PLATO'S CAVE ALLEGORY
Socrates in Dialogue with Glaucon about Captivity in the Shadow World
Socrates: My dear friend Glaucon, imagine people in a cave-like dwelling in which they have spent their whole life. They are sitting in front of a wall, immobile as if they where tied up, so that they can only see the world's and their own shadows.
Glaucon: But don't these people recognize that they just experience the appearance?
Socrates: No, because they are that much transfixed by this galanty show, that they look neither left nor right and do not perceive themselves nor the others next to them.
It is a very tempting life, since virtuality enables us to be like we want to be although we are not. One can experience adventures without going through the dangers of reality, be "liked" by thousands of friends and avoid every kind of conflict by "clicking away" all unpleasant things.
Glaucon: Tell me, isn't this very opportunistic and a state of feigned felicitousness?
Socrates: Quite right, appearances are deceptive ... And now, Glaucon, imagine one of the cave's inhabitants begins to question the situation. He will go through the agony of doubt and experience hostility and expulsion. If he still succeeds to escape the hypnotic spell of the shadow world and he dares to step into reality he will be surprised of its power.
Glaucon: By Zeus! To know everybody against you and still to follow an unsure path certainly demands true valour!
Socrates: Surely, Claucon! But first reality will be hard on him. The glaring sun will blind him, and the decisions that will come at every turn will challenge him. He, who comes from an idyllic world, will be overwhelmed by the lively impressions that let him feel himSELF for the first time.
Glaucon: Absolutely, that is for sure a powerful experience; to really BE for the first time and to experience life with all senses! ... and the mighty feeling of having resisted illusion and manipulation and to create your life yourself and in reality.
Will he not want to tell his knowledge to the other inhabitants of the cave to enlighten them?
Socrates: Well, scepticism and hostility of the others will remain fresh in his memory!
If he dared to tell about the real world and his exciting experiences, who would believe him? Who would leave his habits behind and what he has became fond of?
How fast would this whistleblower be declared public enemy - just to not to have to face an inconvenient truth and self-inflicted immaturity. He would be crucifiedby the others, just for them to be able to cling to their own comfort and not to have to realise their opportunism.
Glaucon: The shadow wall captivates a lot of people, doesn't it? And nowadays more and more decide on their own free will to descend into the tempting world of New Media - instead of evading it.
Much too seductively simple is the virtual world, and much too complex and seemingly hostile is the real one: Now personal commitment is required, and that you take on real perils and make use of your own reason.
In contrast to this virtuality promises an easy fortune!
Socrates: Quite right, Glaucon: Happy slaves are freedom's grimmest enemies!
But human beings can be expected to face reality!