The fiction ‘Allegory of the Cave’ is Plato’s idea of human insight and awareness. He theorized that knowledge can only be acquired through analysis and calculation. To tell the difference between real knowledge and imaginary knowledge Plato narrates a parable in which he emphasizes the truth and people who think that what they perceive is the truth. Plato emphasized the difference between imaginary perceptions and real perceptions with a fictional story that to some extent explains his theory about real and imaginary perceptions that people have about life based on their experiences that they have in their daily lives. The story goes as follows:
The story revolves around an imaginary cave in which three people are held prisoners in extreme conditions. They are tied to rocks, their arms and legs are also bound and their heads are tied in a manner that they can only look straight at the stone wall before them. They have been in this situation since birth and have not ever seen the world outside the cave. A fire continuously burns behind the prisoners and there is a sidewalk between them. The sidewalk is used by people who walk by carrying various items on their heads like animals, plant, wood stone and many other such things.
The prisoners have only one view as they cannot see anything else but the shadows of the people walking on the pavement. That one view of people’s shadows on the pavement consists of their entire lives and world. Since they had never seen anything else before, they came to believe that the shadows are real including the objects because different items make different types of shadows.
To pass the time Plato suggests that the prisoners engage in a “game” of guessing as to which shadows would come into view after the passing of one shadow. When any prisoner guessed correctly, the other two would praise his perception and cleverness as if he had made an exceptionally brilliant gesture.
Somehow one prisoner manages to exit from the cave. Imagine his shock when he sees the world outside the cave and cannot believe what he sees is real and that his world was imaginary and what he perceived to be reality was all wrong. He develops new perceptions and new knowledge about the Sun which he understands is the source of life and starts to seek new knowledge and perceptions. When he returns to the cave and tells the other prisoners about life outside the cave they do not believe him and also threaten to kill him. They are comfortable in their own secluded world because they do not trust philosophical truths but only their current perceptions