Plato And Patricia King 2000 years ago, Plato, one of the forefathers of Western civilization, materialized the foundational ideas on reflective thinking in the “Allegory of the Cave”, which stemmed from the “Republic.” In his essay, he symbolically shows the stages and value of reaching a higher level of thinking. Being able to reflectively think is so important, it is still being discussed in our modern times. In the essay “How do we know? Why do we Believe?”, by Patricia King, the stages of thinking are outlined in order to help educators better teach critical thinking. She describes how people process information and arrive at conclusions. Her aspirations for the essay are to help people move from pre-reflective thinking to reflective. Kings thinking stages are symbolically represented in Platos essay.
This connection shows how after thousands of years, reflective thinking is still needed in our societies. In the “Allegory of the Cave” from the Republic, Plato describes a situation about men chained to the walls of a cave. The men are shown nothing but shadows from puppets, consequently they believe it to be reality. When they hear voices, they have no doubt those come from the shadows too. Plato then asks, what would happen if one of the men was released and shown real objects outside the cave? Would he trust them as real or would he think they were illusions too? After his eyes grow accustomed to the light and he understood the seasons of the Earth, would he want to return to the cave? Plato then inquires, if the man were to venture back in the cave and tell his peers that the shadows were illusions, would they just say the mans eyes were destroyed by whatever he saw outside the cave? And even possibly try to kill him? In Platos story, he symbolizes the stages of thinking very well.
The man released from the cave goes through developmental stages which are profiled in Kings essay. Throughout Platos and Kings essay, both continually show the need for teachers or in Platos case, authority figures. Kings essay can very well be used to explain Platos. A correlation amongst essays written thousands of years apart shows an overwhelming importance with reflective thinking in societies. This higher thinking is clearly shown to be needed in order for civilizations to survive.
King outlines the different stages in thinking, which in-turn correspond to Platos essay. Stage one and two of Kings outline are, “characterized by the assumption that knowledge is gained through direct, personal observation or through the word of an authority figure..”(section 11) This quote clearly pertains to the men believing the caves shadows were reality. They think what they see, in other words their personal observations, must be true. Whatever is illuminating the shadows can be seen as the mens authority figures. If this light show is all they have known for their whole lives, they will be convinced it is real. In Platos essay, authority figures play a major role in the lives of the men in the caves and the development of their thought processes.
Kings whole essay is directed at teachers being able to understand and help their students reach a higher level of thinking. King and Plato, though 2000 years apart, similarly agree on the necessity of teachers. King describes stage three as answers exist, but are temporarily inaccessible. This stage is reflected when the man is being dragged out of the cave and his eyes are hurt by the light. While his eyes are adjusting to the light, he knows answers are out there, but at the moment he cannot see and understand them.
The pain in his eyes makes him want to turn back. The pain represents unfamiliarity, which like pain makes him want discontinue the journey. If there wasnt an authority figure present, the man would probably turn back. In Kings essay, when a student reaches the unfamiliarity stage, the teacher has to keep assisting the student in further development. Stage four is where, “Evidence emerges as an important ingredient in the construction of knowledge claims, along with the acknowledgment that the evidence itself cannot be known with absolute certainty.”(section13) The man released from the cave discovers a whole new world outside. His eyes adjust to the sunlight, and he is able to make out images of men, the sun, the moon, and even the stars. He begins to understand natures seasons by observing the environment.
He now understands that what he saw before had nothing to do with the real world. Therefore, he now looks for evidence when drawing conclusions. He doesnt just assume everything that he can see is real. By the man now understanding that evidence must play a key role in decision making, he has actually become a reflective thinker. After he has seen the outside world, he wants to venture back to the cave and teach his old friends of the new life and how what they are seeing is not reality.
Plato and King both stress the importance of authority figures, and who else can teach reflective thinking than someone who personally uses the method? The man has now become a teacher, by venturing back into the cave he is playing his role as an authority figure or as King would say, an educator. Platos line, “one who has been drag[ged]..away forcibly up the steep and rugged ascent and..hauled out into the sunlight,”(section19) is someone who has achieved a higher vision of thinking. King would agree with the quote in another sense. King would agree, people need guidance in order to reach reflective thinking. She wouldnt say people need to be dragged to a higher level, but guided.
Since the two essays are only symbolic to each other, guided and dragged have virtually the same meaning. The prisoner who was released would have never discovered his newly found way of thinking if he was not dragged out of the cave. Kings model is directed at educators to help guide students to the light. This concept of people needing to be guided to the light shows how advanced Platos thoughts were for his time. Platos intentions with his essay was to show that reflective thinkers were needed to rule their society.
Plato theorized that select individuals would be taught the methods of reflective thinking and then appointed to high ranking governmental positions. That was 2000 years ago, and the constitution among other things would not allow that sort of government today. King is proposing that all teachers educate all the students with the higher form of thinking. She theorizes that everyone is going to have some sort of position in life where reflective thinking would benefit. If Plato were around today, he would more than likely side with King. Both writers stress the vital role that the authority figure plays in the subjects and students lives. The reflective thinkers are the people who are needed to educate society.
The times have defiantly changed, but the need for the higher forms of thinking amongst society has not.