Summary: This award-winning short claymation film is an adaptation of Plato's Allegory of the Cave and can be used to teach core concepts from the sociology of knowledge, including the social construction of reality. The Allegory of the Cave, presented in Plato's Republic, tells the story of prisoners trapped in a cave who can only see shadows casted on the wall in front of them. Plato's story is a commentary on the human condition, in which he suggests that humans are trapped in a material world, interpreting illusions and shadows to be reality. Plato's theory shares similarities with ideas presented in Berger and Luckmann's (1966) The Social Construction of Reality, specifically that our perception of reality is shaped by our social and physical location. In this way, reality is not absolute, and what we understand to be "real" is actually a social construct. To deepen the discussion, instructors might also screen or assign the following two instructional videos: the first provides details about Plato's Allegory of the Cave and the second explains Plato's Theory of Forms. As shown in the first video, when one of the prisoners is exposed to the sun of the outside world, Plato believes he no longer inhabits a world of illusions and shadows. Similar to the abilities of the philosopher, the prisoner can now see the world for what it is. Instructors can distinguish this feature of Plato's Allegory from Berger and Luckmann's theory, highlighting that Berger and Luckmann would contest this point, as there is no one reality. Similar to the relativist critique of Plato's Theory of Forms (discussed here at minute mark 2:09), a social constructionist perspective argues that reality is based on social agreement, and does not exist outside of the mind. These clips can be used to teach other ideas from the sociology of knowledge, such as Mannheim's (1929) argument about the role of intellectuals in society, presented in Ideology and Utopia. Instructors can compare and contrast Mannheim's arguments to Plato's claim that, because of their privileged ability to see the world for what it "really" is, philosophers are best positioned to rule society (discussed here at minute mark 6:55). To learn more about this clay animation film, how it was made, and the awards it has won, click here.
Submitted By: Murali Shanmugavelan