republic (books 6 - 10)
with geometry and the cognate sciences I suppose that you
would term understanding, and not reason, as being intermedi-
ate between opinion and reason.
You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now, cor-
responding to these four divisions, let there be four faculties
in the soul--reason answering to the highest, understanding
to the second, faith (or conviction) to the third, and perception
of shadows to the last--and let there be a scale of them, and
let us suppose that the several faculties have clearness in the
same degree that their objects have truth.
I understand, he replied, and give my assent, and accept your
ON SHADOWS AND REALITIES IN EDUCATION
AND now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our
nature is enlightened or unenlightened: Behold! human
beings living in an underground den, which has a
mouth open toward the light and reaching all along the den;
here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs
and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see
before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round
their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a dis-
tance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised
way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the
way, like the screen which marionette-players have in front of
them, over which they show the puppets.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying
all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of
wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the
wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own
shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws
on the opposite wall of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows
if they were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner
they would only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would
they not suppose that they were naming what was actually
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came
from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one