The prisoners can only see straight ahead to the projected images on the wall created by the puppeteers who interpose shapes between the fire and the wall.
Plato’s idea was to expose how most of us live life – as prisoners – dedicating our lives to pursuing shadows (things like status, wealth, etc.) instead of opting to seek wisdom and enlightenment.
He goes on to say how the prisoners become so comfortable in their ignorance and are willing to kill anyone who interferes with their ‘reality’.
It is a sobering tale and one worth further inspection. Googling will produce photos. showing other’s depictions of the cave and the plight of one who ascended from the cave and ventured into the ‘real’ world of sunshine and how he coped with his new surroundings.
What about us? The things we spend our time on everyday, are they merely shadows in a room of secondary light? A sub-level reality we experience as the highest available?
Are we, too, willing to take up arms to defend our reality?
He also separated the world into two factions; the intelligible and the visible. The visible can be understood by our senses. The intelligible can only be understood by our minds.
Closing thought . . .
Could the prisoners have ever conceived thoughts about; them being the shadows? a greater abstraction than what they were experiencing? a higher life for themselves?
They could not, because their life is about the visible only. The visible – only.
There are unknown lands of silence and solitude which, when permitted, erase the visible and allow the intelligible and the Infinite room to roam.