duns Scoto, William of Champeaux, Bernard of Chartres), universals aren't concrete entities, just voice's sounds; there are only individuals: "nam cum habeat eorum sententia nihil esse praeter individuum(...)" (Roscelin, De gener. et spec., 524). Universals are words that can to call several individuals; for example the word "homo". Therefore a universal is reduced to a sound's emission. (Roscelin, "De generibus et speciebus")
    According to Edmund Husserl essence is ideal. However, ideal means that essence is the intentional object of the conscience. Essence is interpreted as sense. (E. Husserl, "Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy", paragraphs 3 and 4).The opposition front against the traditional way of seeing the essence, gave Obdulio Banda. This author assumed that the essence is produced by the human mind. His work is indeed controversial.

    [edit] Existentialism

    Main article: Meaning (existential)
    Existentialism was coined by Jean-Paul Sartre's statement that for human beings "existence precedes essence." In as much as "essence" is a cornerstone of all metaphysical philosophy and the grounding of Rationalism, Sartre's statement was a refutation of the philosophical system that had come before him (and, in particular, that of Husserl, Hegel, and Heidegger). Instead of "is-ness" generating "actuality," he argued that existence and actuality come first, and the essence is derived afterward. For Kierkegaard, it is the individual person who is the supreme moral entity, and the personal, subjective aspects of human life that are the most important; also, for Kierkegaard all of this had religious implications.[2]

    [edit] In metaphysics

    "Essence," in metaphysics, is often synonymous with the soul, and some existentialists argue that individuals gain their souls and spirits after they exist, that they develop their souls and spirits during their lifetimes. For Kierkegaard, however, the emphasis was upon essence as "nature." For him, there is no such thing as "human nature" that determines how a human will behave or what a human will be. First, he or she exists, and then comes attribute. Jean-Paul Sartre's more materialist and skeptical existentialism furthered this existentialist tenet by flatly refuting any metaphysical essence, any soul, and arguing instead that there is merely existence, with attributes as essence.
    Thus, in existentialist discourse, essence can refer to physical aspect or attribute, to the ongoing being of a person (the character or internally determined goals), or to the infinite inbound within the human (which can be lost, can atrophy, or can be developed into an equal part with the finite), depending upon the type of existentialist discourse.

    [edit] Marxism's essentialism

    Karl Marx was, along with Kierkegaard, a follower of Hegel's, and he, too, developed a philosophy in reaction to his master. In his early work, Marx used Aristotalian style teleology and derived a concept of humanity's essential nature. Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 describe a theory of alienation based on human existence being completely different from human essence. Marx said human nature was social, and that humanity had the distinct essence of free activity and conscious thought.
    Some scholars, such as Philip Kain, have argued that Marx abandoned the idea of a human essence, but many other scholars point to Marx's continued discussion of these ideas despite the decline of terms such as essence and alienation in his later work.

    [edit] Buddhism

    Within the Madhyamika school of Mahayana Buddhism, Candrakirti identifies the self as:
    an essence of things that does not depend on others; it is an intrinsic nature. The non-existence of that is selflessness. -- Bodhisattvayogacaryācatuḥśatakaṭikā 256.1.7 Indeed the concept of Buddhist Emptiness is the strong assertion that all phenomena are empty of any essence - demonstrating that anti-essentialism lies at the very root of Buddhist praxis. Therefore, within this school it is the innate belief in essence that is considered to be an afflictive obscuration which serves as the root of all suffering. However, the school also rejects the tenets of Idealism and Materialism; instead, the ideas of truth or existence, along with any assertions that depend upon them are limited to their function within the contexts and conventions that assert them, somewhat akin to Relativism or Pragmatism. For them, replacement paradoxes such as Ship of Theseus are answered by stating that the Ship of Thesesus remains so (within the conventions that assert it) until it ceases to function as the Ship of Theseus.
    Of the many places to find the philosophical Examination of Essence, it is discussed in Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. Chapter I examines the Conditions of Existence, while Chapter XV examines Essence in itself, difference, the eternalist's view and nihilists view of essence and non-essence.

