Listen to the sounds in Plato's cave

By Edvin Østergaard

What would you hear if you entered the space that Plato uses in his famous cave allegory? The allegory is renowned for its light and shadow; however, as Plato hints at, there is also sound and echo in the cave. Is the story of the people in the “cavernous cell under the ground” in tune with an audial experience and does an allegory led by sound correspond to the one led by sight?

In a new paper, Echoes and Shadows: A Phenomenological Reconsideration of Plato’s Cave Allegory, I discuss Plato’s narrative of the prisoners in the cave based on phenomenology as practice, that is on me employing my listening skills in the situation described by Plato. An audial experience of the cave as a learning room challenges the conventional understanding of the allegory. With the support of Plato’s allegory, the relation between (visual) object and the object’s shadow has become the Urbild of represented reality. At the same time, a visually oriented culture of ideas repeatedly confirms Plato’s cave allegory as its central metaphor. An elaboration on the sounds in the cave proves to be fruitful in an educational sense. The comparison of sound and sight sharpens the complementarities and differences of audial and visual experiences.

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Published 19. June 2019 - 10:29 - Updated 19. June 2019 - 13:36