between the exhibitors and their audience, and above which they, the puppeteers, show their artistry.'

'I see,' he says [Glaucon].

'Imagine further that there are people carrying all sorts of things along behind the screen, projecting above it, including figures of men and animals made of stone and wood, and all sorts of other man-made artefacts. Naturally, some of these people would be talking among themselves, and others would be silent.'

'A peculiar picture you have drawn, and peculiar prisoners!'

They are very much like us! Now tell me, do you think such people could see anything, whether on their own account or with the help of their fellows, except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them?'

'How could they see anything else if they were prevented all their lives from moving their heads?'

'And what about the things carried about behind them? Does not the same apply (that they see only shadows)?'

'How could it be otherwise?'

'Now if they were able to talk with one another about what they see, don't you think they would take this for real beings?'


'And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected sound, don't you think that they would suppose, whenever one of the passers-by on the road spoke, that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them?'

'Of course, by Zeus!'

What is this first stage of the allegory steering towards, this description of the situation of the prisoners in the cave? We can learn this without difficulty from the final sentence, which is meant as a decisive summary:

παντάπασι δή, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, οἱ τοιοῦτοι οὐκ ἂν ἄλλο τι νομίζοιεν τὸ ἀληθὲς ἢ τὰς τῶν σκευαστῶν σκιάς.

πολλὴ ἀνάγκη, ἔφη.

'And so in every way they would take the shadows of the artefacts for the un-hidden [das Un-verborgene]?'


§ 3. The Unhidden in the Cave: the Shadows

The situation of human beings is described in order to show what people in such a position take as the unhidden, the true. What is ultimately symbolized is τὸ ἀληθές. We must now trace out more clearly the individual



Martin Heidegger (GA 34) The Essence of Truth