    [edit] Hinduism

    In understanding any individual personality, a distinction is made between one's Swadharma (essence) and Swabhava(mental habits and conditionings of ego personality). Svabhava is the nature of a person, which is a result of his or her samskaras (impressions created in the mind due to one's interaction with the external world). These samskaras create habits and mental models and those become our nature. While there is another kind of svabhava that is a pure internal quality, we are here focusing only on the svabhava that was created due to samskaras (because to discover the pure, internal svabhava, one should become aware of one's samskaras and take control over them). Dharma is derived from the root Dhr - to hold. It is that which holds an entity together. That is, Dharma is that which gives integrity to an entity and holds the core quality and identity (essence), form and function of that entity. Dharma is also defined as righteousness and duty. To do one's dharma is to be righteous, to do one's dharma is to do one's duty (express one's essence). [1]

    [edit] Notes and References
    1. <LI id=cite_note-0>^ S. Marc Cohen, "Aristotle's Metaphysics", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed 20 April 2008.
    2. ^ The Story of Philosophy, Bryan Magee, Dorling Kindersley Lond. 1998, ISBN 0-7513-0590-1
    2. Ontological status of essence, Obdulio Banda, IIPCIAL Fondo Editorial, Lima, 2,007, I.S.B.N. 978-9972-9982-1-8
    3. Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and to a phenomenological philosophy, Edmund Husserl, Academic Publisher, London Kluwer, 1,982.

    [edit] See also

    [edit] Related Concepts

    Self Actualization by Maslow

    [edit] External links
    • Ontological status of essence [2]
    • Husserl's Ideas on a Pure Phenomenology[3]
    • A Sense of Eidos[4]
    • Nominalism, realism, conceptualism[5]

  • #2
    an unmanifest reality....

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWd80DsDxzE"]YouTube - Neosonic performance (2 of 4)[/ame]

    where a can = a, but can also = b, both, or neither. . .
    ZhongwenMovies.com

    Comment


    • #3
      I dont know how a can be b, how an apple can be banana? It seems a violation of the excluded third principle as formulated by aristotle.

      Such ideas might lead to forms of scizophrenia where identity dissolves, where the strangest links are seen between things and events in a form of delirium.

      THere is a great book i recommend it is Key concepts in chinese philosophy by Zhang Dainian, edited by foreign language press, Beijing; www.flp.com.cn

      It lists a series of concepts such as heaven, way, principle, yin/yang, theory of knowledge, benevolence.

      Coming back to the question of essence and emptiness in view to understand the self and end every suffering, it seems important to me not be attached to a view of emptiness, but to always try further it. For instance to see it as simple material causes and effects might be illusionary if we dont consider the possibility of a formless realm, which the greeks called intelligibility. For instance, how something empty can have different identities as empty should always be the same? What is the difference between a radio and a tv, a door and a wall, love and hate? Can we find identity in a formless realm?

      In this regard, the notion of 理 or principle in chinese philosophy might help.

      Here are a few quotes

      Looking up to contemplate the patterns of heaven, bending down to inspect the principles of earth.
      As symbols are formed in heaven, so shapes are made on earth
      (Great apprendix to book of changes)

      The myriad of things each have their proper principle, the Way does not incline to any of them (Zhuangzi)

      Principles are the patterns that make things wholly what they are.
      Overall, principles are what differentiate square from circular, short from long, coarse from fine, hard from brittle.
      (Hanfeizi)

      Peace and love
      Last edited by liutangsanzang; 04-12-2009, 03:11 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        The greeks in the tradition of Socrates (who advocated vegetarianism as part of the dionysiac religion and in order to come back in past lives) were fascinated by mathematics and saw it as something distinct from the world of form but giving shape to it. For instance can the number 1 be found in the outside world or is it part of our formless mind. Is number 1 ever changing? Does it depend on something else for its existence?

        An illustration of this theory of essences and its relation with numbers might be found in the difference between a radio and a televison; A radio recieve certains frequencies of wave length and transform it in another frequency u can listen; The television recieve different number frequency and transform it in frequency u can see. A radio cannot be a television, their essences are independant. It seems also the essence of a radio is formless but the form of radios can be very different, yet they all are same in regard of their essence.

        Comment


        • #5
          i find this interesting but i'm not sure how you want to discuss it. on one hand you have nothingness, on the other, somethingness... but still, what essence are we talking about? who's definition?

