Praise to the Cave

Praise to the Cave: Will we accept fiction as the edge and border of these things ours – How does one value what they can sense?

 Has Plato been fair to the Cave? He made the immemorial shelter of the prime human into the allegory of illusion. He made the first outlines of human art, the vestiges of wall painting, these hands that move us so, born as a mould or a bas relief, hollow or full, this animal farandole, ochre and black, all of this, into the worst dependancy, within which the very world is replaced by a projection of nonexistences.

 In these caves, decorated with our prehistory, shamans may very well have been playing around with the light from a fire, with the shape of the rock, with the dance of shadows and all their suggestions. I may concede that it is them who thus invented the worst form of ontological lie, which one can find rendered in any religion, or in any show, even now, in plays or films.

 Let us admit that these plays on words, on shapes and on lightings could have been the crucible and birthplace of fiction. Will we eternally blame falsehood for being like a lying shadow of what is real and true? Will we instead accept fiction to be the edge and border of these things ours? Science opposes truth to falsehood in the same way Epicurus opposes atoms to vacuum. But any thing radiates and beams. It is, as am I, filled with every possible story. What could its purpose be, and what could I do myself, were I not surrounded at all times by a thousand possible tales about its purpose and my actions, which are bound by another thousand tales none of which is real, but who are all possible? Leave the thing be along with its shadowplay, my scenarios and its legends. Its mythology is my freedom.

 (Traduit du français par Paul Aupetitgendre.)


37 thoughts on “Praise to the Cave

  1. Amen, Jean-Paul! I, too, have been suspicious of Plato’s condemnation of the cave. You lyrical prose here expresses what I have long wished to articulate.

    And thank you very kindly for your “like” on my poetry blog. I’m grateful that it led me back here to discover your poems and your ecrits philosophiques. I will be back–with my French-English dictionary–to spend more time!


  2. Ah, the cave, the womb, the radiating out of infinite possibilities, past, future, spiralling like smoke rings outward, diffused into everything else, until poof, all that remains is now. One giant fractal reaching through and outward into everything else, hoop upon hoop upon hoop . . . . when you dance within circles and with circles, juggling within and without, eventually the loops all disappear and what remains is flow. Even the cave can flow and grow, morphing from one to the next and the next, rendering new pathways as we experience the world, shifting the paradigm all ways.
    Nice post 🙂


  3. In dreams, the solitary cave of our own minds, experiences shared by no one, a reality without consensus. Visions born of deprivation, of hallucination, ancient neural patterning, technicolor waveforms saturating the ethereal planes, illuminating a corner of separate experience. The attempt to express the depths and color available in word and gesture is meager in comparison to the expanse and depth of such a journey. Pulled from the archetypes and memories and vagaries of collective life, exquisite in its intimacy. Where hopes and fears and ancestors merge and meaning flickers shadows at the edge of understanding. We face our own internal reference points, the legends we create of mother and father and all the realms of other that have been woven into ourselves, giants and monsters and ghosts all.


  4. Our minds are the caves where reality is forever being translated into illusion. Our world a myriad of abstract shapes forming and reforming our ideas about existence. Your words inspire.


  5. This is a very different and beautiful perspective on Plato’s Cave. From a negative commentary on the limits of a shadow world you’ve transformed it into one of hope, imagination, and possibility!


  6. Love your cave post. It has particular meaning for me as years ago I disagreed with someone who believed that we must come into the light out of the cave. At the time I thought, why do we consider the cave less good then anything else? As in the wonderful Zen idea that a broken cup is no less perfect than one that isn’t broken. But I like your take as well–fiction as real! Wish you had some more translated…


  7. Realist versus constructionist?

    Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre versus structuralist anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss?

    Whatever the Cave could have taught us about the ontological nature of life and existence, I feel that the pace of social change and the increasing human population have caused everything to be cramped out of existence and to recede into the past, into oblivion, into historical junkyards. It would seem that even authors have to build in obsolescence in their stories and characters.

    “Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished, masterpiece”, according to Kush.

    Thank you for a very good take and dissection on the Cave as an allegory. Your thoughts and philosophical ponderings are appreciated by SoundEagle.


  8. This is really interesting – and has made me curious to go and do some more thinking about Plato and his attitudes to art. Thank you for writing, and also for reading my poetry blog. I’ll be back to explore further another time. Cheers! 🙂


  9. I understand your point; the imagination leads to wonders. However the mind only has the unlimited possibilities of the imagination if it had some stimulous to begin with, as an artist his muse. If our venerable ancestors had experienced nothing prior to the cave, seen nothing prior to the shadows on the wall, then would that not limit what they could imagine? I pity those poor creatures in any event.


  10. Its mythology IS our freedom! Getting lost or trapped in these ‘stories’ you mention may be the way of most people, but the truly creative thinker defies them; questions them.
    Further, perhaps the reason so many people fall victim to lies is because the truth is so very frightening. Yet if we examine the actual truth of our existence, it is a miracle! Truly. And yes, we all die. Or at least our bodies do. Why run away from what is inevitable? Why not instead enjoy to the full, explore to the full, while we are here?


  11. What is real and true? We might want to ask… What we see is not the object but the shadows and the light that reflects, transmits, refracts, from it and the objects around. Science does try to find the truth, but we still have questions, there is uncertainty, etc. Some of the answers we find through physics are simply a probabilistic answer, not a deterministic one… Thank you for a thought provoking article. I enjoyed reading it and the thoughts it evoked in me.


  12. “Leave the thing be along with its shadowplay, my scenarios and its legends. Its mythology is my freedom.” This along with this border region of which you speak, this scintillating boundary, this effervescent landscape of myriad intersections, is exactly where I try to be when I create. I have been working on a “formulation” of these ideas for some time and your words have helped in that regard.
    Thank You!


  13. I too have been pondering about Plato’s vision and “The Cave”. I am currently finishing up Sophie’s World from Jostein Gaarder, and I am amazed at this wonderful novel about Philosophy. It has definitely opened my eyes to many things, as well made me understand what I already in a sense knew. Keep up the good work and I cannot wait to read more. Thank you for your writings.


  14. It is exciting for me to have found the blog of a kindred spirit. A request: might I please quote this essay on the Cave as an introduction to further reflection? What I love about Philosophy is that there are so many windows looking into the same room, into the same cave. I would like to share my glimpse of this rich metaphor.


  15. Isn’t this what existentialists were saying in general? The cave is trusting our instincts, our senses, and denying that the cave is of any importance (as plato does) is basically searching for the ideal which is beyond human experience because it is, well, an ideal, a form. Existentialists defended our perceptions, because what you perceive as the truth must at least vaguely already be a part of the truth.


votre réponse:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s