prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Posted by prof e on April 11, 2012

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato lived about 400 years BC and is well known for his many contributions to modern thought. But did you know that he wrote about modern mass media thousands of years before they existed? Watch this short video on YouTube and see if you can identify the modern mass medium that is depicted by this allegory.

For more about the making of the short film, visit this website.


22 Responses to “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave”

  1. cassie crutchfield said

    This blog post caught my eye because I had seen this video before in my english classes. Before now however I had never really related it to modern mass media. After rewatching it, the modern mass medium that came to mind was radio. This was because the people in the cave could hear what was going on behind them but could only see vague blurry shadows. The people in the cave also reminded me of the media illiterate because they had no way of discovering the truth or finding out about the real world. What they believed to be the truth was only what they could see and hear, and that was very limited.

  2. Lindsey Marmolejo said

    I have seen this video in my philosophy class and the mass media that I relate it to is television. We only see what the media wants us to see. Most people are too lazy or frightened to subject themselves to what is really going on. People are not media literate and can not see that a lot of media through television is blown out of proportion. A lot of television shows are put out there just to create a buzz. But we as the “prisoners” have to be able to venture out and find facts and be willing to dig for the truth. We need to be more media literate and be able to see more than what the media projects to us.

  3. Kelsey Brown said

    This blog caught my eye because of my class, Media and Society. While watching it the first thing that came to mind was television because they can see shadows moving across the cave wall and they can also hear the people but cannot quite make out what they are saying. However, the second time I watched the video Plato’s allegory reminded me of a movie theater. In movie theaters (everyone is aware that) images are progected over your head onto the screen in front of you so you have no particular reason to look back so your eyes are fixed on the image ahead. This is astonishing to me it Plato’s allegory is in fact related to modern mass media!

  4. Brandyn B said

    Although many signs of mass media were seen and could be some how related to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, there was one strong sign of mass media that stuck out to me among the rest. When seeing these prisoners in the cave it reminded me of how we spend all of our time inside, and rather if we are watching television, browsing the internet or staring at a cave wall it is all the same. The mass media medium i found in this piece was definitely the problem of social networking.The shadows that the prisoners would see stand for all the peoples Facebook profiles that we look at but we really don’t know, because in reality a Facebook profile is just a shadow of a person. What reminded me most of social networking is when the prisoner was released from his cave.He was completely lost and had no idea how to communicate to the real world.Just like a lot of people today that have very little people skills because all of there interaction with people is over the internet. I really do enjoyed this piece as it seems that Plato hand a insight on the future.

  5. Plato believes that the ability to learn is inside of the human from the very beginning; human life has a need to understand. As I believe this allergy is more spirtulty based, it does relate as well to media. For the prisoners to only see the shadows, due to being locked up by chains, they are still learning and possibly naming and conversing about what the shadows are. To relate this to a mass media media is to be able to think of information being fed by shadows as a correlation to how we as generations who live thousands of years after Plato have been fed information in the form of newspapers, books, comics, movies, ect. Our own shadows can feed on a different aspect then truth but like the prisoners we only see what is in front of us from the our beginning. By having the freedom to walk away the prisoner is faced with the brightness and almost tormenting truth; he becomes enlightened and wishes to share this with the other prisoners. This move from the dark to light by the prisoner is a way that media does change. Most do not change what they believe when media changes because they continue living in the dark with the want or inability to think differently than what they have always know. As long as there are chains holding us to only see certain truths, even with change we must be open minded.

  6. Sasha Klepitskaya said

    I first heard about this allegory in my Philosophy class, and initially I did not think of any relation to media, but now after understanding more thoroughly how significantly today’s media influences people, i can see the relation between the two. For me, I see the relation that’s we as young people are like the chained up prisoners, As we grow up with media heavily influencing our lives and in many cases almost raising us, we are being shaped into what the media wants us to see the world as. The same thing is happening to the prisoners, as the various passing creatures creatures mold what the prisoners image the world to be. I also agree with a comment made in an earlier post about the consumers taking it upon themselves to find out the truth about what we are presented; like in a way people who are media illiterate are prisoners of it. This just goes to show that what we observe as youngsters mold and shapes us into seeing things the way they are, and underlines the importance of being media literate.

