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Leaving the Cave behind.

As a History Instructor at a Community College I have taught Western Civilization many times. I find that as you continue to teach the past, repeating the same events over and over, one transcends the repetition and begins to see the underlying significance of the events, as well as the hidden connections between ideas of the time and the events that inspired them.

Come with me, if you will, to Classical Athens. A city high on itself, a city that is proud of its contribution to repelling the Persians, a city that is certain it is the pinnacle of western civilization, and a city that proclaims to be the the ultimate example of Democracy. But it is a city with major skeletons in its closet. The riches it has achieved are a direct result of corruption and imperialism in every way but name. The statues of perfect human forms, the glamorous public buildings, its mighty Navy, and even the 30 foot walls that now encompass the city, the road to the Athenian harbor, and the harbor itself, are all achieved by imperial tendencies. This is what has prompted the Peloponnesian war and the Spartan siege that lasted nearly uninterrupted for 27 years (431-404 BC). Athens is supplied by sea, its supply lines secured by its mighty fleet, the average Athenian has no reason to ever leave the city. Few want to.

Behind the walls, which Athenians rarely leave for many reasons, the streets are awash with propaganda, rhetoric, and false intellectualism. Sophists are paid money to teach the wealthy how to appear smart without making sense or making any real points. The pepper their sentences with fancy words, they appeal to emotion, they utilize tone of voice, but they have no good, nay NO ideas at all! Then came the one called Socrates.

The little toad-like stone mason whose very appearance amidst the statues of athletic Adonises. This old man invented the dialectic method of philosophical reasoning that bears his name, asking questions, staying on point, and doing one of two things by constantly asking questions: he exposed phonies, or allowed people to come to their own honest conclusion about any matter. Many hated him for exposing their true nature or questioning the comforting untruths that comforted many devout and patriotic Athenians. Yet, some, went so far as to say said he was the wisest man to ever live. When asked what made him wise, the septuagenarian replied "I am wise because I know I am ignorant. Often misunderstood, he would have done better to say "I know what I know for a fact, and I know what I only assume to be true." At 70+ years of age Socrates developed a following of young people who recognized that he offered something different, something real, something that they could believe in amongst the smoke and mirrors show the rest of Athens offered. Truth was Socrates' goal, and truth fell better upon the ears of the young. One of these young men was named Plato.

Athens fell to Spartan forces in 404 after plague and political corruption had sent the idealistic democracy into decay. The walls were torn down, its fleet was burned, and a puppet government of 30 handpicked Athenians, 2 of whom had followed Socrates around in awe. When Athens regained independence in 403 the "30 tyrants" were put to death in a wave of frustration and anger. But that was not enough. They needed another scapegoat, one to blame for the moral and ideological decline of Athens. They went after the old man whom 2 of the tyrants had idolized in their youth. Socrates was accused of impiety, atheism, corrupting the youth, and countless other jumbled allegations. Plato watched in his own frustration as his hero and mentor defended himself with reason and logic in the face empty but emotionally charged rhetoric of his accusers and prosecutors. In the end, Socrates was condemned to die from hemlock. Socrates remained true to Athens and went to his death , even when offered a jailbreak and asylum in a neighboring state.

Plato recounted the events of the Trial in four dialogues; Euthyphro, The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. Collectively they are entitled "The Trial and Death of Socrates." Plato was forever disillusioned with average person, and therefore democracy. Embittered, grieving, frustrating, he abandoned a promising political career and pursued Philosophy. He founded the first university in the West, simply called "the Academy." Opinionated but committed to seeking truth, he taught by using his mentors methods of asking a series of questions unwavering in its aim at the target of truth. Plato became the foundation of Western thinking for centuries along with his dissenting but dedicated student, Aristotle.

Plato is best known, and his beliefs best summed up in "The Allegory of the Cave." A metaphor for enlightenment that inspired "The Matrix" centuries later. Here is an animated movie that sums it up nicely.


I ask you, do you feel this? Do you feel the awe of having left the cave? Was Dr. Paul the Socrates that awoke you from your dogmatic slumber? And do your friends who formerly shared the illusion of the cave see you as a shadow on the wall? I do. It is liberation to see the world outside the cave of the neocons and the Obama apologists, it is frustration to help others see it. Hence 2012. But how many have left the cave in the last four years? I share Plato's frustration and even anger. But unlike Plato, let us not lose faith in our fellow man, let us not lose faith in each other. Let us ban together, accept the minor disagreements in how we vote in 2012. Let us not cease until our city (our nation of the U.S.) emerges from the Cave of the current political climate: 2-party system, the Fed, etc. The common man is not as inept as Plato thought. It just takes time to see the light at the end of the tunnel. . .or, the cave if you will.

