Allegory of the cave

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This was created by Plato to help people understand that "perception is reality". The allegory can be paraphrased as:

  • Imagine people locked in place to only see shadows cast on the wall (and not the actors behind them speaking and doing a puppet show in front of the fire), and that was all they knew their entire life.
  • Then you freed them to see truth, and the light of the sun.
  • The fire's light would burn their eyes, the sunlight even more, and returning to the cave they'd be blind for a while (while the eye's adjusted back).
  • After that, they'd all agree to not only not leave, but stop anyone that tried such a journey for everything about it was strange and painful.
  • After that, you could remove the shackles, but from that point on, none would leave (or allow others to).

Many books got their theme from this thought experiment (think Fahrenheit 451, Room, The Matrix). It's the idea that the longer a human gets used to something, the more comfortable they become with that reality and the more resistant they are to change. Pretty much, Stockholm Syndrome is just a manifestation of this phenomenon. People prefer confirmation bias and the known to the truth and complexity of the real world.


There are many more modern variants like:

Allegory of the Apes
Apes in a cage will remember lessons, long after they're applicable. An allegory about how Apes are victims of systems-memory, and that they will remember to follow rules, even after they've forgotten why they were doing them in the first place (and why it might be OK to stop). Humans fall prey to the same false assumptions.


Written by Anonymous, Plato, many plagiarists Edited: 2016.10.21