The assignment task was to review the relevance of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in today’s society. I looked at a wider scope of Plato’s motivation and Platonism in a cultural and philosophical background. Possible ways of answering where provided in the course material (guidance or restrictions?) by living in the dark, collective manipulation and resemblance of shadows with television screen.
My working thesis after first read, brainstorming and outline of research was:
Reality Perception a question of power
My thesis derived from how we obtain knowledge through partial representations of reality alongside the notion in the Allegory of appearances versus the essence of truth.
The thesis is constituted of three aspects that I do see now more clearly as relevant to the assignment question:
- Reality: What is reality? (As Morpheus asked in Matrix) External or internal? Natural or constructed? True or simulated? Simulacra, transcendental or immanent? Space of reality experience
- Perception: Through our senses and as cognitive processes, mental images and representational frameworks as well as signs and deferred signification.
- Power: to have power of or to have power over, to be in control or be controlled, manipulated. Also as empowerment and education, one of Plato’s intention.
And around this is the question, an uncertainty and an interrogation of reality. Not as a possessor of but as a seeker in Plato sense, a subjective discerning through questioning. Being a ‘lover of wisdom’
During part 3, I came across topics of naturalism, realism an idealism; meaning derived from language and signs that are in the case of language often arbitrary and constructed; misrepresentations; simulation of reality towards a simulacrum either in context of Baudrillard’s as a disconnect between original model and copies or according to Deleuze as an inverted perspective where the model is irrelevant and difference became the essence. I also looked closer in the different ways we create images through mental models, how they relate to an internal or external reality perception, and how they impact our social interaction. What fascinated me most was the interrogation of contemporary practices on reality film and cognitive approaches towards obtaining meaning and knowledge. Thus these are going to play a role in my argumentation.
My research trail so far:Stefan513593_Assignment3_research
as pdf document: pdf
The shadows on the wall can be seen in context of Peirce’s semiotics as indexical signs (the point to the model in location and presence) as well as iconic signs of objects (the resemble as images somehow the objects, even if only flattened and monochrome)
The ascent to enlightenment, to see the ‘form of the good’ as Plato expressed it, is a way of reasoning, critical thinking and investigation of underlying assumptions and beliefs, an abstraction from appearances towards the essence and a ‘first principle’. This transcendental conception, criticised by Deleuze for its lack of possible experience, is a model of dualistic explanation of knowledge. It enforces a model-copy viewpoint (shadow-reflections-objects) as well as a superiority of logic above experience. A conception challenged by Lyotard and Deleuze with a focus on divergent perspectives.
I can see three qualities related knowledge and meaning to that I would like to revisit :
- External means for knowledge: human mind, technologies (e.g. photography, film), language, signs as representational knowledge (stand for, speak for), concepts and theories
- Internal and embodied conditions of knowledge: Reasoning, dialectic, knowledge as knowing, understanding (nous), embodied experience, movement (‘turning head and mind’)
- Context of knowledge: Historical and social constructs, prevailing conditions, power of knowledge (e.g. Foucault); space of experience e.g. cinema, puppet theater
The question of power of knowledge or power of representation is a twofold question: to have power of or to have power over (Bennett, 2005, pp.306-309). Another question is how knowledge is perceived as I explored partly in previous post on the Allegory: knowledge as a database to behold, or knowledge as verb in the sense of to understand (epistêmê) To lay claim on knowledge is comparable with to lay claim on truth or reality. As Foucault argued, an epistêmê describes the way of an inquiry into truth as a dominant mode within an historical framework (Bennett, 2005, pp.195-197).
Power of representation and perception of reality seems to cumulate in media consumption, television, reality tv, documentary, gaming, and social media alongside ‘big data knowledge’ . One scenario that of a passive immobile spectator, a ‘discarnate man’ in front of the screen as McLuhan expressed it (Freeland, 2003, p. 137), seduced and absorbed by simulated realities, and ‘forced to serve evil’ as Plato stated about the weakness of the ordinary (Plato, 2007, p. 246). The other scenario that of a user and producer (e.g making own YouTube videos) fully aware of a disconnect between representational frameworks, aware of the bodily temporal-spatial movement that can create meaning through presence and taking ownership of self-experience and social interactions.
One point that I am struggling with is the notion of ‘living in the dark’. I understand that Plato considered the cave as the real world of life in Athens, the ascent to the sun just an analogy of the intelligible approach of reasoning, thus never literally, What brings it down to the shadows and the puppet show, a mere dualism of model and copy as indirect experience. Thus, I can take it literally as a kind of simulacrum and remove from reality, or metaphorical as a suppression of knowledge gain, or seeing the truth in a political sense. Information is power, e.g. the power of multinational corporations e.g. Alphabet company (irony of the name itself, mainly Google) as knowledge ‘beholder’ and provider of ‘customized’ information through algorithms and surveillace of consumer behavior, a restrictive access to versus wide diversity.
Baseline would be that objective truth is not accessible as a transcendent idea (Plato). Verbal and visual images can only be a partial representation of reality that gets more meaningful through divergent viewpoints, subjective interrogation in the presence, and constructed significations and interpretations. There is a difference between explanation and interpretation, as well as between signification and meaningful.
Based on this outline of argumentation I assembled try arguments, evidences and opposite argument alongside relavant quotes in the following visual map:Stefan513593_Assignment3_Argumentation
as pdf document: pdf
(comment: I created also a visual map of my argumentation chain but decided to post here the word-table version for better read. The visual map works for smaller maps, with that dense information one need to see it at larger scale)
Related images collected on my Pinterest board for this assignment:
- Bennett, T. (2005) New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Malden; Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
- Freeland, C. (2003) Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction, Very Short Introductions, paperback ed. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press Inc. .
- Plato (2007) The Republic, Penguin Classics, 2nd rev., reissued with new introduction by Lane, M. ed. Translated by Lee, D. London; New York: Penguin Books.