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American Association of Philosophy Teachers Studies in Pedagogy

Volume 2, 2016

Teaching Plato

Audrey L. Anton
Pages 143-166
DOI: 10.5840/aaptstudies201741322

Teaching Plato’s Cave through Your Students’ Past Experiences

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is both a staple in the philosopher’s diet and the lesson that is often difficult to digest. In this paper, I describe one way to teach the Sun, Line, and Cave analogies in reference to students’ personal past experiences. After first learning about Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology through reading Republic VI-VII, students are asked to reflect upon a time in their lives when they emerged from a particular “cave of ignorance.” In reflecting on this experience, students are encouraged to consider how each aspect of the line analogy might be represented in their own experience. Students also consider the epistemological experience turning towards that which is more real. In so doing, students gain a deeper understanding of these lessons by connecting new, abstract, and difficult information (Plato’s Theory of Forms) to information that is so familiar, it is remembered and not merely imagined. Putting Plato’s theories into the context of their own learning experiences facilitates students’ comprehension of the different levels of being and cognition, their interrelation, and the psychological process of increasing understanding.