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Thread: Teaching Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"

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    Teaching Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"

    I wanted to begin my Introduction to Philosophy courses in the Fall with a discussion of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". I've taught it before by incorporating scenes from the first "Matrix" movie into the class. Do you think this is still a good approach? I feel like this might be a little cliché now, considering how overused references to "The Matrix" have become. I don't want to be seen as the professor that thinks he is "cutting edge" but is really still stuck in the 90s!
    "A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness." -- Jean Genet

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    Registered User jgweed's Avatar
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    Relating the two, at least from my understanding of Plato, would be somewhat tenuous and certainly seen as an attempt to make Plato "relevant" to their lives. Doesn't this bend a metaphysical concept towards a political?
    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

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    Sure, it's a good approach. I mean it did help somewhat. My philosophy lecturer did it and I fared pretty well in the exam (or at least I think I did!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by jgweed View Post
    Relating the two, at least from my understanding of Plato, would be somewhat tenuous and certainly seen as an attempt to make Plato "relevant" to their lives. Doesn't this bend a metaphysical concept towards a political?
    Thanks for responding! Because many of the students are freshmen with little or no exposure to philosophy, I try to begin the semester with a few pop culture references so as to show them the omnipresence of philosophy. I've typically shown one or two scenes from "The Matrix" during our discussion of Plato's allegory. I basically attempt to get them thinking, speaking, and writing about the metaphysical question "What is really real?" After the first week, the students' initial fear of philosophy tends to subside. By the end of the semester, I have them reading more difficult philosophers like Agamben and Badiou with generally positive results!

    Any alternative approaches to the text would be greatly appreciated.
    Last edited by EricP; 06-24-2008 at 07:11 AM.
    "A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness." -- Jean Genet

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    Registered User jgweed's Avatar
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    Are you teaching high school, then?
    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

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    Brazilian comic magazine

    In Brazil there is a comic magazine produced by Mauricio de Sousa. It is for kids, but the stories are very interesting.

    Once, that magazine published a short storie based uppon the Plato's Allegory of the Cave. It is really amazing!

    I found a english version, available on line, see it here:
    http://www.monica.com.br/ingles/comi...co/welcome.htm


    It is so short and so easy that every kid can understand the Plato's Allegory.
    Last edited by Brasil; 06-24-2008 at 03:32 PM.

    Vitória-ES, Brasil

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    Introduction

    Hi!

    My name is Luci and I homeschool 4 children. The reason why I wanted to join this forum is because I have a son in High School who will be doing Ancient Literature next fall. He will have to read from Homer and so on. I would like to get some insight and help about this. I live in Birmingham, Alabama.

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    Thinking...thinking! dramasnot6's Avatar
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    I was recently taught of Plato's Cave Allegory in Philosophy 101. Most of us considered Plato extremely dull, and thought the cave allegory was one of the more interesting aspects of his philosophical work. You could compare it to many things...but honestly, I don't think it's impossible to make the allegory itself exciting. You can try to dramatise it, line up some chairs and ask students to sit in them,hands behind their back as if they were tied up like prisoners in a cave. Show them some silly cut-outs and describe the 'shadows' aspect of the allegory. Then tap one on the shoulder and describe how one prisoner got out and just continue explaining the rest. It will get their attention and personalize it a bit so that,if you do discuss the "why" in all the occurences and the actions/thoughts of the escapee, they may be more enthused about getting involved.
    I suppose that is what I would have liked to have done when I learned of it,instead of sitting in a giant lecture hall taking notes from a paraphrase of the textbook explanation displayed on the professor's powerpoint.
    I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Brasil View Post
    In Brazil there is a comic magazine produced by Mauricio de Sousa. It is for kids, but the stories are very interesting.

    Once, that magazine published a short storie based uppon the Plato's Allegory of the Cave. It is really amazing!

    I found a english version, available on line, see it here:
    http://www.monica.com.br/ingles/comi...co/welcome.htm


    It is so short and so easy that every kid can understand the Plato's Allegory.

    Thank you Brasil, I followed your link and, yes, that was a great cartoon. I like the little twist at the end.

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    I've used scences from the Matrix to teach Plato's cave. I get what you mean about looking like you're trying to be hip, but I still say go for it. There is something to be gained from attracting people to philosphy through pop culture, etc. Although, you have to be careful to explain how the pop culture reference is not entirely accurate or identical to the text. (I have had many a students discuss the Matrix as if they were discussing Plato!)

    Many purists disagree, but I think we first have to break through to students to picque their interests, after which we can get serious.

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    God's love gives me power cute angel's Avatar
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    Hello,

    I've studied the cave analogy last year it was very interesting to read it and ;of course,to asociate it to education.The analysis of the scene was extraordinary .But don't you think that studying the allegory of the cave can't be done without refering to the Ideal State?
    Where there is a will ,there is always a magical way

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    johncosta.angelfire.com libernaut's Avatar
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    I would definitely recommend using a visual aid.

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    truman show is pretty relevant also I think :P

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    I've read and understood the "Allegory of the Cave," but I didn't really understand The Matrix. Can someone explain to me how it relates to "Allegory of the Cave"?

    And I liked the comic. I think you should show it to your students!

    I also like dramsnot6's idea! I think that students prefer to feel directly involved in something that facilitates the understanding of ideas as complex as Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Whenever my teacher just explained it, I had a hard time understanding it (until I saw a video on YouTube about it). I think visual aid is best for a concept like "Allegory of the Cave".

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    Registered User pagebypage's Avatar
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    There is a documentary on the allegory of the cave made in 2006. Perhaps that would offer an alternative to The Matrix. It would be a more direct dramatization of what Plato actually wrote.

    Allegory of the Cave 2006

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