DIGITAL CAVES

Plato, as one of the most influential philosophers, to the world and beyond-world,
classify beings as “ideas” and “phenomena.” He believes that, if everything is changing, then
there would not be the knowledge as a thing. Therefore, he determines that while the
phenomena exist in a continuous change, ideas are statical and stay as they always have been.
Ideas, according to Plato, are independent of time and space. They are the essence of
understanding the truth, while all the alterations and fluctuations are incarcerated in the
phenomena. (Akbay, 2017). For Plato, the primary life goal is to reach knowledge, so that he
built the world of ideas. Throughout this essay, Plato’s world of ideas will be examined by
referring to his cave allegory; after that, its reflection on the present digital world will be
investigated.

In Plato’s World of Ideas, he denies the limited reality and aims to reach the
go-beyond human-centered narrow perspective, which refers to only phenomena to explain
the world. In The Republic, he conveys it throughout the cave allegory: There are prisoners in
a cave under the earth, and behind them, there are puppets and soft fire which direct to the
wall. (Cohen, 2006). The prisoners could only see the shadows on the wall, and puppets
continuously are changing. Let’s put it in order the phenomena; these are light of the fire and
things shadowed to the wall such as an umbrella or dog. When the prisoners see the light,
their reality becomes the fire’s reflection, and they see the shadow of a dog; they interpret it
as the dog-named. For the prisoners, if they think in a narrow perspective, they accept the
shadows as the essence of beings; however, they are just the phenomena of the ideas of fire,
dog, or umbrella. Their world consists of a lighted wall, shadows and other prisoners, but
there is an absolute reality beyond their seeing for Plato. Then, Plato asks what happens if
one of the prisoners is allowed to turn his head? He explains that the prisoner would see the
real objects and realize that the ones on the wall were just shadows. The prisoner would be
puzzled and disoriented at first. After, Plato goes one more step and asks what if the prisoner
goes outside and sees the sun? He explains that the prisoner would be blind with the sunlight,
but then he starts to recognize all the objects on earth, including the sun. After such
enlightenment, if he returned to the cave, he would be blind to see shadows that he thought
were real. To him, the firelight in the cave is the prisoner’s phenomenon, and the sunlight is
the form (or idea) of the firelight. If the prisoner gets released, then he can see the
unchanging reality (Haymond, 2005).

What is Plato's Allegory of the Cave
What is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave? (studiobinder.com, 2020)

Plato uses all these allegories to symbolize human
ignorance and her/his blindness for the truth. For our world, is it the reality that consists of
what we see or materialize, or can only be determined by time and space independent ideas?
The philosopher argues that we live in a cave, consisting of trees, sun, soil, and the others we
materialize. We can see just the phenomena that far from the ideas; to reach the truth, we
must go beyond the firelight in allegory. Such thinking reminds us the religious teachings,
moving away from worldly beauties. According to many religious perspectives, reality comes
after death, as after-life. To reach and deserve real beauties, humans should prepare
themselves by regulating their mortal world behaviors

Theocentric thinking also can be seen in Plato’s dialogues and his ideal-state design.
His primary aim is not to reach the after-life concept but to the truth designed by ideas.
According to Plato, there are three parts of the human soul: reason, passion, and appetite.
Reason refers to humans’ wise-side, passion refers to the feelings that might take humans to
anger and disobedience, and the appetite is the worst part of the human being in the sense of
morality (Ünder,2017); it means materialist desires and the danger of humans’ detracting
from wisdom. These three identifications of the soul-parts also show the stratification in
Plato’s world. Firstly, the humans who have a reasonable soul in Plato’s sense should be the
ruler because they carry the concern to reach the knowledge beyond the material world, and
they have virtues to exceed their interests. Secondly, passionate humans seek to honor and
enthusiasm through their lives so that Plato provides a role as the protector for them in the
-let say, middle class. And thirdly, the lower class consists of the appetent humans for the
worldly-pleasures, and they should work to maintain the material needs (Okyayuz, 2020). He
classified the humans through their wants to be freed from their caves, or in other words, their
levels of ignorances. He made this classification to provide justice in the state. In this way, he
designed his world by classifying humans according to their closeness to the theory of forms,
and they naturally reflect the idea of justice. In his article, Khan (2005) takes the concept of
justice in the Republic as a form. Then, he bound this idea with the supreme-idea of Good,
and he defines it as: “Justice is a unity of differentiated parts, each with its own nature, and
these parts are interrelated that each one performs the task for which it is best fitted.” Also, he
explains the phenomenon of the form of justice as just human. Eventually, we can see that
humans’ primary aim should be to reach the truth by applying the ideas, and in this way, they
would become the reflection of them. As prisoners, we should go beyond the cave to see the
sun, but I believe that there are many caves to exceed in today’s world.

