Plato was born 428/427 BCE, Athens, Greece—died 348/347, Athens, and a loyal student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. Plato was raised during the Peloponnesian war and reached adolescence around the time of Sparta’s final defeat on Athens. Unlike Socrates, Plato was of respected Athenian lineage, although, he left his wealth and social respect once he devoted his life to his love of wisdom. Plato was educated in philosophy, poetry and gymnastics, allowing him to become a teacher in these topics. Plato not only became a respected teacher but a major contributor to society, as the founder of the ‘Academy’ which taught and enabled students to explore ideas of beauty, justice and equality, as well as supporting discussions in, political philosophy, aesthetics, cosmology, theology, epistemology and the philosophy of language, Plato’s physical surroundings e.g. nature, architecture-inspired his passion for wisdom in relation to ideas of beauty and aesthetics. Plato’s political context includes his mother Perictione remarrying the politician Pyrilampes after his biological fathers’ death, Pyrilampes work exposed Plato to the political aspects of Athens or political chaos considering the Peloponnesian war and Sparta’s defeat of Athens, this exposure allowed for personal views and beliefs to develop from a young age. Whether his beliefs and teachings were morally correct is a blur without thorough analysis.
Plato believed and supported the common notion occurring in Athens, the exposure of infants, according to Plato if a disadvantaged child does not have the potential to contribute to society they are not worthy of love or a family. The exposure of newborn babies is the act of abandonment during the first week of life (most commonly in regards to baby daughters, as there is no certain economic gain in relation to rearing a daughter, as women were unable to work). This practice was widely used and accepted throughout Athens, it became a form of delayed birth control. Infant exposure was practised on children with physical or mental birth defects, births of illegitimate children (a child is born through the union of unmarried parents) also known as ‘birth out of wedlock’, ‘love child’ or a ‘bastard child’, birth of a baby daughter and being used to discard any unwanted child. For example, a surviving letter from around the year 1BC sent from a husband to his pregnant wife in Egypt – ‘Know that I am still in Alexandria. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered before I come home, if it is a boy keep it; if it is a girl, discard it.’ This letter represents how common exposure truly was to the extent of a child’s death being planned before birth.
The effect/outcome of exposure would have been considered positive, as there were aspects of social pressure in regard to anything less of a healthy, purely formed and ‘normal’ baby would be a disgrace not only to the family of the child but the surrounding communities. The exposure of babies is logically (not morally) justified in the following explanation and evaluation of the Allegory of the Cave.
The Allegory of the cave is one of many famous analogies that Plato constructed to assist others in finding the truth within their lives and personal journeys. What has become known as the Allegory of the cave, is a story that was told at the start of book 7 of his piece ‘The Republic’. The analogy begins with people imprisoned in a cave, the cave dwellers know nothing of the outside world as they are chained down to the cave floor since birth.
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Within the cave, there is no sunlight and the walls are dark and damp. All the prisoners can see, are shadows cast upon a wall by the dim light of a fire, the inhabitants are filled with intrigue when the images of plants, animals, objects and people appear on the wall. The prisoners discuss what they see on the cave wall, and speak of their observations proudly; as they believe the shadows are real. What the prisoners do not realise is that what they talk about so enthusiastically are mere versions of the real object. Soon a prisoner is let out of the cave, the prisoner is quickly exposed to the real world, and witnesses all shadows presented to him/her in the cave but in a different light, as Plato explained this phenomenon ‘Previously he had been looking at merely phantoms; now he is nearer to the true nature of being.’ The former cave-dweller returns back to the cave in hopes of sharing what he has discovered with his fellow prisoners still blinded by error. Once returning back into the cave the enlightened prisoner stumbles and gets confused in his once clear and easy to navigate home, he reaches the remaining dwellers of the cave and attempts to share with them what he has discovered; the prisoners become ignorant, angry and even wants the enlightened prisoner dead.
Plato supported and encouraged the notion of infant exposure. The common practice of exposure that Plato supports degrades the value of human life, although infant exposure is logical and beneficial in reference to an economy and society, it is morally incorrect and contradicts Plato’s respected utopian thought process.
When discussing someone’s worth amounting to what they are able to contribute to society, the use of exposure is logical and may even be considered beneficial. Although, this mindset is according to Plato’s inflated principles, that only the very best people should be born and others that do not reach this standard are flaws in a system, flaws that should be abolished. Basing human worth on contributions to society is inhumane and morally unacceptable. Human value is based on something higher than human standards, human value is based off something absolute, universal and objective For example: through a Christian perspective it is believed everyone is made in the image of God -Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’-(an excerpt from the Bible) God is the higher power in correspondence to the previous passage. Whatever the basis for human value is, the value of an infant being judged in relation to how it affects other humans is an extreme bias.
The Allegory of the Cave is a relevant way of explaining that the majority of modern society is still trapped in a ‘cave’. The Allegory of the Cave represents society and humans before philosophy as the prisoners, as the characteristics of the two are similar almost identical; both are chained down, except one is chained down with ignorance and the fear of anything non-conforming to the learned facts. The prisoners in the cave do not question or challenge the information presented to them; similarly, like modern-day society constantly grooms members to be satisfied with what has been taught. If something challenges the ‘norm’ of society it is considered ‘controversial’ and ‘a topic to be avoided’, when clearly the only way out of the ‘cave’ is to confront controversial topics and beliefs head-on. An example of this in society includes people believing everything presented to them on social media when the truth can be uncovered through research and independent thinking, many choose to remain a slave to media along with its lies. The Allegory of the Cave ultimately explains that humans develop a perception of the world, and how one chooses to receive and process information can change a person’s perception for the better or for the worse.
Overall people’s actions reflect on what they taught if they are taught incorrectly their actions will reflect those errors.