Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” found in his seminal work, “The Republic” (circa fourth century B.C.) raises intriguing concepts that call to question whether ignorance is bliss.
In the analogy, the Greek Athenian philosopher Socrates questions the state of men who are shielded from reality most of their lives. The stage is set: men chained to a wall as fire at their backs casts shadows that show their sole connection to the outside world.
How sad it is.
They know nothing of the sun, moon or stars. The shadows they see are as real as anyone or anything we’d perceive, as they can’t grasp the mere concept of shadows. They’re oblivious to the larger world around them. They’re ignorant — but not willfully so.
Is it any wonder why college professors still teach this literary work in language arts and philosophy classes?
First, the story, of course, shouldn’t be taken literally. Like any allegory, events and concepts in Plato’s tale represent ideas open to interpretation.
Second, carefully studying the story evokes contemporary examples of institutional ignorance.
Again, the cave dwellers are not willfully ignorant; the institution simply has made it this way. After all, why are the men chained to a wall? Why aren’t they allowed to see the sun and enjoy all of creation?
What is the purpose of this restriction?
So, too, we ask of banning books. (See “Library celebrates freedom to read.") What is the purpose of this restriction?
Libraries are an abundant resource of diverse literary works, texts and concepts. In a free society, banning certain books from library shelves is no different from eternally chaining unwitting ignoramuses to a wall.
Though there is no meaningful purpose for either case, the effect in both instances is the same: the few who break free from their chains — those who gain access to the prohibited books some other way — will advance light years beyond those shackled, those shielded from certain literary works, texts and ideas.
Libraries shouldn’t ban books because despite the economic differences that set us and our education backgrounds apart, they are the place, especially in Crestview, where we all can come together and truly be equal.
However, that equality depends on equal access to the same literary works, texts and concepts.
Thomas Boni is the Editor of the Crestview News Bulletin.
Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @cnbeditor, or call 682-6524.
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