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How many people are familiar with Plato's Republic? In this treatise there is a story known as "the Cave".

According to the story line if I remember correctly, a group of people were kidnapped at a very yooung age, by a second group.

They were bindfolded and taken to a cave. They were set on the cave floor facing the back wall of the cave. The cave is deep enough that very little light penetrates. They were tied up, such that they could not move or look behind themselves. They never see their captors face on.

On various occasions their captors would build a bonfire behind their captives. Their captives would dance in front of the fire, but behind their captives. Their captives never actually see the captors, But instead, see their captors shadows projected on the back of the cave wall in front of the only direction the captives could look. The captors spend their entire life under these circumstances.

As far as the captives could tell their captors were 10 feet tall as shadows project larger than the source at a distance. They saw unusual projections emanating out their captors heads in the shadow orojections. For all the captives knew, this was the true appearance of their captives. This is the only paradigm they knew.

There is more to the story that Plato was addressing. But for my purposes. Religion (any) is like the Cave story.

Religion captures people at an early age. They blindfold them with dogma. The captives to the religion are kept in the dark from any opposing ideas or paradigms. The ceremonies are made to project larger than life shadows (cathedrals, giant crosses, etc.). The religious captors dance behind their helpless captives with opulent ceremony and pomp and circumstance. Their captors holds their captors at arms length and never really show themselves for whom they really are. They are told that what they see and the dogma they hear is reality. The captors do not stand a chance.

t1nick 8 Nov 25
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11 comments

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An interesting and, I think, valid application of Plato's Cave allegory. Plato himself placed his faith in philosopher-kings, not priests or poets.

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Plato's cave is simply a warning that unless you are able to freely access all information you can be fooled from birth into believing what you are allowed to perceive is the normal and is all there is.
It is a allegory these days better summed up in the adage that the best form of maintaining government control is the so called Mushroom method ...keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit.

Modern electronic communications and wide spread dissemination of knowledge has largely put an end to this, except for those poor souls so accustomed to their shackles and the darkness of cave that they prefer not to turn around and look outside. The blissfully and willfully ignorant.

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Our perception of reality is just an illusion, and I think the illusion is less real than a shadow world—it is a total fabrication created in our thoughts. Underlying reality is of a different order of existence and can not be understood in terms of the space/time/objects model. There is no location, no objects, no causation, no motion except in our minds.

Those people in the cave are captives of limited perception. A few people throughout history have had glimmers of ultimate reality beyond, and their insights have sparked religion, science, art and philosophy.

@t1nick

“But it's not some ethereal secret of an unknown force or altered reality. Simply a special person with the acumen to understand what was before him/her andmove forward with it.”

I was not meaning to imply such a thing, that special advanced people learn some ethereal secret. But flashes of insight come from somewhere, and those flashes would not come except for deep conscious awareness, a phenomenon of profound mystery.

Einstein has this to say:

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.”

I am curious . .do you hold fast to this
"Our perception of reality is just an illusion, and I think the illusion is less real than a shadow world"
When crossing a congested roadway?
When deciding to leave your house by the door or third floor window?
When deciding to eat food (if it is an illusion why bother right?)

You are as faithful to your idea of Maya as most are to deities.

@Davesnothere I’m not saying there’s no underlying reality. To survive we have to follow the rules and methods that we have. If you are playing chess you have to obey the rules and watch your moves or you’ll get killed quickly. But we know that chess is an arbitrary reality. In our daily lives, what we experience are symbolic icons only. A map of Texas is not Texas.

In moments of contemplation we can enjoy the luxury of metaphysics, but there’s not time for such thoughts normally.

Donald Hoffman explains it well IMO.

@WilliamFleming I think illusion is a very poor choice of term for that, as it lends it the credence of being completely false, which could not be true or we would not be talking at all, we would never have survived the evolutionary process.

I do not see that same data the same way, at all. YES, we are all living in the presentation of our minds, what data it gets from the environment is rendered to our mind as perceptions. That does not make the perceptons mirages, or illusions. It makes it a model, a highly functional model of our environment.

This whole line of thought seems like a deepity to me.

@Davesnothere I had to look up “deepity” 🙂

Maybe “illusion” is not the best word, but I really don’t think that our perception is a model of reality. According to physics reality is made out of quantum fields. Have you ever seen a quantum field?

Hoffman uses the analogy of a computer screen desktop. Click on an icon and certain things will happen, but the icons are not models of anything. The icon for agnostic.com is a stylish, flowing “A” that looks like a University of Alabama insignia. Agnostic.com itself is an online forum that looks nothing like that symbol, and is in a totally different and higher order of existence.

@WilliamFleming " According to physics reality is made out of quantum fields. Have you ever seen a quantum field?"
The same is true of Molecular reality, atomic reality, and sub atomic reality. Since we evolved to survive IN this reality, what was of benefit to see and survive evolved.
Simply because we cannot sit here and see the globe does not mean the world is flat, because we cannot see germs does not mean they do not exist, or worse "nothing else is real at all".

A model is not an illusion, an illusion is like a mirage, a FALSE appearance. I would not call our model false, or we would never have survived.
It is an incomplete Model, for if we could see the quantum, we would have likely been eaten by Lions while distracted by the awe of that.

Icons are symbols. They are not tangible things but representations of a program. In our reality Lions have teeth, if those were an "illusion" Lions would starve. I do not think that makes Quantm reality "valid, true and real" and gross material reality therefore an Illusion.

It means we only percieve a part of reality, and that imperfectly.

Imagine inverting that Idea. A person who only sees the quantum, but not gross reality. Would they not be in an institution screaminng "I'm not insane! You are all blind!"

