Plato’s Cave Revisited

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, prisoners have only shadows on the wall to see as their whole reality and the philosopher who escapes and discovers the real world outside returns to the cave later only to find that he and his strange reports are unwelcome.

The way that I think of it, physics turns the allegory on its head. The physicist takes us inside of Plato’s Cave. He tells us that when we leave the cave what we see must be an illusion, since shadows exist both inside and outside the cave, but the bright colors and 3-D forms are exposed as unreal by the laboratory purity of the cave.

The cave allows us to detect and understand things in a more controlled and unbiased way, without all of the confusing sounds and colors. Those things that we seem to ‘see’ ‘outside’ are merely epiphenomena and the only true reality is in the interplay of shadows. Mathematical forms rendered to us without confusion and sentiment.

This would be making a case for naive realism though – which I don’t want to do. To get at the Multisense Realism position I would extend this inverted allegory so that we find that if we listen to the physicist, it turns out that the shadows do in fact make a sense of their own, which extend our understanding far beyond the colors outside.

The world inside the cave is good and real too, just in a very different way. In fact, the shadows tell us everything about what we *are not*. What we think is the inside of the cave is really just another kind of self turned inside out, and the outside of ourselves is just the inside of someone else’s cave.

Both caves are inside and outside of each other, and everything in the entire universe is made of this caving-uncaving anomalous symmetry (anomalous since the inside is ‘vertical’: infinitely personal, temporal, and signifying; self-like, while the outside is ‘horizontal’: infinitely impersonal, spatial, and generic; cavelike.)

In a nutshell:

  1. Experience of the universe will seem to support and encourage both spiritual and material perspectives, even though they both appear to present mutually exclusive sets of ultimate truths. Reason requires belief in disbelief and faith requires disbelief in disbelief. In between reason and faith is reality, but neither reason without faith nor faith without reason can make sense of everything. The insistence that it can is ultimately a bias that tends to become crazy and dangerous if acted upon in real life as if it were the whole truth.
  2. All of the shortcomings of religion and science can be accounted for by each side mistaking objects for subjects and subjects for objects.
  3. We can fix this by looking at how we look at the universe, so that we take our own experience more literally and physical existence more figuratively. Photons become nothing but atomic experiences. Consciousness becomes the physical inertia of events which tie body, brain, world, and lifetime together.
  4. Consciousness is what divides the universe into symmetrical parts. It separates being, doing, and time from matter, energy, and space. This division makes it so that the former are presented as interior and ranging widely in quality, realism, and meaning while the latter is presented as exterior, real, and meaningless.
  5. This division replaces the idea of the Big Bang as an event in time and space, so that the Big Bang is the division of the universe into subjective times in objective places.
  6. The symmetry is not limited to subjective and objective groupings, so that consciousness can be used to focus on many different ways of making sense of itself and the universe.
  1. June 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    I’m a theologian and a Christian Educator. My area of specialization is youth education. One of the preliminaries for me in structuring instructional content is “the construct of reality” with which one must approach God. A youth friendly language of your writings must be considered

    • August 15, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      I would like to try to boil this down somehow into a form that children would be interested in.

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