Top 3 Depictions of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" - Can You Find the Common Significant Difference?
There are many depictions of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from the Republic, and some are better than others. I watched them all (well, almost all...) and chose these three as my favorites:
Okay, this is a super cute, animated depiction of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." It uses an old school video game format and aesthetic to convey the story. Totally enjoyable!
(Pay close attention as there will be a test after you watch the next video....)
This still, graphic representation of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" has the advantage that Plato's actual text is used as the narration for this video, and the image is very thorough. Can you see any elements included in this depiction that is absent in the one above? Any significant differences jump out at you?
No? Okay, then try it yourself! Not looking at the screen but listening to the narration, try making a sketch of exactly what Plato describes, then see if you can spot the difficulty. Then look at the final video, and it should become clearer. (That, by the way, is a hint...)
Want a sassy animation with lots of attitude? Well, this one begins with the age old question: "Why do people think Philosophy is bullshit?" Be warned that this and many other swear words have been added to this depiction of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" (so if you are offended by such language, please refrain from watching). I laughed out loud in parts of this retelling of the story - it was fukc*^!?!* great!
Okay, now that you've watched all three, see if you can pick out dissimilarities between them, or between them and what the text actually says.
You can find written and audio versions of Plato's Republic by following the links below:
(Hint: Watch the placement of the fire/light source. Then check that against what Plato says....)
When you are done, leave your observations in the comments below.
This could be fun...
I will reveal the answer in a blog post in one week, so check back after 5/12!
Did you figure it out? It's the placement of the fire!
If you read (or listen to) Plato's text carefully, the passage detailing the placement of the fire (vis a vis the persons carrying cutouts whose shadows are cast on the walls the prisoners are facing) is radically unclear. This is why, across different accounts of the "Allegory of the Cave" this part will vary quite a bit.
The maker of the last video here actually caught themselves and made a note on the video about getting it wrong, but actually they got it right according to what Plato says in the text. It is only wrong according to a physical reality in which figures casting the shadows must be placed in front the fire. (You can read what they say at their original Youtube page HERE.) That is, the text is "mistaken."
There are several explanations possible for this "mistake" in the text. It could be that Plato just got it wrong when he wrote it down; but Plato was a pretty smart fellow, and there are no similar mistakes made in his texts. It could be a translation problem, in which case we'd need to go to the original Greek text; but this may not really help us since the Greek itself is rather ambiguous. We can also compare different translations of the text, to see if it is consistently rendered "right" or "wrong" (but which is which???), but this will only tell us how the translator decided to interpret an ambiguity in the Greek text.
There is one more possibility to consider, and it is a very interesting one! Maybe Plato (or Socrates, who is, after all, the person being portrayed in the text) purposefully put the order precisely backwards in order to make some sort of point. The question then becomes, if you think that Socrates was a bit of a prankster (and there is scholarship developed to support this view), what point could he possibly be making here by getting the light source backwards or "wrong"?
I know you want the answer, but I'm afraid that I shall leave you with this cliffhanger for another week. First, I want to hear what you are thinking out there. Write your interpretations in the comments below, or send me an email.
If you believe Socrates' reputation as a bit of a prankster, it makes perfect sense that he would get the light source exactly backwards in order to underscore his main point: the phenomenological world that we experience as real is a topsy-turvy world in which nothing is as or where it appears to be. We humans cannot trust our perceptions of reality and must dig deeper for truth, goodness, and beauty. The best indication that we have of this are those instances when things break down or don't otherwise work, so Socrates (and Plato) purposefully mangle the light source in the "Analogy of the Cave" as a way of saying: hey, don't take what you are experiencing or reading as absolute truth - examine your life.
Below are ten of my favorite podcast discussions about philosophy by other women philosophers, in no particular order. I've tried to include a good variety of work in different areas of philosophy and a link to the books they are discussing at Amazon.com where available - Enjoy!
4. On Feminist Philosophy with Anja Steinbaeur, Ann Brisby, Vikki Bell, and Terry Murray, an interdisciplinary panel of two philosophers, a sociologist, and a film maker. Philosophy Now, Nov.1, 2011.
A great, general discussion of what is feminism, a feminist, feminist theory, and feminist philosophy. The interdisciplinary panel offers a good diversity of ideas and answers for our consideration.
A Note About Homogeneity: Looking at the photos of these philosophers, you might notice (as did I) that there is a certain homogeneity pictured here. This reflects the unfortunate situation that, as in "malestream" philosophy, those socially privileged by race/ethnicity, class, ability, and other factors, dominate the profession. There are relatively few women tenured in Philosophy, and of those, a predominant majority are from already over-represented groups within philosophy at large. Much has been said and some has been done about this, but I would be amiss not to point this out as blatantly as possible.
I am actively looking for interviews with a greater diversity of women in philosophy, so if you know of any such materials that are (or could be) available for public dissemination, please post information to the comments below or send me an email.