          2 comes from one: that's the dao. so in this way a can = b and an apple, as you put it, can be a banana. don't we see what we want to see anyway: images and color, information..forming...belief, conglomeration of thought, massive juxtaposition of ideas, perspective? it forms the fabric of our lives, so-called common knowledge.

          sure, we can appear clever in our affirmations, but what happens when we go beyond this tiny planet? beyond this fragile reality of ours? so yeah, i kind of have a problem with this type of language. it's like defining the processes of a closed loop while you're in it spinning around on your head. does the tree make a sound when it falls in the forest, ya know? the answer depends on perspective.

          i'm not saying i disagree with western philosophers, i just don't understand how essence is proven. that's why i think both may be possible.

          which is just another postulation in and of itself...
          Last edited by onesp1ng; 04-13-2009, 04:56 PM.
          ZhongwenMovies.com

          Comment


          • #6
            ever ingest a strong psychedelic substance before?
            ZhongwenMovies.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by liutangsanzang View Post
              The greeks in the tradition of Socrates (who advocated vegetarianism as part of the dionysiac religion and in order to come back in past lives)
              I'm not so sure about that. He comments about the killing of animals, but I don't think his comments ever make it clear that he truly was a vegetarian. Waxing and waning philosophical with commentary and living a certain lifestyle can be two different things.

              A perfect example might be some of the characters from Shaolin, for instance, LOL.
              Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

              "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

              (more comments in my User Profile)
              russbo.com


              Comment


              • #8
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato%2...ry_of_the_cave


                Allegory of the cave

                From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                (Redirected from Plato's allegory of the cave)
                Jump to: navigation, search


                Part of a series on
                Plato
                Early life · Works · Platonism · Epistemology · Idealism / Realism · Theory of Forms · Form of the Good · Third Man Argument · Euthyphro dilemma · Immortality of the soul · Five regimes · Philosopher-king · Utopia (Callipolis)SubjectsPhilosophy · Moderation · Death · Piety · Beauty · Dishonesty · Art · Courage · Friendship · Language · Argumentation · Rhetoric · Virtue · Afterlife · Education · Love · Justice · Passion · Monism · Knowledge · Physics · Atlantis · Sophistry · Politics · Pleasure · Nature & HumanityAllegoriesRing of Gyges · Allegory of the cave · Analogy of the divided line · Metaphor of the sun · Ship of state · Myth of Er · Chariot AllegoryInfluences and FollowersHeraclitus · Parmenides · Socrates · Speusippus · Aristotle · Plotinus · Iamblichus · Proclus · St. Augustine · Al-FarabiRelatedAcademy in Athens · Socratic problem · Commentaries on Plato · Middle Platonism · Neoplatonism · Platonic ChristianityThis box: view talk edit

                The Allegory of the Cave, also commonly known as Myth of the Cave, Metaphor of the Cave, The Cave Analogy, Plato's Cave or the Parable of the Cave, is an allegory used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic to illustrate "our nature in its education and want of education". (514a) The allegory of the cave is written as a fictional dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon, at the beginning of Book VII (514a–520a).
                Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
                The Allegory is related to Plato's Theory of Forms,[1] wherein Plato asserts that "Forms" (or "Ideas"), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Only knowledge of the Forms constitutes real knowledge.[2] In addition, the allegory of the cave is an attempt to explain the philosopher's place in society.
                The Allegory of the Cave is related to Plato's metaphor of the sun (507b–509c) and the analogy of the divided line (509d–513e), which immediately precede it at the end of Book VI. Allegories are summarized in the viewpoint of dialectic at the end of Book VII and VIII (531d-534e). This relates to the idea of forms as people struggle to see the reality beyond illusion.
                Contents

                [hide]

                [edit] Presentation


                [edit] Inside the cave

                Socrates begins by describing a scenario in which what people take to be real would in fact be an illusion. He asks Glaucon to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood: not only are their arms and legs held in place, but their heads are also fixed, compelled to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which people walk carrying things on their heads "including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials" The prisoners can only watch the shadows cast by the men, not knowing they are shadows. There are also echoes off the wall from the noise produced from the walkway.
                Socrates asks if it is not reasonable that the prisoners would take the shadows to be real things and the echoes to be real sounds, not just reflections of reality, since they are all they had ever seen or heard. Wouldn't they praise as clever whoever could best guess which shadow would come next, as someone who understood the nature of the world? And wouldn't the whole of their society depend on the shadows on the wall?

