Volume 34, Issue 1, Spring 2004
Shades of Truth
Phenomenological Perspectives on the Allegory of the Cave
Plato’s allegory of the cave tells of the soul’s advance from ignorance to knowledge, leaving open the question of what this knowledge is and what its objects are. Heidegger’s 1947 analysis of the allegory is of course just one of many. However, as I argue in this paper, if we read that analysis in the context of Husserlian phenomenology, we find a remarkable congruence between the latter’s process of “eidetic reduction” and the ascent out of the cave. In §1, I lay out the phenomenological concepts relevant to my interpretation of Heidegger’s text. In §2, I apply these to the allegory itself. In §3, I examine Heidegger’s critique of eidetic “truth” in the allegory, arguing that it equally applies to Husserl’s phenomenology. My paper shows both the utility and limits of a “phenomenological” approach to
reading Plato’s theory of forms.