Ask questions, respectfully seek the truth with relentless questions, expose the phonies, sophists, and liars. Also, help others to find their own way out of the cave, but be careful not to lead. Let us free the prisoners from their cavernous prison one at a time. Also, let us not turn on one another,for here in the outside world we are few and we are alone, but we few, we happy few,we burdened few, must build a new Athens. For real this time.

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Perhaps that explains last weekend

Friends from out of town were stuck with me for two days. Invariably, the conversation would turn to world events and politics (I can't help it!) and I would get excited and start talking about the R3volution, the Fed, the wars, the Constitution, NDAA, drones, Obama, Romney,etc.

Finally, after two days of hearing stuff they've never heard before, one of them challenged me: why are you just talking...why aren't you doing something about it, if you think you're so right. You should be running for office, or giving speeches, otherwise you're not doing anything. I replied: I am. I'm talking to you. She then said, how does that help? I said that if you go home with just one thing that peaks your interest, and you follow up on it, and you come to the conclusion that there really is something to what I'm saying, I have just moved the ball forward. If I run for office and win (unlikely), yet no one understands what I'm doing or talking about, then I will not accomplish anything, and I will have the shortest political career in history. I'd have been more effective just talking to people in my living room.

The Allegory of the Cave helps explain my excitment and their puzzlement. I'll have to dust off my college Plato and reread those chapters!

I was looking for precursors and comparable characters to Ron ..

Ron is god in so many ways - unwavering family father, husband, doctor, caretaker of his district, elected by 80 percent of a dissenting electorate, peace fighter, economic and medical thinker, author, relentless traveler and speech-giver and so on

I am not religious - but I came to think about Ron as a figure with an impact like Jesus powered by 10.

I came to think that he managed to combine the boldest ideas of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, competitive preaching techniques of various churches, of classic economic theory, economic and monetary history, Lao Tse, Konfuzius - and so on and on.
His synthesis is so huge, bold, outstanding and beautiful that it awes me every time I take a walk an think about.

On a few occasions he reminded me of Cicero and Scipio - and partly the brothers Gracchus - all towering defenders of the Roman republic.

Now your post uncovered Socrates and Plato to me. I read a summary of Socrates' dialogue about the core of justice. And how Socrates' accusal and conviction by his people possibly brought Plato to despise the common man and conceive his elitist 'sun state'.

As Ron quoted the 'Platonian lie' at least once in his speeches - I believe Ron knows at least about Plato too.

And maybe Socrates was his biggest precursor.

And who is responsible for my ignorance of Socrates+Plato? The public school system taught philosophy in such revolting way to me - that I lost every respect and interest.

So thank you for pointing Soc+Plato out to me!!!!

Peter Buchmann

A fine essay...

I'd like to add a couple of points that impressed me about Athens, "the glory that was Greece":

Athens' prosperity was based on its silver mines, which were worked by slaves under appallingly brutal conditions; few lived very long, but they had plenty more, most (other Greeks) captured in the endless wars between the various city-states.

I believe Athens became an empire during its period of democracy (not when it was ruled by kings or oligarchs); first it established the "voluntary" cooperative Delian League, then it started bossing around the other members, then it simply took over. Though the Spartans were hardly nice guys, Athens had given all the Greek world plenty of reason to hate them.

Reminds me of

This video I saw on infowars.com a few weeks back of a mural being painted called The Allegory of Complacency:


Not sure if this video has been posted on here or not, but it's pretty amazing. Thank you for your post!

A sobering epiphany

Rhetoric, which is basically the art of presentation, has been the sole substance of all sophistry. I got a good reception here DP, a thank you from a student, and other praise for which I am thankful for, but there is a small irony I must acknowledge. We all use rhetoric. I draw my lecture style from an unlikely yet very appropriate source. I have drawn speech patterns for my lectures from Joel McHale's character Jeff Winger from the TV show "Community". Jeff Winger is a character who is primarily fake but highly charismatic character. Yet, I am sincere in my horribly naive optimism for the common man and the world I believe we can create. Similarly, Socrates utilizes a rhetorical device in his opening defense of "the Apology" He claims he is not a good orator and must rely on pure reason, thus creating a sense of sympathy from his audience. I guess the lesson to be learned here is that we ALL use rhetoric. The key, though, is to identify when someone has something behind said rhetoric to offer the public with reasonable foundation. This is what I call a "'DUH!' revelation".

"Life isn't all Beer and Skittles" - Thomas Hughes

Plato's theory of reality

Allegory of the Cave, Brings back memories of a college essay I wrote.
I ended up with an A- in the class. Summarizing briefly here; the shadows on the wall are human perception enslaved. Perception can play tricks on reality as Plato illustrates. When the prisoner is freed from the world of only shadows on the wall his perception transcends to the world of reality.