                [edit] Release from the cave

                Socrates next introduces something new to this scenario. Suppose that a prisoner is freed and permitted to stand up. If someone were to show him the things that had cast the shadows, he would not recognize them for what they were and could not name them; he would believe the shadows on the wall to be more real than what he sees.
                Suppose further, Socrates says, that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn't he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn't the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn't he be distressed and unable to see "even one of the things now said to be true", viz. the shadows on the wall (516a)?
                After some time on the surface, however, Socrates suggests that the freed prisoner would acclimate. He would see more and more things around him, until he could look upon the Sun. He would understand that the Sun is the "source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing" (516b–c). (See also Plato's metaphor of the Sun, which occurs near the end of The Republic, Book VI)[3]

                [edit] Return to the cave

                Socrates next asks Glaucon to consider the condition of this man. Wouldn't he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn't he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn't he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? "Wouldn't it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it's not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn't they kill him?" (517a)

                [edit] Remarks on the allegory

                Socrates remarks that this allegory can be taken with what was said before, viz. the metaphor of the Sun, and the divided line. In particular, he likens
                "the region revealed through sight" — the ordinary objects we see around us — "to the prison home, and the light of the fire in it to the power of the Sun. And in applying the going up and the seeing of what's above to the soul's journey to the intelligible place, you not mistake my expectation, since you desire to hear it. A god doubtless knows if it happens to be true. At all events, this is the way the phenomena look to me: in the region of the knowable the last thing to be seen, and that with considerable effort, is the idea of good; but once seen, it must be concluded that this is indeed the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful — in the visible realm it give birth to light and its sovereign; in the intelligible realm, itself sovereign, it provided truth and intelligence — and that the man who is going to act prudently in private or in public must see it" (517b-c).
                After "returning from divine contemplations to human evils", a man "is graceless and looks quite ridiculous when — with his sight still dim and before he has gotten sufficiently accustomed to the surrounding darkness — he is compelled in courtrooms or elsewhere to contend about the shadows of justice or the representations of which they are the shadows, and to dispute about the way these things are understood by men who have never seen justice itself?" (517d-e)

                [edit] Popular Culture
                • The comparison between the film The Matrix and the Allegory of the Cave has been made in many contexts.[4] [5]
                • The lyrics of the They Might Be Giants song "No One Knows My Plan" make reference to "the people chained up in the cave, in the allegory of the people in the cave by the Greek guy."[6]
                • The Kings of Convenience refer to the allegory of the cave in the song "Freedom and Its Owner" on their 2009 CD "Declaration of Dependence".


                [edit] References
                1. <LI id=cite_note-0>^ The name of this aspect of Plato's thought is not modern and has not been extracted from certain dialogues by modern scholars. The term was used at least as early as Diogenes Laertius, who called it (Plato's) "Theory of Forms:" Πλάτων ἐν τῇ περὶ τῶν ἰδεῶν ὑπολήψει...., "Plato". Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Book III. pp. Paragraph 15. <LI id=cite_note-1>^ Watt, Stephen (1997), "Introduction: The Theory of Forms (Books 5-7)", Plato: Republic, London: Wordsworth Editions, pp. pages xiv-xvi, ISBN 1853264830 <LI id=cite_note-2>^ Plato, & Jowett, B. (1941). Plato's The Republic. New York: The Modern Library. OCLC: 964319. <LI id=cite_note-3>^ Partridge, John Plato's Cave & The Matrix, What is The Matrix? Warner Bros. <LI id=cite_note-4>^ Matrix philosophy, Nisargadatta Maharaj
                2. ^ "No One Knows My Plan" lyrics, This Might Be a Wiki


                [edit] External links

                Wikisource has original text related to this article: The Republic/Book VIIhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Republic_(Plato)

