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in English III AP, we had to read Plato's Allegory of the Cave, from the republic. the Assignment was to write a 350 word essay on the meaning of enlightenment based on the text. Here is my essay :)

Submitted: August 31, 2008

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Submitted: August 31, 2008



based on Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”

Enlightenment is a state where an individual has a better understanding of the world and beliefs surrounding one is achieved. In Plato’s, “Allegory of the Cave”, an excerpt from the Republic, Socrates explains to his pupil, Glaucon, that the idea of enlightenment is how one views reality, and one’s perception of actuality is warped due to the limitations that society puts on the populace. As Socrates educates Glaucon about Philosophical enlightenment and the process one must go through to discover these elusive truths, one finds that the modern world mimics that of the ancient Grecian era. The prisoners described in the Allegory are chained and bounded, turned away from the light, and the prisoners can only see the shadows cast on the walls; a partial truth.

Plato then encourages Glaucon to imagine what would happen if one of the prisoners shackles were to be broken. The journey of Enlightenment is demonstrated by this captive’s journey. TheBeginning of this journey to higher understanding starts with the captives thinking the shadows cast upon the wall to be reality. The Second Step could be viewed as the hardest, is being freed and seeing the objects, and not viewing them as being the sources from which the shadows came from. Once the prisoners are familiarized with the sources of the shadows the true quest for enlightenment is initiated. The prisoners learn the higher truths, by gazing at the sun and changing their perceptions of reality, by comprehending this, the prisoners gain knowledge that they did not possess before. The final step, in this process, is returning to the Cave, to the captive prisoners, and trying to convince them to see the world for what it truly is. 

The fourth step in the journey represents that humans have the choice whether or not they choose to educate themselves. Enlightenment can only be achieved by an individual’s willingness to embark on the personal journey. The allegory also demonstrates that one cannot become an enlightened individual overnight, the philosophical journey of enlightenment does not happen overnight, it is a journey one must be willing to make throughout one’s life.

"Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains."
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contrat Social, 1762

"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more seriously reflection concentrates upon them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me."
-Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 1778

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