PLATO'S DOCTRINE OF TRUTH


[111 {GA 9: 205}] "Imagine this: People live under the earth in a cavelike dwelling. Stretching a long way up toward the daylight is its entrance, toward which the entire cave is gathered. The people have been in this dwelling since childhood, shackled by the legs and neck. For this reason they also stay in the same place so that the only thing for them to look at is whatever they encounter in front of their faces. But because they are shackled, they are unable to turn their heads around. Some light, of course, is allowed them, namely, from a fire that casts its glow toward them from behind them, being above and at some distance. Between the fire and those who are shackled (therefore, behind their backs) there runs a walkway at a certain height. Imagine that a low wall has been built the length of the walkway, like the low curtain that puppeteers put up, over which they show their puppets." "I see," he said.

"So now imagine that along this low wall people are carrying all sorts of things that reach up higher than the wall: statues and other carvings made of stone or wood and many other artifacts that people have made. As you would expect, some of the people carrying things talk to each other (as they walk along) and some are silent."

"This is an unusual picture that you are presenting here, and these are unusual prisoners." "They are very much like us humans," I responded. "What do you think? From the beginning these people have never gotten to see, whether on their own or with the help of others, anything besides the shadows that the glow of the fire (continually) projects on the wall in front of them."

"How could it be otherwise," he said, "since they are forced to keep their heads immobile for their entire lives?"

[113 {GA 9: 207}] "And what do they see of the things that are being carried along (behind them)? Do they not see just these (namely the shadows)?" "Certainly."

"Now if they were able to say something about what they saw and to talk it over, do you not think that they would regard that which they saw on the wall as beings?" "They would have to."


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Martin Heidegger (GA 9) Pathmarks