                Theory of universals
                See also Problem of universals, Plato's allegory of the cave and The Forms The Republic contains Plato's Allegory of the cave with which he explains his concept of The Forms as an answer to the problem of universals.
                The allegory of the cave is an attempt to justify the philosopher's place in society as king. Plato imagines a group of people who have lived in a cave all of their lives, chained to a wall in the subterranean so they cannot see outside nor look behind them. Behind these prisoners is a constant flame that illuminates various statues that are moved by others, which cause shadows to flicker around the cave. When the people of the cave see these shadows they realize how imitative they are of human life, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows such as either "dog" or "cat". The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality, according to Plato.
                Plato then goes on to explain how the philosopher is a former prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all. He sees that the fire and the statues which cause the shadows are indeed more real than the shadows themselves, and therefore apprehends how the prisoners are so easily deceived. Plato then imagines that the freedman is taken outside of the cave and into the real world. The prisoner is initially blinded by the light. However, when he adjusts to the brightness, he eventually understands that all of the real objects around him are illuminated by the sun (which represents the Form of the Good, the form which has caused the brightness). He also realizes it is the sun to which he is indebted for being able to see the beauty and goodness in the objects around him. The freedman is finally cognizant that the fire and statues in the cave were just copies of the real objects in the world.
                The prisoner's stages of understanding correlate with the levels on the divided line that Plato imagines. The line is divided into what is the visible world, and what the intelligible world is, with the divider being the Sun. When the prisoner is in the cave, he is obviously in the visible realm that receives no sunlight, and outside he comes to be in the intelligible realm.
                The shadows in the cave that the prisoners can see correspond to the lowest level on Plato's line, that of imagination and conjecture. Once the prisoner is freed and spots the fire's reflection onto the statues which causes the shadows in the cave, he reaches the second stage on the divided line, and that is the stage of belief, as the freedman comes to believe that the statues in the cave are real as can be. On leaving the cave, however, the prisoner comes to see objects more real than the statues inside of the cave, and this correlates with the third stage on Plato's line as being understanding. The prisoner is therefore able to ascribe Forms to objects as they exist outside of the cave. Lastly, the prisoner turns to the sun which he grasps as the source of truth, or the Form of the Good, and this last stage, named as dialectic, is the highest possible stage on the line. The prisoner, as a result of the Form of the Good, can begin to understand all other forms in reality.
                Allegorically, Plato reasons that the freedman is the philosopher, who is the only person able to discern the Form of the Good, and thus absolute goodness and truth. At the end of this allegory, Plato asserts that it is the philosopher's burden to reenter the cave. Those who have seen the ideal world, he says, have the duty to educate those in the material world, or spread the light to those in darkness. Since the philosopher is the only one able to recognize what is truly good, and only he can reach the last stage on the divided line, only he is fit to rule society according to Plato.

                Comment


                • #9
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato%2...ry_of_the_cave


                  Allegory of the cave

                  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                  (Redirected from Plato's allegory of the cave)
                  Jump to: navigation, search


                  Part of a series on
                  Plato
                  Early life · Works · Platonism · Epistemology · Idealism / Realism · Theory of Forms · Form of the Good · Third Man Argument · Euthyphro dilemma · Immortality of the soul · Five regimes · Philosopher-king · Utopia (Callipolis)SubjectsPhilosophy · Moderation · Death · Piety · Beauty · Dishonesty · Art · Courage · Friendship · Language · Argumentation · Rhetoric · Virtue · Afterlife · Education · Love · Justice · Passion · Monism · Knowledge · Physics · Atlantis · Sophistry · Politics · Pleasure · Nature & HumanityAllegoriesRing of Gyges · Allegory of the cave · Analogy of the divided line · Metaphor of the sun · Ship of state · Myth of Er · Chariot AllegoryInfluences and FollowersHeraclitus · Parmenides · Socrates · Speusippus · Aristotle · Plotinus · Iamblichus · Proclus · St. Augustine · Al-FarabiRelatedAcademy in Athens · Socratic problem · Commentaries on Plato · Middle Platonism · Neoplatonism · Platonic ChristianityThis box: view talk edit

