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1 The image of the cave illustrates by another proportion the contrast between the world of sense-perception and the world of thought. Instead of going above the plane of ordinary experience for the other two members of the proportion, Plato here goes below and invents a fire and shadows cast from it on the walls of a cave to correspond to the sun and the “real” objects of sense. In such a proportion our “real” world becomes the symbol of Plato's ideal world. Modern fancy may read what meanings it pleases into the Platonic antithesis of the “real” and the “ideal.” It has even been treated as an anticipation of the fourth dimension. But Plato never leaves an attentive and critical reader in doubt as to his own intended meaning. there may be at the most a little uncertainty as to which are merely indispensable parts of the picture. The source and first suggestion of Plato's imagery is an interesting speculation, but it is of no significance for the interpretation of the thought. Cf. John Henry Wright, “The Origin of Plato's Cave” in Harvard Studies in Class. Phil. xvii. (1906) pp. 130-142. Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy, pp. 89-90, thinks the allegory Orphic. Cf. also Wright, loc. cit. pp. 134-135. Empedocles likens our world to a cave, Diels i.3 269. Cf. Wright, loc. cit. Wright refers it to the Cave of Vari in Attica, pp. 140-142. Others have supposed that Plato had in mind rather the puppet and marionette shows to which he refers. Cf. Diès in Bulletin Budé,No. 14 (1927) pp. 8 f. The suggestiveness of the image has been endless. The most eloquent and frequently quoted passage of Aristotle's early writings is derived from it, Cic.De nat.deor. ii. 37. It is the source of Bacon's “idols of the den.” Sir Thomas Browne writes in Urne-Buriall: “We yet discourse in Plato's den and are but embryo philosophers.” Huxley's allegory of “Jack and the Beanstalk” in Evolution and Ethics, pp. 47 ff. is a variation on it. Berkeley recurs to it, Siris, 263. The Freudians would have still more fantastic interpretations. Cf. Jung, Analytic Psych. p. 232. Eddington perhaps glances at it when he attributes to the new physics the frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows
3 Cf. Phaedo 67 E.
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