Of all Plato's memorable images, the Cave is the most compelling, and it is possibly ‘the most famous metaphor in the history of philosophy’. However, it remains a challenge for philosophical scholarship, given that a determinate interpretation has eluded commentators. This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the Cave's place in the developing argument of the Republic, and the interpretation of the image Socrates supplies in order to explain the way it contributes to that argument. This is followed by a longer section on the Cave as actually narrated. The chapter then offers some brief concluding reflections: on why Plato may have decided to combine two such very different projects, and on how his instructions for rereading nonetheless leave them different. The goal is to liberate readers of Plato from the tyranny of thinking they have to find significance simultaneously ethical and mathematical in every detail of the Cave narrative, harnessed to just one overarching interpretation.
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