Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is what I see reality? The Allegory of the Cave

Class Recap

You were each asked to bring in a photo of the cave as homework, I gave no other direction beyond that except to say that the topic of class was going to be 'Reality'.

After defining an allegory (a simple story that has a deep meaning under the surface),
everyone was to sit on your chairs facing the wall. I narrated the following to the class and asked that you try hard to imagine this set up that you are living in:

Imagine living your entire life in an underground cave your feet and hands are bound to the chair you are sitting on. You have been here since childhood and you are facing a wall, behind you is the cave opening your back is to it.

Above and behind you a fire is blazing on a raised walk way. The way the fire is set makes it so you see shadows of the people passing by, animals, wood piles, some of them talk, some of them silent, some of them making noises that you do not understand. To you the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images, a shadow of a duck would be a real duck to you

One of the prisoners escapes, the prisoner is not supposed to leave or be let go of. The escaped prisoner finds the way out hard and uncomfortable. Her feet are bloodied and she barely survives the journey.

She finally reaches the outside world and for the first time she sees a duck it is not longer just a flat shadow it is a real duck with dimension.

She looks straight into the sun but it hurts her eyes, but she keeps looking anyway because after living in darkness for so long feeling that sun on her face is the best feeling she has ever felt.

All of a sudden the escapee starts to think about all the people still living in the dark, disgusting cave. She can't wait to tell them all about life outside the cave. As she goes back into the cave her eyes are so sore as the sun really strained them, but she finds the trip back into the cave easy aside from her eyes. She tell all the prisoners that she was chained with what it is like outside of the cave. The prisoners want to hear nothing of her tales, they tell her to shut up, they tell her to stop telling tales, they trap her and pull her back to her place and stone her until she is silent.


Right after telling the story I handed out paper and asked you each to draw your interpretation of the cave. This was not a time to discuss the meaning behind the story, only to process silently your thoughts and feelings about the allegory.

After spending some time drawing I opened the floor to discussion with the understanding that each question I asked I wanted to know the hidden meaning to the allegory: (I am listing some of the class answers in red)

1. Who is in the cave? only knowing parts of the truth

2. What is in the cave? darkness, tying not to grow as a person and be better

3. Where are these people in the cave? people living a life without thinking

4. What is going on in the cave? Going along with everyone even if you want to do something else

5. Can this cave be applied to the modern day setting? Yes, people still live like this all the time, a lot of people do not want to grow and learn more

6. What does the sun represent? Wisdom, reality

7. Why does the escapee want to return? He wants to tell people what is really going on.
8. Why is the path out of the cave so hard, and the return so easy? It takes work to get smart, it is too easy to be lazy.

9. Why do you think the other prisoners killed the one who returned? They were tired of hearing about the other life, they think their life in the cave is just fine.
Quote of the Week:

The unexamined life is not worth living


Other Activities:

I played Haydn's 22nd Symphony while we were drawing. An anonymous person named Haydn's piece 'The Philosopher'. Why do you think it is named this? Can you imagine this playing at the entrance of Plato's cave? Can you hear the tick-tock in the background? People say this reminds them of a philosopher deep in thought.

Video of the Allegory of the Cave: Watch with your parents.

Next Week: Knowing myself.

What is Philosophy: Week 1

What is philosophy? Why is it important?

The Greek word philosophy literally means 'Love of Wisdom'. Philosophy is the name we like to give to our deep thinking, if we are studying life, seeking answers to questions, and we are trying to find out more about our self, we are in fact practicing philosophy. It was brought up right away in class that you each felt you were a philosopher already, and some of you mentioned that you have felt you were a philosopher since the day you could talk - wow, some of you have an amazing memory.

Our Class definition of a Philosopher:*Anyone who sets out to explain the unexplainable is a philosopher, it doesn't matter your age, gender or social standing*

History: I tried to keep the history as fun, light, and quick as possible. Our main thinkers of the week were Plato and Socrates. Socrates said 'The key to good living is clear thinking". We discussed how Greece was a party town and not too many people wanted to look at the deeper meaning of life. Plato and Socrates were big trouble makers and the Greek government want these men to be silent.

Discussion Questions of the Week:

1. How would you explain what philosophy is to someone who has never heard the word?

2. How do you define imagination? How does it feel to be imaginative?

3. How could thinking clearly about certain ideas help you in your life? What ideas are you going to try to understand better?

We read and discussed 3 different Emily Dickinson quotes and we started a group reading of "The Little Prince". The biggest hit of the class had to have been Emily Dickinson's poem

I'm Nobody, Who Are You
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Why would Emily not want to be a somebody? Do you agree with her?

We also read:
'I Dwell In Possibility'
I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--

How can a book be like a ship? Where can a book take readers?

Ethics: A branch of philosphy which seeks to address quesitons about mortality, and concepts such a good, bad, fair, wrong.