  7. Corey Sullinger said

    Plato’s allegory of the cave is very interesting. As it could relate to mass media being chained in a cave can be seen as society’s addiction to mass media. Most society lives in a world that is just a huge network and loses sight of the real world. Also the prisoners in the cave didn’t know what they were seeing really is how most people do not even know how mass media works and is effecting them. Especially how it affects children although there are rather fair amount of regulations on such advertisements and things that would affect children. When one of the prisoners is released and then he comes back to tell the other prisoners about the real world, this is like word of mouth a very if not most powerful form of advertising someone. Although in this case they were not able to understand him, which may represent any one who is ignorant to a mass media addiction. It is funny how it ends even if one cannot see the world it does not make it any less real. That last line means for mass media that we can ignore the world and live in social networks and the internet but the really world still exists. That’s just a scary thought I had, what if in the future mass media addiction was so bad that the outside world was just like a vacation destination or worse just a myth?

  8. krysti fillmore said

    I have never seen this video before but I think it is very interesting to now know even way back then there was a form of mass media. When I watched it I thought of how he showed how important mass media. When the prisoners saw the shadows it was like watching TV without color or sound and the sounds they did hear was like radio but in another language.

  9. Aaron 130 Gonzales said

    This was the first time I ever seen the video and I have to say, wow. For one, the animation (though amateur) is very well done. The imagery is fantastic. The idea even more so. The allegory of the cave brought to my mind the idea of radio. You can hear people talking, singing, and doing all sorts of different things and of course you know in some way or another, it’s real. But with this video, you can never know how real something can be. Is that voice on the station a computer generated voice destined to sound like a human being? Probably not, but who knows?! A lot of the world is in the media illiteracy category and I think the main scope is showing that those people are in that cave, the media is the shadows, and until they are free, they will never understand.

  10. Melissa G. said

    I have heard the story of Plato and the cave in my Philosophy class. The mass media that comes to mind is television. We watch television and believe that everything we see is true. Television uses sitcoms to show a lighter side of reality, what we expect to see; and reality TV to display what really happens. Television programs are used to entertain and tend to leave out the little aspects of life. What we see is images of light and sound which everyone views differently. The story of Plato and the cave helps us understand that not everything can be true if not standing right in front of you.

  11. Desarey B. said

    Philosophy is one of my favorite subjects because there aren’t really any wrong answers. Although when it comes to Plato and the republic i think the allegory of the cave stands for our education systems. That our education systems are so poorly structured, that we need to continue to learn more and want to, to be able to separate reality from what isn’t real. Plato was attributing this to the men in the cave stating that their education system was the wall that the shadows reflected off, they had never been told what was reality and what wasn’t, they had been chained for so long that this was their education system had convinced them that the shadows on the wall are the reality they face, they know nothing else, that can’t differentiated between the wall and what is real. One prisoner going to the top being able to experience the world and bring that back to the other prisoners is only going to scare them, they feel in their heart that wall holds all the truth and if you above ground than your going to lose all your truth.

  12. Ravyn Tanner said

    During my philosophy class we talked about Plato and his cave theory. If I had to relate it to something to do with media it would be television. Everything interrupts things differently. People only see and believe what they want too. TV a lot of the time tries to convince us to believe certain things, tries to make us believe certain behaviors are acceptable, tries to make us want to look like the people from the different shows, etc. This video is just shows that its hard to define if something is real. Hence that philosophy is the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct. Which is just like the media on the television. How do we know if it’s true or not? The audience will never know the complete truth about anything, just what we chose to believe.

  13. melissa said

    What i took away from watching the video was that, the shadows and unknown objects seen by the chained men was the mass media. You can see and hear things but until you see for yourself its unclear and blurry. When the prisoner was released and able to see things for what they really are is maybe what is important and should be told and reported about, but like the prisoners attempt, when the truth is trying to be told is blurred and not heard right.

  14. Mark P said

    After Watching this i was not sure what i was going to look for but after they pointed out that all the slaves could see was the shadows and could hear the noises from those shadows shows that it is related to radio and some media that is very vague or doesnt quite tell the truth on their part. The radio is part of it due to the fact that they could only hear the noises and couldnt see what was making it. The Vagueness is the shadows since they dont know the truth of what they are or where they come from which is outside of the cave. This was a very interesting piece and i now understand what they mean that the media was shown here before it was ever truly invented.

