A treatise on the aspects of Plato's Cave and ties to modern society
| In modern society, the realities that Plato wrote about have not changed from the time that he wrote the “Allegory of the Cave”. People’s reactions and emotions are the same today as they were thousands of years ago; human nature resists change. For a person set in his or her ways, change is a thing that is feared. The artist is generally the spark that creates a change, opening the audience to new ideas and influencing how they think by showing them how to perceive reality (Plato, 91). Other influences such as their family, environment, friends, and education are important as they overshadow how a person looks at the world around them (Plato, 92).
In the Allegory, people are portrayed as prisoners, in a sense this is truth, as in modern times the media holds a great sway over the public, even the intellectuals. Starting as prisoners, once shown the truth, there are various degrees of education and learning that they will hopefully endeavor to attain. The degree to which a person is educated often is reflected in the way they view the world. If a person is uneducated and remains, for example, within a twenty-mile radius of where they were born, they would feel threatened by a stranger espousing new ideas that change the very way that they see the world (Plato, 92). If a person is educated and has seen more of the world, they will be more open to other people, races, their cultures, and their truths. This is essential for the creation of fresh concepts and innovative possibilities.
Most people tend to stay “in the cave”. The vast majority of people tend to group themselves together with other of the same mindset. Those who are religious want to live with others that are religious; people with ethnic backgrounds tend to be more comfortable with other of the same ethnic persuasion, etc. Though these are just some of the examples of ways people barricade themselves, within their own confines, there are many others. In general, people like to settle on a way of life they are comfortable with and their own particular belief system (Plato, 93). If someone comes along and questions their infrastructure they can become very hostile. People who cannot see past their own way of life are like the prisoners in the Allegory who do not even realize their own narrow mindset; they get nothing out of the world.
Artists can portray their own thoughts, feelings ideas and persuasions through art sometimes subtly and other times very abrasively, depending on the level of impact they want to have on the viewers. Whereas teachers can use words, both spoken or written, to address their pupils in order to get them to open their minds and consider concepts, artists use the visual media and can speak volumes through pictures, colors, settings, line, etc (Plato, 6). To uneducated people, those images represent reality. In modern society, the television is a good parallel to the shadows on the cave wall (Plato, 91). The people that spend all their time watching the screen cannot tell the fiction from reality. What is really going on in the world is filtered through the media, and the content is strictly controlled. Reality is then skewed and the public is led awry. This is what Socrates warns about, and urges the artist to take more responsibility.
For an artist, there are several options based on the Allegory. An artist can be an imitator, the puppeteer, presenting false images for the public to see (Plato, 7). The artist can be a teacher, showing truth through their painting, having the viewers learn and question the popular truths of the times (Picasso, 266). The artist can also be a prisoner, uncaring and unseeing, creating art for their own pleasures (Cohen, 88). The artist has responsibilities that supercede commercial gain, and how they use their abilities affects how the rest of the population learn and study the world around them.
Text for research: Goldblatt, Brown David, Lee B. Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts. Second Edition. Prentice Hall, New Jersey. 2005.