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Being Enlightened about Enlightenment (Essay Sample)


An analysis of plato's allegory of cave through enlightment perspective


Enlightenment is argued as a process by which the goals of education are realized. This definition acknowledges the reality that the human in his or her natural state is deprived of certain levels of knowledge. Enlightenment is defined as the effort of one to think for him or herself. Teachers and philosophers have always strived to remind humanity of these realities. These are the roles taken up by personalities such as Plato and Dave Eggers. Interestingly, allegory has across history been a popular medium through which wisdom is relayed. As a result, Plato’s “allegory of the cave” and Eggers’ “After I Was Thrown in the River and Before I Drowned” sufficiently in distinct forms describe the process of enlightenment. Their distinct analogies commonly highlight various aspects of enlightenment.
Discourses are replete with claims that people are comfortable in mediocrity. One of the aspects highlighted by both works is the fact that people are always reluctant to exit their comfort zones to embrace the higher states of existence. Plato represents the presumption through the cave men’s reluctance to share in the experiences of their counterpart who had ascended from the cave and returned, “ and if anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender and they would put him to death” (Jowett 3). The characterization of the teacher as the offender and his subsequent murder hyperbolically depicts the level of reluctance exhibited by the unenlightened. The reluctance is further represented by the cavemen who do not gloom over their depravity but rather engage in contests within the cave.
Individuals who can explain the shadows better than their contemporaries are bestowed with honors. Thus, unenlightened persons can live somewhat fulfilled lives without ever reaching enlightenment. Moreover, they look upon the enlightened with contempt. It is this category that Eggers symbolizes with squirrels. They have no wish to engage in the race and the subsequent jump over the river. Instead, they relish mocking the failures and they seek every possible means to criticize the successes. They respectively make remarks such as, “it makes me laugh that she did not make it across the gap” and “he did not land as well as I wanted him to” (Eggers 2). At worst, they get sadistic with comments such as, “I am very happy that he fell and seems to be in pain.” Steve expresses his frustration with the squirrels because they are simply pessimistic. They would neither leave the arena nor participate in the race to see just how they would fare. Thus, people are depicted as not only comfortable in mediocrity but also loath the enlightenment process.
Enlightenment candidates must pursue higher states of consciousness. One of Plato’s major philosophical assumptions is that knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student. He castigates professors that say “they can put knowledge into the soul which was not there before” (Jowett 3). He instead argues that education occurs when the mind of the student is directed towards the path of knowledge and allowed to embrace the journey. While the caveman has to walk out of the cave, the dog and the squirrel have to join the race. In this context, the analogies confirm Plato’s philosophical assumption. Both works encourage a conscious endeavor for enlightenment. Given that it has already been highlighted that the depraved state of humans is reluctant to enlightenment, it takes a lot of persuasion to initiate the process and sustain it.
The enlightened specifically have the duty to urge and guide the depraved humans into enlightenment. It is for this reason that Plato asserts that, “they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the cave and partake of their labors and honors” to persuade them into the path of knowledge (Jowett 4). On the other hand, Eggers demonstrates Steve’s desire to have the squirrels on the race. Steve remarks, “I wanted the squirrels to jump and be happy as we dogs were” (Eggers 5). Moreover, it is illustrated that the process is just as gratifying as the end state of enlightenment. Steve argues that “the running and jumping feels so good even when we don’t win or fall into the gap” (Eggers 2). Thus, the pursuit of knowledge is not only a prerequisite of enlightenment but also nourishing.
Transcendence is an intense process because as much as enlightenment is a desirable state, the transition is not all pleasurable. When the caveman walks out of the cave, he can barely look at the strong light rays primarily because his eyes are not accustomed to it. Plato persistently alludes to coercion in the entire process of transcendence, “and if he is compelled to look straight at the light” (Jowett 2). By these analogies, Plato illustrates the trauma of disillusionment and the struggle to be unshackled from cultural norms and conditioning. In some sense, the candidate of enlightenment has to surrender former achievements of which he had gloried in the lower plane of existence. Thus, the individual has to be prepared for these circumstances. Similarly, Eggers presents a wide spectrum of potentials who in one way or another fail to endure the full duration of transcendence. While Susan loses a limb in the race, Franklin is stopped on his track by his observation of the rising water currents.
Various stages exist in the process of transcendence. Thus, it is probable fo

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