The Allegory of the Cave

The Path to Education
Learning is not defined by any one moment or singular event; rather, it is an extended process. Just as any grand edifice, wisdom cannot be attained in one step. Socrates illustrates this idea most descriptively with his allegory of the cave.   In this extended metaphor, education is defined through a four-step process comprising of imagination, belief, thought, and understanding.   In creating this allegory Socrates’ goal is to show the path to wisdom and to explain the four distinct types of people that emerge along this path.
The first stage of this allegory begins with the trapped prisoners who see nothing but the shadows cast onto the wall in front of them.   Their ultimate reality is the shadows. This is significant because it means that the extent of the prisoners’ knowledge is distorted imitations of objects, they are not by any means witnessing true reality.   To make it worse, not only are these entrenched prisoners seeing mutated shadows, they are seeing shadows cast by fire—which is not the ultimate source of light. Socrates utilizes these two details to emphasize the lack of true knowledge held by the prisoners. Everything about what they know is in some way deformed, changed, or replicated. For this reason, these prisoners are said to be in the imagination stage. Their reality is nothing higher than imagination; and it is through this imagination that they are able to understand their world due to being chained down in the abyss of the cave.   This entire stage is comparable to people in modern society who are of the lowest level of knowledge; the level of knowledge defined by the shadows. Humans at this level would see the forms as being whatever demonstrates them in their “world.” For example, if they lived in our day in age they might say, “Tiger Woods is courageous, so whatever he does must be true courage.”   They can only explain higher ideas through what they see in the cave.
How does advancement come from here? It comes...