Kind of like watching only Fox News. That Plato was a smart guy.

and then you die

Socrates is probably

my favorite philosophical archetype. Ron Paul is analogous to Socrates in so many ways. Both are incorruptible beings who dedicated their lives to finding and bringing forth the Truth. They both are incredibly uncompromising, and both highly influential people who sparked huge movements in history.

I do have to point out a misquote you wrote though. Socrates never said I am wise because I'm ignorant. In Plato's Apology where at Socrates trial he is giving his speech on how the oracle (Pythian Prophetess) has told him there is no wiser man in the world than him. He goes on to talk about his quest to try and prove this wrong and how he spoke to many of the claimed wisest people in the land (Sophists, Poets, Artisans) and reached the conclusion that the oracle was right and he couldn't dispute her claim.

After giving each person an elenchus test Socrates concludes : "Well although I suppose neither of us knows anything really beautiful or good, I am better off than he is- for he knows nothing and thinks he knows; I neither know nor think that I know." In this regard he put's himself to have a slight edge. But,

I know I may be nitpicking you here a little bit, and your quote isn't really wrong as I think it pretty much say's the same thing. But I think if you don't know the context of the story that saying you wrote can be interpreted totally different than what Socrates was reported to have actually said.

Anyway's I'm glad you wrote this post. I've been studying a bunch of Socrates lately,One of my personal goals I want to fulfill is to try and perfect his elenchus test (socratic method). If anyone can, they will be a master of argument. It's also a great way for all of us to really put our own ideas and beliefs under the closest examination; make sure there isn't any flaws or contradictions in our own arguments.

The Allegory of the Cave is the perfect example and representation of how many of us freed-thinkers find ourselves in the world today.

A good point, and yes I did

A good point, and yes I did use a different translation because I am writing a piece for public history. I have my students read "The trial and Death of Socrates" where we thoroughly discuss that exact quote, its misrepresentations and mistranslations as well as the real meaning. For the purposes of a short essay (written after two glasses of wine with numerous typos)I found this a better translation to use and preserve the original context. However it warms my heart that you nitpick because it gives me hope. I think of RP constantly throughout the lesson every time I teach it.

"Life isn't all Beer and Skittles" - Thomas Hughes

I find teachers

that are as enthusiastic about this stuff as you are to be inspiring. Especially the fact your bringing up Philosophical discussions in a history class, most people could care less to dive into that stuff. I'm a PHI Major, so I naturally eat it all up, but I appreciate it when people expand into important parts that may not be necessary for covering a certain area of curriculum.

The whole writings on Socrates are sort of ambiguous, everything on him is from the words of someone else; He never wrote a thing! Not to mention that through multiple translations and thousands of years how much could have changed. I have a text of Plato's called "5 Great Dialogues", it was published in 1942. I'm in a class now where we're covering some of the readings and the text books we use even strip down a ton of the writings (dumb it down), and I find a good amount of it to be shortened. Most of the greek words are untranslatable to English, but it's interesting to compare even English written from 70 years ago to today to see how much is different.

My favorite quote from Socrates among many others has to be : "The unexamined life is not worth living", if one statement best summarizes and encompasses him I'd think that has to be it.

Well thank you, I surely try.

Well thank you, I surely try. Western Civ is SOOOOO many things. I find that we have to boil it down as your book does but leave just enough to peak interest, which is key to seeking out original transcripts and deeper context, otherwise people would simply be frustrated.

I do make the point when I assign a paper on this that we are indeed getting Plato versus actual Socrates. The only other Socrates basically is Aristophanes' clown from "the Clouds."

How can you be satisfied with an unexamined life? So many seem to be happy in the cave. Me? No thanks.

"Life isn't all Beer and Skittles" - Thomas Hughes

I love the Socrates quote; I

I love the Socrates quote; I am wise because I know I am ignorant. This is a truly powerful insight.

For years, my email footer has been a similar quote attributed to Bemjamin Franklin; The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.

It's this insight, is it not, that underlies the understanding that a centrally controlled economy will not work as efficiently as a free market?

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. Albert Einstein

I think it's that realization that allows you to find the truth.

without realizing your own ignorance you are blinded by the paradigm you falsely believe to be true. but if you understand that your current paradigm is most certainly false in some way, then you can more easily let go of the false beliefs when reason and logic contradict it.

You are spot on, it's a powerful insight.

Another great quote

"Seek truth, and you will always find comfort in the end, seek comfort and you will find neither comfort nor truth, just a lot of lies and soft-soap, and ultimately, in the end, despair.

