Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient & Modern

Article excerpt

LAST WEEK Plato argued the corrupting effects of television, especially of drama on television, but this uncontroversial thesis was open to a serious charge - that of anachronism: how could Plato have known about television when it was first publicly demonstrated by John Logie Baird only in 1926? But it is the principle that counts, and in his allegory of the Cave in the Republic he shows that he understands that principle only too well.

Imagine, Plato says, that men live like prisoners in a huge underground cave, with an entrance into the real world a very long way off. They are trapped in such a position that they can only look straight ahead at the cave wall in front of them. Behind them is a fire, and between the fire and them there is a parapet. There are people on the other side of this parapet, carrying all sorts of objects that stick up above it - human statues, animal models, and so on. Some of the people talk, others remain silent, as they carry these objects back and forth.

The result of this would be that, being able to look in no other direction but straight ahead, the prisoners would see only the objects moving about in front of them, and even then not the objects themselves but only their shadows. …

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