of the Cave
was a Mac User?
Thanks to: Erik
Socrates, as many know, is one of
the most famous philosophers to have ever lived. His works
have been read for years by college students (including
myself), and his theories are discussed to this very day.
In his Republic (transcribed by
Plato), Socrates discusses the concept of justice with a
group of peers. One of the allegories in this work haunted
me. I knew it applied to my life, but how?
Below you will find the Allegory of
the Cave, perhaps Socrates' most famous allegory. How does
it relate to me or even you? The answer is at the bottom,
and as is often the effect of philosophy, perhaps your eyes
will open to a new way of thinking.
Yes, it's long, but it's well worth
reading... Also keep in mind that it is a dialogue between
two people, hence the constant question/answer
- 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 distance, 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.
- I see.
- 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,
- You have shown me a strange
image, and they are strange prisoners.
- 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, 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?
- And if they were able to converse with one another,
would they not suppose that they were naming what was
actually before them?
- Very true.
- And suppose further that the prison had an echo which
came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy
when one of the passersby spoke that the voice which they
heard came from the passing shadow?
- No question.
- To them, the truth would be literally nothing but the
shadows of the images.
- That is certain.
- And now look again, and see what will naturally
follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of
At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled
suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and
look toward the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the
glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the
realities of which in his former state he had seen the
shadows; and then conceive someone saying to him, that
what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he
is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned
toward more real existence, he has a clearer vision
&emdash; what will be his reply?
And you may further imagine that his instructor is
pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to
name them &emdash; will he not be perplexed?
Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw
are truer than the objects which are now shown to
- Far truer.
- If he is compelled to look straight at the light,
will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him
turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision which
he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality
clearer than the things which are now being shown to
- And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged
up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is
forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not
likely to be pained and irritated?
When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled,
and he will not be able to see anything at all of what
are now called realities.
- Not all in a moment.
- He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of
the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best,
next the reflections of men and other objects in the
water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze
upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled
heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night
better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
- Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not
mere reflections of it in the water, but he will see it
in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will
contemplate it as it is.
- He will then proceed to argue that this is it who
makes the seasons and the years, and is the guardian of
all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way
the cause of all things which he and his fellows have
been accustomed to behold?
- Clearly, he would first see the
sun and then reason about it.
- And when he remembered his old habitation, and the
wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not
suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change,
and pity them?
- Certainly, he would.
- And if they were in the habit of conferring honors
among themselves on those who were quickest to observe
the passing shadows and to remark which of them went
before, and which followed after, and which were
together; and who were therefore best able to draw
conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would
care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors
Would he not say with Homer, "Better to be the poor
servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather
than think as they do and live after their manner?"
- Yes, I think that he would
rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions
and live in this miserable manner.
- Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly
out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would
he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
- To be sure.
- And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in
measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never
moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and
before his eyes had become steady (and the time which
would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might
be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous?
Men would say of him that up he went and down he came
without his eyes; and that it was better not even to
think of ascending; and if anyone tried to loose another
and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the
offender, and they would put him to death.
- No question.
Now, my question to you is this:
are not the cave dwellers quite like today's PC users?
Is not the one that has seen the
light much like today's Macintosh user (at least from our
It seems that way to me, and I
invite discussion at:
Wizards is an
excellent e-zine, you should definitely check it out.
Special thanks to Erik for allowing me to reprint it -- and
to everyone else at Apple
Wizards for offering
the information to Mac users.
I read this, and am saddened by how
little humanity has fundamentally changed in a few thousands
years. How far have we grown from nailing men to trees to
die of exposure for the audacity of saying that we should
nice to one another or that we should tolerate that which is
Not only is the allegory true of PC
users (who attack that which they do not understand), but I
ponder the other segments of our society, or humanity, that
must do the same. Man fears what he does not understand --
and men often attack what they fear (little dog syndrome) --
but perception is reality, and none are so blind as those
who will not see. We have a large segment of the population
who are ignorant about computers or Macs (or many things),
and therefor they attack and ridicule those that think
differently. (Conformity is the security blanket of the
intellectual cowards). Those that are most informed, are
also the ones least likely to give in to conformity -- not
because of fanaticism (as they are labeled) but
because of their understanding. Sadly, once shown the
truth, and realizing the fallacies of our prior ignorance,
we can never go back - our knowledge dooms us to percieve
the world differently as well.
Don't hate those that are ignorant
-- pity them. Learn to be patient with them. Understand that
many are just intellectual innocents (like children). They
need to be slowly exposed to truths that they have not yet
fathomed (and weaned from the security given to them by
blindly following the masses, without having to think for
themselves). They may never get over it in their lives --
but at least you can be satisfied with yourself for making
the effort to try to help them... whether they appreciate
and understand it or not.
~ David K. Every