Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Ignorance is bliss.
“There is something comfortable about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful necessity of having to think,” writes Isaac Asimov.
Hello, and welcome to another issue of the Abandoned Curiosities newsletter. This week we talk about Plato, the fifth-century Greek philosopher often regarded as one of history’s most famous thinkers.
Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations for the western philosophical thought. He also founded the Academy, the first and the longest-lived of the world’s universities, and is the author of major philosophical works including The Republic — where, in one of the most famous chapters in the history of philosophy, he presents us with the “allegory of the cave.”
By the way, an allegory is basically a story as a metaphor.
And in Plato’s story, he wants us to imagine a group of prisoners who have lived their entire lives chained inside a cave. They know nothing of the world outside — the real world — except for the shadows and the voices that sometimes creep inside the cave. These shadows form the prisoners’ entire reality.
One day, one of the prisoners manages to escape from the cave and into the real world and is finally able to see truly the objects of which he used to see only the shadows. He then returns to the cave to free the other prisoners. But the prisoners, comfortable in their own ignorance, ridicule him and choose not to leave.
Plato’s cave is an ideal representation of society at large, where most people lack the capacity for critical thinking — we are comfortable with our own ignorance and despise anyone who points it out to us. It’s something worth pondering.
There are many interpretations of Plato’s cave, and I’d recommend you check out the video above which does a far better job of explaining it. I’d also suggest you read the original text from Plato’s Republic — and, in fact, the entire book for that matter.
I’m currently reading Lust for Life by Irving Stone. It’s a fictional re-telling of the story of the Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. Today Van Gogh is regarded as one of the most influential figures in art history. But during his actual lifetime, he was only able to sell just one painting and was considered to be a madman and a failure.
Stay tuned as I uncover more about his life in our next issue.
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Also this week: I listened to a lot of interviews and would love to use this opportunity to recommend some of my favorite podcasts, in no particular order:
Starting with Colin & Samir’s brilliant conversation with Hasan Minhaj about his Netflix special, The King’s Jester — which, by the way, you should also check out — but more importantly, all things content creation.
Moving on, Lex Fridman recorded an almost eight-hour-long podcast with Balaji Srinivasan where they talk about the Network State and more. Anyone who listens to Lex knows he is an incredible host, and it’s always insightful listening to Balaji talk about anything and everything. But, honestly, eight hours is a lot and having read Balaji’s book, I skimmed liberally.
Finally, and this one was long overdue, Joe Rogan and Mark Zuckerberg chat about the metaverse — a combination of the virtual and the physical world using AR/VR. It’s also the future of the internet, according to Zuckerberg. Anyway, it’s exciting to listen to him talk about the possibilities:
And that’s all for our current issue. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you next Thursday.