Your turn Plato

Last week I showed a picture of one of my clocks which I said was sometimes known as a “Philosopher’s Clock”

It shows the correct time but is a source of confusion to those who look at it and try to read the time.  In other words what you see deceives you, but if you apply knowledge it will tell you the right time.

Plato (428 – 348 BC) the ancient Greek philosopher supported this point of view. We gain knowledge not by sight (which can be deceptive) but by rational thought which is more reliable.

He told an amazing story which we call Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. If you want to read the full story click here to go to my Philosophy Blog where the story is told.

I wanted to do this pictorially some years ago and create a teaching aid.

In the first scene some prisoners are chained up deep in a cave they are looking at shadows on a wall which they believe are real, but in fact are shadows. The same theme is used in the film “The Matrix” where Neo believes he is living in the real world but soon learns from Morpheus that he is living in a shadow world. So I created a matrix image to depict the shadow world of the cave.

Plato then describes how one of the prisoners breaks free. He turns round and sees that behind him has been a wall, a fire and wooden puppets. It was the shadows cast by these puppets that the other prisoners thought were real.  In my collage I needed to use a picture of fire or at least something that represented fire. Eventually I settle on sort of fire crystals.

Next the prisoner begins to climb out of the cave and is heading for the cave mouth. He of course is rather blinded by the stronger light. For my picture I went across to a cave in Kingsdale in Yorkshire, Yordas Cave, which in the late 19th century had been a show cave and photographed the cave mouth both inside and outside.  In order to depict the prisoner’s confusion I copied a technique from the American photographer Chuck Close.

Once out into the air the prisoner is blinded by light and my way of coping with this was to use intentional camera movement. In both cases the eyes will not focus correctly.

Plato ends by saying that once in the open air the now ex-prisoner understands completely and sees everything clearly – “and” he says –“can even look at the sun”.

Photographically that provided quite a challenge. I had several goes to depict the sun and eventually combined an image of a sun flower with a technique from patchwork of layering strips.

Put it together and there you have it – a complete teaching aid on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

By the way, if you fold it along the lines – you can convert the entire thing into a snapdragon!

Descent into trivia once more!

Have a good weekend