Wednesday, 18 September 2013


In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato describes the plight of people who have lived their lives chained up in a cave.  They are chained with their heads constrained facing the wall of the cave.  They watch shadows projected on the wall of this cave of things passing in front of a fire behind them.  These shadows are ‘real’ to them.  If you were to unchain them and show them the people that made those shadows they would not believe you.  In fact, they would be very upset at the suggestion and would insist that they be returned to their chains.  

Socrates, Plato’s protagonist, says:
“...that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn't he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn't the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn't he be distressed and unable to see 'even one of the things now said to be true' because he was blinded by the light?"

The shadows are our dysfunction.  We’ve had them with us all of our lives.  The problem is that they are not us.  They are not what is real.  Our resistance to understanding that is similar to the prisoners insisting that they be returned to their chains.

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