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The Allegory Of The Cave English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1306 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Plato, a student and disciple of Socrates, is one of the greatest philosophers, and he has a lot of famous works, such as Symposium, Apology, Phadeo, Crito, Meno. In most of his works he is using a dialogue style. By this writing method he is continuing Socratic Method, and indeed it gives the reader an opportunity to understand some difficult ideas easily. Plato’s The Republic work discusses politics and government; it tells a reader about an ideal leader for the country and his merits and responsibilities towards nation. However the part The Allegory of the Cave, which is taken from The Republic, is not only about government and country, but also it is a good example how people’s minds and understandings are limited. In this dialogue he could imply two main ideas: on the one hand his image of the cave and the prisoners sitting there in chains without any possibility to look around. This gives a listener a picture which might be explained as these prisoners is a nation, people which cannot see the real reasons of things happening. And on the other hand when one of the prisoners gets the freedom and comes back in chains, he tries to explain others that there is whole world out of the cave. By this he implies that this enlightened prisoner is a leader who has to share his knowledge with others. However, we are interested in the idea of limitation and freedom of mind, not in the thoughts about government.

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In The Allegory of the Cave in the part where Plato writes about the returning of the prisoner from freedom and his unsuccessful attempts to explain other prisoners that shadows on the wall are not the boundary of the world and they are caused by people walking behind them, and the existence of the world outside, he shows that people do not understand and accept other variants of truth because of the mental chains that limit them. Why other prisoners do not understand that there is a whole world around them? This allegory shows that mental limits exist because people do not accept the possibility that they might not be right. However, when Plato says about sharing knowledge with others to raise the country, he implies that perception and acceptance of the existence of other probable truths allows person to find real knowledge.

The Austrian neurologist and psychologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) has invented Oedipus complex theory which is still highly controversial topic between psychologists. He directly writes about this term in his The Interpretation of Dreams work. He links it with two famous works of Western Literature Oedipus Rex (Sophocles 495-406 B.C.) and Hamlet (William Shakespeare 1564-1616). Freud claims that the emotional attachment of a child to his parent of the opposite sex and the spite towards to parent of the same sex is explained by the unconscious desires of the child. Boys unconsciously have sexual attraction to their mothers and feeling jealous against their fathers. If the subject is girls they unconsciously accept their mothers as the rivals in competing for the attention of the father. In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud claims that the unconscious feelings, which are not accepted by our superego, are expressed in dreams to help to cope with desires and feelings. Although I agree with Freud up to a point that children are emotionally attached to their parents, I cannot accept his overall conclusion that it is caused because of unconscious desires. Actually, Oedipus complex does not seem to be scientific, because there are no any records and facts that can directly prove it. To support his theory of Oedipus complex, Freud uses Oedipus Rex and Hamlet writings.

Oedipus Rex of Sophocles is the dramatic masterpiece about the Oedipus who was a king of Thebes, the city in Greece. By the Oracle’s prediction he had to kill his father and marry his mother. Freud claims that Oedipus Rex Tragedy sprang from some primeval dreams of Sophocles and it points out that this is not only an excogitation, but the evidence of existence of such unconscious desires. Shakespeare’s Hamlet tragedy tells reader a story about dramatic incidents that happened to Hamlet and his family. Hamlet was the Prince of Denmark who was devastated by his father’s death. Meanwhile, he has a relationship with a girl named Ophelia, but they can never marry because she is not of royal blood. Hamlet sees the ghost of his father, who tells him that his uncle, Claudius poisoned him and that, is how he died. Freud points out that Hamlet was enraged and sought revenge on Claudius, who married Hamlet’s mother in order to get a crown, which rightfully belonged to Hamlet. Although, Hamlet desired to vengeance, he still had dubiety to decide to do a murder. Freud claims that the real cause of Hamlet’s anger and doubts was that he felt jealous to his uncle, because Claudius realized Hamlet’s unconscious desires. Actually, in discussion of Freud, these statements seem to be not clearly objective and are based only on Freud’s own analysis. Proponents of Sigmund Freud are right to argue that. However, Hamlet could be interpreted in another way. For instance, Hamlet could doubt to kill his uncle simply because he was afraid or not sure in his own ability to do that.

According to Freud, dreams are caused by the unconscious desires and wishes, while Plato’s shadows on the wall do not exist by themselves, but caused by walking people. However, even if prisoners do not know that the real cause of the shadows is people; shadows do not disappear and still exist. Plato shows an idea how people cannot reach the level of reality, because they are limited by sensory apprehension. Freud does the similar thing. So we can assume that both Plato and Freud are writing about unconscious parts of mind, but in different ways. Plato claims that people cannot reach because of the limits of conscious mind, while Freud says that people’s unconscious level of mind is represented by their dreams. As the prominent philosopher Plato puts it, “The truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.” (para. 13) The essence of Plato’s argument is that truth is something beyond our comprehension with our present limitations. Yet he also affirms that obtaining this truth is possible over time. Plato further explores the possibility of perceiving actual truth. What if the prisoners were set free and turned towards the light? What would the light do to these prisoners? Plato answers: “The glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities…” (para. 15)

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As it was mentioned above, one implication of Plato’s treatment of limits of mind is that the acceptation of possibility of other variants of truth is the key to find the real reasons of things happening. Freud argues that due to fact that our conscious mind limits some aspects of our understanding, unconscious part of mind sends us signals by dreams and feelings. However, Freud based his theory on his own analysis without doing observation of patients. Thus, it seems that Freud’s arguments are not strong enough, therefore Oedipus complex theory could be easily proclaimed non-scientific. Moreover, Freud’s suggestions about Oedipus complex seem to be too subjective. Plato’s implication about the limits of people’s mind is very suitable in this case, because it seems that Freud is too focused on proving his theory and does not accept other possibilities. Consequently we can presume that Sigmund Freud is not searching for the real causes of children’s attachment to parents, but searching for the facts to support his theory. While common sense seems to dictate that theory is made on facts that already exist.


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