“Make an image of our nature in its education and want of education, likening it to a condition of the following kind” said Socrates in Plato’s dialogue The Republic. “See human beings as though they were in an underground cave-like dwelling with its entrance, a long one, open to the light across the whole width of the cave. They are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them, unable because of the bond to turn their heads all the way around. Their light is from a fire burning far above and behind them. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a road above, along which see a wall, built like the partitions puppet-handlers set in front of the human beings and over which they show the puppets.”
The quote is the opening of Plato’s famous analogy of the cave. It’s an image of alienation and of exile from ourselves, from truth, from reality, and ultimately from God.
The analogy of the cave also serves as an introduction to all of Plato’s thought. And so our freshmen read it as the final work and capstone of their first year of humanities. Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos, an expert on The Republic has been their teacher and is our guest on this edition of The After Dinner Scholar.