Excerpt 1: From Book VII of by Plato

[Socrates is speaking with Glaucon.]

You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.

In this lesson, we pair her essay with Plato’s well-known allegory of the cave from Further down, we offer additional teaching ideas for exploring Plato’s allegory in more detail.

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?

The allegory continues until these lines:

Hence, the presumption is an empirical one consisting of two parts: A, that there is a category of persons who are ordinary persons; B, that the characteristics of every ordinary person are identical to the characteristics of the proponent (Plato etc).

To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.

Excerpt 2: From  by Peg O’Connor, 2012


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Those who do make it out of the cave and manage never to relapse again are few and far between. They know just how precarious their sobriety is and what they need to do to maintain it. People with long-term sobriety are often the ones who need to go back down into the cave, not as saviors, but for their own survival. People with years of sobriety often say that newcomers help them to stay sober because their pain, loss and confusion are so fresh. Their stories remind old timers of enchained life in the cave. Old timers can share their stories too and in the process show them different ways to be in the world. …

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Others will make it farther out of the cave and have their eyes adjust. They will struggle to stay sober and balanced. So many of their old coping behaviors will not work, and they are faced with a seemingly endless task of learning how to rebuild their emotional lives. Some will stay clean and sober for a good while and later relapse. People relapse for all sorts of reasons, and often these have to do with old patterned ways of thinking and behaving that make a roaring comeback. When people who have had some sobriety relapse and go back to the darkness of the cave, they may be met with derision ― an “I told you so” attitude.

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2. Illustrate the Allegory: After reading Plato’s allegory, students can create a visual representation of the text as a way to both deepen and demonstrate their understanding. Before starting they can watch on the Web, such as this narrated by Orson Welles, this or this . Or, they can look at illustrated depictions of Plato’s allegory, such as . Then they can create their own short film, storyboard or comic depicting Plato’s allegory.

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The brightness of the light can be painful, as many alcoholic or drug dependent people realize once their use stops. Those who drank or used drugs to numb feelings or avoid painful memories may feel defenseless. This is why they will retreat back to the familiar darkness of the cave. Back with their drinking friends, they will find comfort. This is one way to understand relapse.

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4. Explore More Philosophy: Ms. O’Connor’s essay about addiction appeared in , a forum in The Times that features writing about philosophy. Teachers and students alike can uncover other philosophical discussions that relate to contemporary issues or age-old topics, such as religion, and the .