-C.S. Lewis

"Life isn't all Beer and Skittles" - Thomas Hughes

"I don't know"

"I don't know" is, in fact, the first stage of Wisdom.

Freedom is my Worship Word!


Logged in just to up-vote this. Our mentor has advised us to read and study. And maybe not just economics, but philosophy and theology and science. That way we can avoid becoming another tribe that talks in slogans but has no solutions.



I think I learned more about Athens, Socrates, & Plato in that short essay than if I read an entire book. And now I am interested in reading a book to find out more!

Conscience does not exist if not exercised

"No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up!
---Lily Tomlin

Plato's the Republic is an interesting read.

Pretty much of an advocation of a fascistic/communistic state lead by an elite of philosophers, but interesting...


Plato sadly believes the State led by the Elite is the best form of government. His writings are the building blocks for which big gov. lovers of today have relished in. He had a great student named Aristotle though, he thought quite oppositely.

Plato was also a

Plato was also a disillusioned young man in a very new style of government. It is sad that he gave up on it, but I can't hate him for it. A lot of history has unfolded since. You will never find a philosopher so sure of purity and truth though, nor someone so dedicated to finding it. IMHO.

"Life isn't all Beer and Skittles" - Thomas Hughes

There's a great muppet

There's a great muppet version of the allegory of the cave out there somewhere.

"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God."
(1 Peter 2:15-16)

How I love the DP intellectuals!

As much as I love the political discourse here, these thought pieces move me as much as anything I have learned in my life. Keep thinking. Remember that it takes a great deal of proof to reject a null hypothesis, and proving anything is incredibly difficult, often being the work of several generations.

Keep thinking and sharing your thoughts Daily Paulers!

Unlearning and self-teaching since 2008. Thanks, Dr. Paul!

Plato does not impress me.

Plato does not impress me. His views were extremely flawed, which is why the Academy failed and he lived out his end in exile.

I much prefer the views of Aristotle, who asserted that experience is the best guide. Aristotle's view of our country now would be that the Constitution was too weak to bind down an ambitious government. Our Constitution, as it stands, needs much work if we ever are to regain a Republic. It is a wonderful document in theory, but experience has shown us our government has outgrown the wildest imaginations of the most liberal founding fathers, such as Alexander Hamilton.

Perhaps we should implement an old Greek rule, where any major legislation that is voted down by the Congress will result in the death penalty for the sponsors of the bill. That would keep Congress in check.

Yet he came to these views

Yet he came to these views honestly. I think it is poetic that Aristotle came to him as Plato did to Socrates. I agree though, experience is the most brutal of teachers, yet you learn. (C.S. Lewis paraphrase)

"Life isn't all Beer and Skittles" - Thomas Hughes

egapele's picture

I know the subject is about caves and all, but geez.

What are ya gonna do, break out your big heavy wooden club? :)

Oh ya?

Well, your dum! You shood go bak to scool! :) (stupid auto correct wouldn't let me be ignorant. lol)


Shut The Hell Up!!!!
I'm Trying to Sleep Here!!!

For decades, wrote Rothbard,

“it was shameful and taboo for anyone to talk publicly or write about home truths which everyone, and I mean everyone, knew in their hearts and in private: that is, almost self-evident truths about race, intelligence, and heritability.

“What used to be widespread shared public knowledge about race and ethnicity among writers, publicists, and scholars was suddenly driven out of the public square by Communist anthropologist Franz Boas and his associates in the 1930s and has been taboo ever since.

“Essentially, I mean the almost self-evident fact that individuals, ethnic groups and races differ among themselves in intelligence and in many other traits, and that intelligence, as well as less controversial traits of temperament, are in large part hereditary.”

I watched the video

and every time they showed the cave wall with the shadows, I couldn't help but see a Fox News logo down in the corner.


A hindu saying...

"When the student is ready, the teacher appears". Ron Paul has been my teacher.

I like your inspiration story, but I have to add something.

Why did Nietzsche hate Socrates so much? Socrates's last words were "We owe a cock to Asclepius. Pay the debt and do not neglect it." Asclepius was the god of healing and a rooster was the traditional offering when someone got well. What Socrates is saying is that life is the ultimate disease. Nietzsche loved and celebrated life and thought that the root of Socrates' philosophy was self-loathing and a rejection of life. So, let us not become pessimists, like Socrates. Let us remain optimists and laugh at the state, like Murray Rothbard, for example.

“Although it was the middle of winter, I finally realized that, within me, summer was inextinguishable.” — Albert Camus

ACinMA's picture

A little music to go

With this great post...

"The Cave" by Mumford and sons

Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts

"When one gets in bed with government,
one must expect the diseases it spreads."
‎"It's not like I'm a powerful person. My ideas are."