The concepts of reality, interpretation and free will are some of the philosophical foundations in which human beings get to know how they are affected by the world around them and the decisions they make in life. The nature of reality and our interpretation are revealed when we exercise our free will to test and see what has been hidden from us for a long time. This paper presents a dialogue between two philosophers; Plato and Skinner whose conceptions of reality and free will have continually impacted thought and reasoning. The discussion will focus on the interpretation of “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave”. Plato is a Greek philosopher born in a powerful and wealthy family in Athens, Greece. While growing up, he had an interest pursuing politics as a career, but after the trial and execution of Socrates, he changed his mind and decided to pursue philosophy. He became disillusioned with politics and the country’s democratic system. Nonetheless, he did not oppose the leadership but rather did an extensive reflection on the possibility of a good society and what makes people live in the shadow of others. On the other hand, Burr Huss Frederic Skinner is a psychologist born in Pennsylvania in the United States of America. Skinner is a PhD holder in psychology from Harvard University and is renowned for his contributions to the field of modern day behavioral psychology. Skinner is famous for the backing the use of observable behavior in animals, and human beings against other psychologists attempt to focus on the inner unobservable mental states.
To actualize the dialogue, I will provide a setting in which reality, interpretation and free will are captured as natural topics in a conversation. In the dialogue I have used the two philosophers as roommates in college. Plato’s is angry and frustrated after constant punishments by his mentor for not attending church services. Skinner has a feeling that Plato is somehow right by being a non-believer but tries to convince him to do what everyone else is doing. The dialogue will attempt to utilize standard arguments to expound on the fundamental concepts brought forth by the two philosophers.
[Setting: It is late in the night, and Plato enters the room to share his frustrations with Skinner. It is Sunday and Skinners already knows that this is one of Plato’s worst days of every week. Plato has come from the church where he usually does some cleaning as a punishment from his priest mentor for not attending the day’s sermon. Skinner joins him on the couch as they start their chat.]
Plato: (stretching his limbs) Good evening, Skinner.
Skinner: Hello Plato, don’t tell me you are from the church right now. Did he keep you working for that long?
Plato: (clearly indicating frustration through his facial expression) where else would I spend all that time; I think am getting used to the punishments. Am contemplating looking for another mentor or quit this college if need be. My conscience is clear; some individuals will not impose a religion that I don’t believe in on me. My religion should be decided by myself and no one else.
Skinner: Calm down, comrade. What is other religion more significant and very elaborate as the Catholic Church? Tell me, what else do you need to see beyond God’s creation to begin doubting the existence of our supreme being?
Plato: (shouting) Supreme, supreme, supreme…, there you go again. This world is full of prisoners who are chained in a cave, those who only see what is in front of them. Even if there is real fire behind them or shadows in front of them, they can’t differentiate between what is real and what is not. What if you people wake up one day and realize that what you actually believed in did not exist at all, will you finally say that your entire life was a lie! I will not live in a life constructed by someone else.
Skinner: Really? Stop displaying that ignorance
Plato: this world is full tons and tons of things unknown to the people. From the day a child is born, they are fed with many information and ideas some of which are not true. Today’s society is so occupied with a lot of issues to an extent where we can’t tell what is true and what is a lie. We have been brainwashed by religion, the government, media, military, jobs, food, technology and several other things that divert us away from the truth. As a matter of fact, we are even further away from the truth than we were thousands of years ago.
Skinner: You won’t stop surprising me. You are at the point of doubting the food that you eat. What you have physically seen and touched. Then what else will you believe? I may partly agree with your doubts about the spiritual and intangible things, but I can never dispute anything that is observable. Interpretations may vary from person to person, but the existence or behavior cannot be doubted.
Plato: If we live as if everything that surrounds us appears to be true, then we are locked in a cave that will cover all the truth from us until we die. We should not be held down by religion, the government or the media. These are quarters that control the kind of truth that should reach us; they are our puppeteers.
Skinner: But there’s always some higher authority above us. People like the military cannot be stopped but obeyed since they have that ability to fly above us and make us do what they want. In any case, the government has control of the military and media.
Plato: (looking pleased) That’s exactly what am talking about. The right to control what we do or hear gives them the ability to control our minds. In the allegory of the cave, the military irons hold the people against the walls of the cave while the media are the shadows that appear on the opposite wall. Once an individual can break away from the shadows and reach the outside world as it is, that is when one gets the enlightenment of their life. When we can see things for ourselves and judge them as right or wrong without the influence of another interested party telling us what it is or what it isn’t. After the looking at the world as what it is to you, you will realize you were living a lie, and you want to go back and let everyone know that “hey this wasn’t real.”
Skinner: But imagine the world without government, religion, media or the military. It would be hell. That’s the reality that you don’t have to believe to accept.
Plato: Once we free our minds or break free and see the truth or lies peddled by the government that controls us, we will break from the chains of the caves and see the light. The same applies to the media and religion. The surprise is that some will break from the cave, see the light and get back to help the enslaved minds but the latter will still not believe what the truth is; they will decide to remain in the cave. This argument is never ending soon, but I hope you will get out and see the truth. Goodnight Skinner.
Skinner: (sounding contented) Goodnight comrade; that was a fair debate. Let’s talk tomorrow