Plato’s Cave

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Dear old Plato! Irreplaceable watchdog on the edge of the cold and logic world of western civilization. He ensures good guardian of the threshold. He protects us from all craziness, all excess and all delusions.

He is the flagship of the reason that dispels the darkness of ignorance and superstition. He is the last bulwark against the barbarians. Barbarian ie non-Greeks. Or non-Athenians as Plato cherished his noble origin. When I studied philosophy, I was persuaded that ancient Greece was the origin of the current Western civilization. I believed all the more readily that my love for Greek works of art and thought is eternal, like them.

Moreover I have read Nietzsche, two wonderful booklets The Birth of Tragedy and The birth of philosophy, dedicated to ancient Greece. If I admired some wise Greeks, I did not show, it was understood, a great affection for Plato that I found pretty boring overall. Less stupid than Descartes, less rigid than Kant, but less exciting than Heraclitus and Nietzsche.

This guy, taken for a great man, a Pharaoh of wisdom, this brave Plato did not understand everything he said.

Take the myth of the cave.

 

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How many students have faded on this damn myth, as many as the Pythagorean Theorem. I ‘m glad to avenge them. Plato tells us that life is like a cave in which we are backed by a wall, facing another wall where we see people and things that we take for real life.

But these beings, these things are only reflections, projections of real beings behind our backs, out of the cave, in a luminous ether, the world of pure ideas.

As we can not see them, we look at their pale reflections in front of us and we are satisified. But they elected, authentic beings are basking in the light of the bizarre world that Plato, lyrical, baptized pronto Heaven of Intelligibles. Funny parable which complicates more than it illuminates. What does it really mean? Plato tells the myth of the cave to make us understand that we live in a world of illusion. But we have a hard head and we still do not believe 2500 years later.

That’s roughly the framework on which our teachers of philosophy made us work. This story of reflections on a wall, this heaven of intelligible where are the pure and real forms, while those that we see … What a shock! I was looking at two images from two different files : an engraving depicting the myth of the cave and a much more recent diagram showing the optical principle of the camera obscura or dark room. As chance – that does not exist – does things !

 

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Both drawings were describing the same phenomenon. The dark cave of Plato is a darkroom. A camera. The philosopher tells us teaching he has received, among druids of Keltia or Chaldean Magi, teaching that he did not understand. While his teacher was trying to describe to him the optical principle of the camera, Plato heard metaphysical teaching. Precisely the darkroom of the camera makes it possible to capture the reflect of the true picture, lighted to this effect.

The description of the cave reproduced point by point that of a darkroom from the early days of photography. If Plato had understood what his teacher was talking about, he would have prevented generations of students the drag to review an error. If Plato had been a little more attentive, photography would have been invented shortly after and history would have been radically changed. If Plato have had the mind of a Nikola Tesla, he would have invented himself, thus depriving Nicephore Niepce and William H. Fox of the fun to claim the invention.

Alas, Plato was not a manual or a professional engineer. He did not invent anything, nor anyone after him, because he failed a detail that had seemed unimportant: the image which is projected on the wall before us is certainly faithful to the original, but it is reversed . This is exactly what happens in our eyes, which are probably the first model of darkroom. It is our brain that puts the image in the right direction. Decidedly technical and optical was not the chosen field of the Athenian philosopher.

Dear old Plato was also, despite his serious, prone to distractions, about the size of Atlantis for instance. He still has the great merit of speaking of Atlantis, summarizing the sacred function of Greece: pass the torch of a very old and very wise civilization, the Atlantean empire.

 
What one man calls God, another calls the laws of physics. (Nikola Tesla)

 
 
What one man calls God, another calls the laws of physics.
Nikola Tesla