In our modern world, the most influential cave is built by social networks. Unlike
Plato’s one, we are much more crowded there. While social media was introduced as an
entertainment tool, now it has a significant impact on nearly all parts of our lives. The
election campaigns, civil political organization activities (and even rebellions),
announcements from formal institutions, ministers’ resign letters, and news are followed
throughout these networks. While we get these platforms more deeply in our lives, they gain
much more power. WahidulAlam (2019), in his article, shows the Platonic caves by referring
to Facebook. Users on Facebook can get information by reading nearly 200 or 300
character-posts. This news or messages are created in stunning titles and catch the users by
taking advantage of their ignorance. At the first step, the users believe this fallacious
information or the shadows in their Face-Cave, then they accept them as real without any
investigation. This step makes their blindness darker and prevents them from reaching even
the phenomenon of the ideas. The second step is about the puppeteers in the cave. The
misinformation on Facebook is mostly spreading by anonymous users, and their views or
interests shapes others’ ways of thinking. In other words, an invisible hand sets the agenda.
On the other hand, social media networks’ algorithms are also the main tools to build another
cave over us. For instance, Twitter and Instagram have enough variety of data about what we
like, what we listen, watch and most importantly, think, so they can bring the posts to
approve our opinions, or to go towards what they- in our case, puppeteers- want from us to
think. As an example, the flat-earthers can meet towards social media groups; they can come
together and retain their movements. It could be diversified as political views as well, such as
republicans or democrats in USA elections. Someone who belongs to any group, follows the
group’s activities, and likes the posts related to it, then starts to see all the time on his/her
timeline. The puppeteers show what s/he wants for keeping in the cave. Eventually, this
situation detracts his/her from the other views, and his/her mind becomes narrow.

In conclusion, Plato’s world of ideas shows the caves over us to see the truth.
Especially for the last 15 years, we are building artificial ones with our screens. There is only
one way to reach the knowledge: turning our heads, but not unlike Plato’s desire, we should
do it collectively

References

Akbay, Y. E. (2017). İDEALAR TEORİSİ BAĞLAMINDA PLATON’DA AKIL
İLKELERİNİN ANALİZİ Journal of Süleyman Demirel University Institute of
Social Sciences Year: 2017/3, Number:28, p.133-155 Retrieved from
https://sbedergi.sdu.edu.tr/assets/uploads/sites/343/files/28-sayi-yazi7-12112017.pdf

Cohen, M. 2006. The Allegory of the Cave
Retrieved from https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/cave.htm

Haymond, B. 2005. A Modern Worldview from Plato’s Cave Retrieved from
http://www.templestudy.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/A-Modern-Worldview-fro
m-Platos-Cave-by-Bryce-Haymond.pdf

Kahn, C. (1972). The Meaning of `Justice’ and the Theory of Forms. The Journal of
Philosophy, 69(18), 567-579. doi:10.2307/2025374

Okyayuz, M. (2020) History of Political Thought Lecture Notes.

[Picture] What is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave? (studiobinder.com, 2020)

Ünder, H . (2019). PLATON’UN DEVLETİNDE EĞİTİM VE İNSAN DOĞASI .
Ankara University Journal of Faculty of Educational Sciences (JFES) , 26 (1) ,
185-201 . DOI: 10.1501/Egifak_0000000518

WahidulAlam, M. (2019). Facebook: The Return of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS) Volume 24, Issue 7,
Ser. 1 (July. 2019) 36-42. Retrieved from
http://iosrjournals.org/iosr-jhss/papers/Vol.%2024%20Issue7/Series-1/F2407013642.
pdf

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