Global Ethics Network – Plato’s Cave

Plato’s Cave in Politeia VII

The image of Plato’s cave in Book Seven of Politeia can be considered from different aspects.
But in relation to ethics, is may be said how we have to be educated and come out little by little from our darkness in order to see the things as they are.

Hi Mostafa,

For me the image is quite different.

From my perspective, it is clear that we only ever get to deal with the shadows on the wall of the cave. It seems now beyond any reasonable doubt that the systems that give rise to the qualia of our experience are a set of hardware and software systems within our brain and sensory apparatus that deliver a software model of reality that is all we can ever experience. In this sense, we are always within the cave of our model, and have no other possible connection to the reality of existence that we seem to be a subset of.

At another level, within that, it seems that ethics is an approximation of something. And like Nietzsche’s ladder, is a tool that one needs to use to get oneself some-place, and one can then discard it (as once one embraces both freedom, and the necessary respect for all other sapient life that our own self interest and security demands of us, then all ethical formulations become redundant).

And yes, acceptance of ethics is a necessary early phase upon that journey.

[followed by]

Hi Al,


Just because our perceptions are locked within the cave, does not mean that our actions are restricted to the cave. It seems that we can only perceive within the cave (in the purely metaphorical sense), and we can act beyond it, and the only measures we have of the effectiveness of those actions are from the shadows on the wall. It seems that the cave is our perceptual/experiential world (constructed by the hardware and subconscious software of brain/mind), yet our bodies exist in the “real” world beyond.

And yes, we can enhance our future experience in two major domains, by many (potentially infinite) classes of methods.

One domain is the cave, the way we construct and influence the experiential world our brains construct for us, techniques of observation, meditation, awareness, conceptual tools at potentially infinitely recursive levels, etc.

The other domain being how we influence what is actually existent (and throwing the shadows on the wall of our cave) by our actions in reality. Again, infinite classes of tools at both physical and intellectual levels to empower us in doing so.

It seems to me that one of the most powerful of tools is understanding evolution.

When viewed from a systems perspective, it is true to say that all major advances in the complexity of evolved systems are characterised by the emergence and stabilisation of new levels of cooperation (with attendant strategies that mitigate systemic cheating).

It seems clear to me that it is time for humanity to go beyond the competitive values of the market place and money, and into a new era of universal abundance based on cooperation empowered by advanced automated technology that frees humanity from any need to produce anything (the automated machines produce all goods and services that are essential {including their own production and maintenance}) and thus create an environment where human beings are as free as possible from low level survival concerns, and can freely engage in whatever activity they responsibly choose (where responsibility in this sense involves reasonable levels of mitigation of all risks to the life and liberty of others).

And it seems that it will always be true that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance – at all levels.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) with reasonable security, tools, resources and degrees of freedom, and reasonable examples of the natural environment; and that is going to demand responsibility from all of us - see
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