                  The Allegory of the Cave, also commonly known as Myth of the Cave, Metaphor of the Cave, The Cave Analogy, Plato's Cave or the Parable of the Cave, is an allegory used by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic to illustrate "our nature in its education and want of education". (514a) The allegory of the cave is written as a fictional dialogue between Plato's teacher Socrates and Plato's brother Glaucon, at the beginning of Book VII (514a–520a).
                  Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
                  The Allegory is related to Plato's Theory of Forms,[1] wherein Plato asserts that "Forms" (or "Ideas"), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Only knowledge of the Forms constitutes real knowledge.[2] In addition, the allegory of the cave is an attempt to explain the philosopher's place in society.
                  The Allegory of the Cave is related to Plato's metaphor of the sun (507b–509c) and the analogy of the divided line (509d–513e), which immediately precede it at the end of Book VI. Allegories are summarized in the viewpoint of dialectic at the end of Book VII and VIII (531d-534e). This relates to the idea of forms as people struggle to see the reality beyond illusion.
                  Contents


                  [hide]
                  [edit] Presentation


                  [edit] Inside the cave

                  Socrates begins by describing a scenario in which what people take to be real would in fact be an illusion. He asks Glaucon to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood: not only are their arms and legs held in place, but their heads are also fixed, compelled to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which people walk carrying things on their heads "including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials" The prisoners can only watch the shadows cast by the men, not knowing they are shadows. There are also echoes off the wall from the noise produced from the walkway.
                  Socrates asks if it is not reasonable that the prisoners would take the shadows to be real things and the echoes to be real sounds, not just reflections of reality, since they are all they had ever seen or heard. Wouldn't they praise as clever whoever could best guess which shadow would come next, as someone who understood the nature of the world? And wouldn't the whole of their society depend on the shadows on the wall?

                  [edit] Release from the cave

                  Socrates next introduces something new to this scenario. Suppose that a prisoner is freed and permitted to stand up. If someone were to show him the things that had cast the shadows, he would not recognize them for what they were and could not name them; he would believe the shadows on the wall to be more real than what he sees.
                  Suppose further, Socrates says, that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn't he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn't the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn't he be distressed and unable to see "even one of the things now said to be true", viz. the shadows on the wall (516a)?
                  After some time on the surface, however, Socrates suggests that the freed prisoner would acclimate. He would see more and more things around him, until he could look upon the Sun. He would understand that the Sun is the "source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing" (516b–c). (See also Plato's metaphor of the Sun, which occurs near the end of The Republic, Book VI)[3]

                  [edit] Return to the cave

                  Socrates next asks Glaucon to consider the condition of this man. Wouldn't he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn't he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn't he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? "Wouldn't it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it's not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn't they kill him?" (517a)

                  [edit] Remarks on the allegory

                  Socrates remarks that this allegory can be taken with what was said before, viz. the metaphor of the Sun, and the divided line. In particular, he likens
                  "the region revealed through sight" — the ordinary objects we see around us — "to the prison home, and the light of the fire in it to the power of the Sun. And in applying the going up and the seeing of what's above to the soul's journey to the intelligible place, you not mistake my expectation, since you desire to hear it. A god doubtless knows if it happens to be true. At all events, this is the way the phenomena look to me: in the region of the knowable the last thing to be seen, and that with considerable effort, is the idea of good; but once seen, it must be concluded that this is indeed the cause for all things of all that is right and beautiful — in the visible realm it give birth to light and its sovereign; in the intelligible realm, itself sovereign, it provided truth and intelligence — and that the man who is going to act prudently in private or in public must see it" (517b-c).
                  After "returning from divine contemplations to human evils", a man "is graceless and looks quite ridiculous when — with his sight still dim and before he has gotten sufficiently accustomed to the surrounding darkness — he is compelled in courtrooms or elsewhere to contend about the shadows of justice or the representations of which they are the shadows, and to dispute about the way these things are understood by men who have never seen justice itself?" (517d-e)

                  [edit] Popular Culture
                  • The comparison between the film The Matrix and the Allegory of the Cave has been made in many contexts.[4] [5]
                  • The lyrics of the They Might Be Giants song "No One Knows My Plan" make reference to "the people chained up in the cave, in the allegory of the people in the cave by the Greek guy."[6]
                  • The Kings of Convenience refer to the allegory of the cave in the song "Freedom and Its Owner" on their 2009 CD "Declaration of Dependence".

