My question is based on the Cave of Plato. In this myth I see two types of learning.

The first type of learning is the person that is released from the cave and climbs up to the light. The second type of learning is when the same person is coming back to the cave, and now sits again in the previous locked position and tries to teach the rest with words and speaks about what he has "seen up there".

I recognize the second type of learning, that is done by words, by speach and the rest, but I can not recognize the first type of learning. How the person that gets out of the cave, with out anyone saying anything to him, sees the light and fully understand what's happening, again without words.

"The enlightenment" of the person that gets out of the cave and sees the light, is done without any one saying anything to him, done with painful steps, done in a way that one can call experience, however right after the cave Plato says that is speach for the soul and the mind, not the body.

How do these two types of learning connect?

And if the second type has no effect, i.e. the people in the cave who didn't go outside don't believe the account of the "enlightened" and say that he is crazy, then what is wrong in speaking and learning that second way? How to stop that way and find the way to the light ?

So I really do not understand that type of learning, without speach, without words, and still yet this person gets out of the cave. Is anyone willing to enlighten me a little on that?

  • 3
    Great question and +1, but I feel the need to point out that Plato's Cave is not a "myth" but an "allegory", that is, an analogy with meaning on many different levels.
    – commando
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 14:11
  • @commando Well I call it myth as title : "the myth of cave". Yes is allegory but still my question is the same, what is this type of learning - or you mean that is not different types ?, but a part of the allegory.
    – Aristos
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 14:57
  • @Tames I am taking the myth in many levels. One is the literally, and from what I see, and what I have study (but not so easy to talk about all in few lines, what they say are exist in our society literally.
    – Aristos
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 18:21
  • @Tames Do you know this "teaching" that you must "live it" to guide you out of the cage ? (because this is my question about)
    – Aristos
    Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


One intepretation for the Allegory of the Cave is that a person would get released through διαλεκτική (dialetic), this is what would allow the person to free from the chains imobilizing him/her inside the cave and also it would enable escalating the way out of it.

The prisioner who manages to escape is the philosopher, the light he sees is the Goodness that illuminates the inteligible, in the same way that the sun illuminates the sensible (notice that Plato makes an analogy between vision and knowledge: Sun-Goodness, Light-Truth, Eyes-Intelligence, Vision-Intuition).

Returning to the cave and getting people out of there is the use of philosophical dialogue. Knowledge is the way to freedom, illumination. The philosophical παιδεία (paideia) would turn the soul from the sensible to the intelligible - "looking in the right direction" - the light outside the cave instead of the shadows projected into the wall"; abandoning images and opinion (eikasia and doxa) of the sensible through reason (dianoia) to reach intelectual intuition (noesis).

That said, it seems that the only part of this knowledge which could be beyond words is the noesis, but it is only reached through dianoia and dialetics. After this is reached, going back to the cave would need language as well - the philosophical dialogue.

Possibly the confusion you state in your question concerns the fact that the prisioner who escapes is alone in the allegory - I think this indicates that the knowledge obtained frees only the person who obtained it, each person has to go through the process to reach enlightment. From a practical perspective this can be understood in two ways: the person is doing philosophical dialogue through dialetics in debate with another person or in debate with one's owns ideas, "dialoguing" with oneself. The dialectical movement requires debate and confrontation of opposite ideas, this can be understood as the realm of language yet.

  • The prisoner is not escape, they release him and drag him to the light.
    – Aristos
    Commented Jul 29, 2012 at 23:05
  • @Aristos which book is your reference? my book on history of philosophy says that the prisioner creates an instrument with which he himself breaks his chains. Anyway, this is a detail, the general idea is explained in my answer, the prisioner is freed through philosophical dialogue/dialectics.
    – Tames
    Commented Jul 29, 2012 at 23:14
  • Is not actually a detail, is very important for me. I read the original agent greece text (I am greek). one of the keepers break the chains and drag him (with violence) to the exit. I do have one friend that support that is not so clear if he chains is break by the keeper or break alone, but the keeper is very clear that is drag him out.
    – Aristos
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 6:04
  • @Aristos I meant that this is a detail in the sense that it would not change the interpretation above. Possibly the violence refers to the discomfort caused by the change of perspective (like noticing that you've been wrong about something all your life)
    – Tames
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 15:41

The first form of language is concept-formation from perceptions, the second is concept-exchange verbally. He cannot teach them, because they cannot understand his concepts as they have not formed them perceptually and consciously like he has.

To quote my second favorite philosopher, Leonard Peikoff:

According to Objectivism, concepts “represent classifications of observed existents according to their relationships to other observed existents.” (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; all further quotations in this section, unless otherwise identified, are from this work.) To form a concept, one mentally isolates a group of concretes (of distinct perceptual units), on the basis of observed similarities which distinguish them from all other known concretes (similarity is “the relationship between two or more existents which possess the same characteristic(s), but in different measure or degree”); then, by a process of omitting the particular measurements of these concretes, one integrates them into a single new mental unit: the concept, which subsumes all concretes of this kind (a potentially unlimited number). The integration is completed and retained by the selection of a perceptual symbol (a word) to designate it. “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.”

I hope that provides more clarity about concept formation.

  • than you for the answer. In one simple line you say that: "they did not understand him" ? like I am Ellin, and its try to teach me speaking Chinese ?
    – Aristos
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 9:38

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