  15. kginter5 said

    I learned about this in my philosophy class a couple years back and we actually discussed how you could compare it to television and how if a person only sees one thing that will then become reality to them. This is very true in many aspects because and a good example is the dove commercial we just recently watched and talked about in class. All these young girls growing up only see these stick thin gorgeous girls on TV ads and to them they start to believe that is reality and don’t understand anything else. It is wild that somebody so long ago can come up with such a philosophy when at that time was no where near the technology we have today.

  16. Eugene Lucero said

    I have never seen this before but after watching it I thought of television. We are only allowed to see what media will allow us. So in a way we are like the prisoners, but not all of us are. There are a few people that see through the media and know what is really going on. Most people are too lazy to try to see through the fake screens that media puts up. Not everyone is media literate and can see how fake a blown up media on television is. We need to see media as it is and not as they project it to be.

  17. Caitlyn Hollifield said

    I have heard of this allegory before in my English class and never thought of it as a relation towards mass media. I think that the mass media medium that it portrays is television/ movies. I think this because with television and movies you can at times only see what the producers want you to see. You don’t see everyone behind scenes or everything that is going on, you only see the current scene.

  18. Jennifer Hackett said

    I thought that it was kind of tough to pick out one mass media form that this is portraying. The one that came to my mind the most was television. We spend lots of time in front of the television, as if we are glued to the tv just like the people in the cave are chained to it. Society as a whole has this idea of how we should act or look so I believe that we start to believe it as well. There are always ads and different shows that we see, but don’t really understand. Television broadcast stations take in prisoners to watch different shows and each one monitors what we see and how much we see of something. Then we need to get back to reality, go out into the real world and see that the world is a whole different place and we can see it from our own light and perspective; not how someone wants us to see it. We can’t know the truth unless we see it for ourselves.

  19. Calvin Ferguson said

    I would have to say that after watching this a few times there are a few thoughts that came to my mind as to which the video is portraying. First I thought that from the shadow it would be like a movie because they are watching it. Then I thought maybe a radio because they were trapped in the cave and could hear things around them but could not see where the noise was coming from. After thinking a little more I found maybe that it was the prisoners being portrayed as people now a days and being trapped inside because of all the media things, which would be like movies, radio, and television as I stated earlier. They were being trapped inside and didn’t know what was going on around them in the outside world.

  20. Emily Nicolopoulos said

    I have never seen this video before but I think it is so amazing that even back in day there was some form of mass media and that makes me respect and cherish my major (Mass Comm) and Media and Society class that much more. In the video he really showed how important mass media really is and I thought that was so interesting. When the prisoners saw the shadows it was like watching TV without color for me.

  21. Gerald Seawright said

    While at first I wanted to say that the allegory of the cave could have been depicting television because of the sights and sounds, however I believe these shadows and echoes he refers to can represent any kind of information or ideas that can be taken as truth. Just like in today’s world the people in the cave are forced to take in all that information from the shadows and sounds just as we are forced by several mass media mediums to consume information and other media. Just like them it’s up to us to sort through this information and distinguish what is real or not. When they talk about a freed man they talk about someone who has become enlightened. This person is able to see the things that create the shadows and the echoes and realize that these shadows and echoes are not accurate representations of the actual things. When this enlightened individual comes back to tell his fellow cave members what he has seen he becomes another thing creating just shadows and echoes and therefore its again up to the cave dwellers on how they perceive the shadows and echoes.

  22. Tyler Shown said

    This is so interesting; it’s as if Plato was designing motion pictures before they were even made. In a way he was even predicting the future. This directly relates to the cultivation theory, that if one watches enough of TV, (or in this case, the moving shadows on the wall) they will eventually accept the TV’s view of reality. The prisoner that was released experienced the real world, and when trying to the share the joys of this world to his old prison mates, he was only greeted with their framed view of the world. This is much like today’s society, a person can be so influenced by mass media in such cases as political dishonesty that they can no longer accept the views or opinions of a opposing argument. That’s why this video is so captivating, either Plato was able to predict the future, or history simply repeats itself through varying and improving technological discoveries.

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