@WilliamFleming Perhaps you and I are both standing outside the cave, but looking in different caves from that psoition, and disagreeing on what we see?

@Davesnothere A model is not an illusion unless you mistake the model for reality. How many people realize that the world they perceive is nothing but imaginary symbolism?

You say that icons are not “things”, but according to physics, the concept of a thing is merely a convenience of thought that helps us survive. Particles of matter turn out not to be things but interactions. Space as we think of it is only a mode of thought. Time doesn’t exist at all.

The imagining of symbolic icons is the very reason that we are able to survive. Our sense-world is imaginary, and if you take the images to be real you are deluded.

“As Wheeler put it, “No space. No time. Heaven did not hand down the word ‘time’. Man invented it. . . . If there are problems with the concept of time, they are of our own creation . . . as Einstein put it ‘Time and space are modes by which we think, and not conditions in which we live.’ ”30”

— The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes by Donald Hoffman
[a.co]

@WilliamFleming "You say that icons are not “things”, but according to physics, the concept of a thing is merely a convenience of thought that helps us survive."

I see two realities in our shared reality
Conceptual reality (the land of dreams and imagination)
and
Practical reality (the physical, tactile reality we can present)

All things exist in conceptual reality, dragons, faries, Gods of all sorts, intergalactic ship and jedi.
They do not exist in practical reality, there is no evidence for them.

It seems to me that you have conflated one with the other to some extent. If it was complete you would be dead, because you would disallow our models as illusion.

This whole mode of thought seems to me a big wish think, where the idea of things being grander, somehow connected, somehow eternal via conciousness is the hope, for which these notions seem to you to hold water.

They do not to me.

It makes me wonder if your inputing a value you want into the data you see, because you like that idea.

@Davesnothere I don’t think I am doing any such thing. (Of course if I thought that was what I was doing I would quit) 🙂

All I’m doing is quoting scientific opinion and proven facts, accepted by physicists since the days of Faraday and Maxwell. Your practical reality is good and useful for survival, but just a small amount of contemplation reveals it to be an imagined world divorced from ultimate reality. Such things as fairies, dragons, etc. are even farther removed from reality, being only dreams of dreams.

Something is being detected, but it is radically unlike what we imagine, and its nature is beyond our wildest dreams.

@WilliamFleming This what I am on about friend
" just a small amount of contemplation reveals it to be an imagined world divorced from ultimate reality."

Exactly what is ultimate reality? A scientific unknown, or your ideas from hinduism?
Why do you assume there is an "ultimate" reality rather than just a reality?
"Something is being detected, but it is radically unlike what we imagine, and its nature is beyond our wildest dreams."
SO?

Because we have discovered Quantum, dark matter, dark energy . . .SO What? WHY does that imply an "ULTIMATE" at all. As we sit here we do not see many spectrums of light, but we survive because we do not need to see them to survive.

MORE evidence for anything does not indicate any "ultimate"
That is a philosophical idea, that if there is less there must be more, and if there is more there must be a set of all. Which we cannot now percieve, nor do we need to to survive.

So what is the actual value of such a line of reasoning other than how it makes you feel about reality?

Why asssume ultimate equals better? If ultimate is totality, complete, and we could see it, we would be blinded by ultraviolet and see less.

So I fail to see why you assume some ultimate, which is both more complete and better than how we percieve now.

@Davesnothere

“Exactly what is ultimate reality? A scientific unknown, or your ideas from hinduism?
Why do you assume there is an "ultimate" reality rather than just a reality?
"Something is being detected, but it is radically unlike what we imagine, and its nature is beyond our wildest dreams."
SO?“

It sounds like we agree. You are absolutely correct—there’s only reality itself and the “ultimate” label is redundant. The aspect of reality that is NOT ultimate is only an illusional dream-like world of symbolic icons. SO?...If we agree on that why are we arguing?

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.” Albert Einstein

@WilliamFleming "It sounds like we agree. You are absolutely correct—there’s only reality itself and the “ultimate” label is redundant. The aspect of reality that is NOT ultimate is only an illusional dream-like world of symbolic icons. SO?...If we agree on that why are we arguing?"

LINGUISTICS -- the ever changing nature of words, both as to a definition and as to how they are used, the same reason we spend so damn long on terms in every Philosophical conversation. The way you presented your arguement made it seem to me other than how you intended it.

and were off . . .🙂

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Read The Republic in college.
Haven't heard the interpretation that religion is the cave. It can fit in our modern times.
For me, I always thought The Matrix was a good modern day Cave allegory where humanity is born into a world of false images and perceptions with no idea of true reality.

I saw the Cave as a metaphor not only for religion, but for society.

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Interesting story... Sort of like the blind men all touching a different part of an elephant...

@t1nick Similar, not the same. In the elephant tale it is their blindness and the size of the elephant which causes confusion.
Thus it is a metaphor both for humans and socities lacking the full breadth of knowledge to make a truly sound judgement on reality.
In the Cave, it is society which teaches the youth to stay in the cave and watch the moving pictures, and it is only those who question society, who think critically, that are able to remove the chains and leave the cave (Society), and thereby see beyond society to the wider reality of the world.

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Here we have the first formulation of the morality of altruism as Plato described it. Next step is to read Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas where they discovered the road to reason.

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A timeless and ingenious piece of work. A favorite.

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Two areas of indoctrinating youth occur. One is religion, the other is nationalism.
The effects you describe are relevant to both.
PS with theist states, you cop both as intertwined.

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Wikipedia -- Allegory Of The Cave
[en.m.wikipedia.org]

I have to admit. I've seen it but never paid much attention to it. Here is the wiki take.

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And yet , here we are , on Agnostic.com ., because , somehow , what we've been shown and taught , just doesn't ring true .

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