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Time to read Plato’s

Allegory of the Cave

When you are done I want you to explain what the artistic rendering is showing us.

You may choose either one of the two pictures.

What does it all mean?

What is the symbollic significance of Plato’s cave?

What is Plato saying about truth?

Are there any moden versions of Plato’s cave in recent history?

50 words

A warped piece of wood must wait until it has been laid against the straight-
ening board, steamed, and forced into shape before it can become straight; a
piece of blunt metal must wait until it has been whetted on a grindstone before
it can become sharp. Similarly, since man’s nature is evil, it must wait for the
instructions of a teacher before it can become upright, and for the guidance
of ritual principles before it can become orderly. If men have no teachers to
instruct them, they will be inclined towards evil and not upright; and if they
have no ritual principles to guide them, they will be perverse and violent and
lack order. In ancient times the sage kings realized that man’s nature is evil, and
that therefore he inclines toward evil and violence and is not upright or orderly.
Accordingly they created ritual principles and laid down certain regulations in
order to reform man’s emotional nature and make it upright, in order to train
and transform it and guide it in the proper channels. In this way they caused all
men to become orderly and to conform to the Way. Hence, today any man who
takes to heart the instructions of his teacher, applies himself to his studies, and
abides by ritual principles may become a gentleman, but anyone who gives free
rein to his emotional nature, is content to indulge his passions, and disregards
ritual principles becomes a petty man. It obvious from this, therefore, that
man’s nature is evil, and that his goodness is the result of conscious activity.
Mencius states that man is capable of learning because his nature is good, but
I say that this is wrong. It indicates that he has not really understood man’s nature
nor distinguished properly between the basic nature and conscious activity. The
nature is that which is given by Heaven; you cannot learn it, you cannot acquire
it by effort. Ritual principles, on the other hand, are created by sages; you can
learn to apply them, you can work to bring them to completion. That part of man
which cannot be learned or acquired by effort is called the nature; that part of him
which can be acquired by learning and brought to completion by effort is called
conscious activity. This is the difference between nature and conscious activity.
It is a part of man’s nature that his eyes can see and his ears can hear. But
the faculty of clear sight can never exist separately from the eye, nor can the
faculty of keen hearing exist separately from the ear. It is obvious, then, that you
cannot acquire clear sight and keen hearing by study. Mencius states that man’s
nature is good, and that all evil arises because he loses his original nature. Such
a view, I believe, is erroneous. It is the way with man’s nature that as soon as he
is born he begins to depart from his original naïveté and simplicity, and there-
fore he must inevitably lose what Mencius regards as his original nature. It is
obvious from this, then, that the nature of man is evil.
2 Mencius, it will be recalled, stated: “The great man is he who does not lose his child’s-
heart” (Mencius IVB, 12). If I understand Hsun Tzu correctly, he is arguing that this
“child’s-heart” i.e., the simplicity and naïveté of the baby, will inevitably be lost by all
men simply in the process of growing up, and therefore it cannot be regarded as the
source of goodness.

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