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Study Guide Questions for Plato's
The Allegory of the Den
1. Restate in your own words the physical situation in which the prisoners exist. Remembering that this selection is an allegory, can you suggest other "caves" in modern life in which people might be "imprisoned" - or feel imprisoned?
2. If a prisoner is released from the cave and compelled to look toward the light, he will at first suffer pain. Why? He will also be perplexed and "fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him." Why would he be perplexed and make this mistake?
3. What are the stages of the liberated prisoner's experience outside of the cave?
4. Socrates says that if such a liberated prisoner returned to the cave, his former companions would find him "ridiculous." Why would they find his ridiculous? Who is basically ridiculous?
5. By line 107, Socrates has completed the "story" level of his allegory. He proceeds to "translate" it; that is, to indicate its significant "meaning" level and to suggest some of its implications. In your own words, what is this meaning level, and what are some of its implications? To what extent do you find Socrates's point about our human tendency to confuse "shadows" with "reality" relevant today?