                  [edit] References
                  1. <LI id=cite_note-0>^ The name of this aspect of Plato's thought is not modern and has not been extracted from certain dialogues by modern scholars. The term was used at least as early as Diogenes Laertius, who called it (Plato's) "Theory of Forms:" Πλάτων ἐν τῇ περὶ τῶν ἰδεῶν ὑπολήψει...., "Plato". Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Book III. pp. Paragraph 15. <LI id=cite_note-1>^ Watt, Stephen (1997), "Introduction: The Theory of Forms (Books 5-7)", Plato: Republic, London: Wordsworth Editions, pp. pages xiv-xvi, ISBN 1853264830 <LI id=cite_note-2>^ Plato, & Jowett, B. (1941). Plato's The Republic. New York: The Modern Library. OCLC: 964319. <LI id=cite_note-3>^ Partridge, John Plato's Cave & The Matrix, What is The Matrix? Warner Bros. <LI id=cite_note-4>^ Matrix philosophy, Nisargadatta Maharaj
                  2. ^ "No One Knows My Plan" lyrics, This Might Be a Wiki

                  [edit] External links


                  Wikisource has original text related to this article: The Republic/Book VIIhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Republic_(Plato)

                  Theory of universals
                  See also Problem of universals, Plato's allegory of the cave and The Forms The Republic contains Plato's Allegory of the cave with which he explains his concept of The Forms as an answer to the problem of universals.
                  The allegory of the cave is an attempt to justify the philosopher's place in society as king. Plato imagines a group of people who have lived in a cave all of their lives, chained to a wall in the subterranean so they cannot see outside nor look behind them. Behind these prisoners is a constant flame that illuminates various statues that are moved by others, which cause shadows to flicker around the cave. When the people of the cave see these shadows they realize how imitative they are of human life, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows such as either "dog" or "cat". The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality, according to Plato.
                  Plato then goes on to explain how the philosopher is a former prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all. He sees that the fire and the statues which cause the shadows are indeed more real than the shadows themselves, and therefore apprehends how the prisoners are so easily deceived. Plato then imagines that the freedman is taken outside of the cave and into the real world. The prisoner is initially blinded by the light. However, when he adjusts to the brightness, he eventually understands that all of the real objects around him are illuminated by the sun (which represents the Form of the Good, the form which has caused the brightness). He also realizes it is the sun to which he is indebted for being able to see the beauty and goodness in the objects around him. The freedman is finally cognizant that the fire and statues in the cave were just copies of the real objects in the world.
                  The prisoner's stages of understanding correlate with the levels on the divided line that Plato imagines. The line is divided into what is the visible world, and what the intelligible world is, with the divider being the Sun. When the prisoner is in the cave, he is obviously in the visible realm that receives no sunlight, and outside he comes to be in the intelligible realm.
                  The shadows in the cave that the prisoners can see correspond to the lowest level on Plato's line, that of imagination and conjecture. Once the prisoner is freed and spots the fire's reflection onto the statues which causes the shadows in the cave, he reaches the second stage on the divided line, and that is the stage of belief, as the freedman comes to believe that the statues in the cave are real as can be. On leaving the cave, however, the prisoner comes to see objects more real than the statues inside of the cave, and this correlates with the third stage on Plato's line as being understanding. The prisoner is therefore able to ascribe Forms to objects as they exist outside of the cave. Lastly, the prisoner turns to the sun which he grasps as the source of truth, or the Form of the Good, and this last stage, named as dialectic, is the highest possible stage on the line. The prisoner, as a result of the Form of the Good, can begin to understand all other forms in reality.
                  Allegorically, Plato reasons that the freedman is the philosopher, who is the only person able to discern the Form of the Good, and thus absolute goodness and truth. At the end of this allegory, Plato asserts that it is the philosopher's burden to reenter the cave. Those who have seen the ideal world, he says, have the duty to educate those in the material world, or spread the light to those in darkness. Since the philosopher is the only one able to recognize what is truly good, and only he can reach the last stage on the divided line, only he is fit to rule society according to Plato.

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