Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Plato’s Cave & Second Grade Rigged Mazes

It’s difficult to tell if you’re in Plato’s cave when you’re inside it. Really, only when you escape the theoretical chains and look behind you can you come to the realization you were staring at illusions all your life. As for me I’ve never had epiphanies that mind blowing. It’s hard to recognize something of that magnitude without anyone else catching on, honestly. But there’s something I recall from around grade 2 that was pretty amusing. It wasn’t anything brain melting, just an instruction-following exercise our teacher had us follow. I felt then as if our entire class had been in the cave, if only for 30 seconds.

The teacher (her name was Mrs. Kirby) handed out a sheet of paper with a top down maze on it. Something like this:

At this point we’re somewhat used to these exercises, having done a few in the past weeks. The rules were that you couldn’t erase any marks you’d made, and she’d deceived us a few times already. An example would be how we started off automatically putting our names on the name line as soon as we got the sheet. She would tell us a while into the exercise to print our name instead on the date line, or somewhere else that just wasn’t the name line. We’d learned it was best to just not write anything until she instructed it.

But this time it was different. In each of the openings of the maze were 2 stars. We had exactly 30 seconds to draw a line from one star to the other. It didn’t take everyone long to realize that it was impossible to solve the maze. You couldn’t make a continuous line through it without touching the walls.

After time was up she asked if anyone had managed to do it, and only a single person raised his hand. It was actually Aiden, but after looking over his sheet again he admitted that he’d accidentally crossed a line in his hurry to solve it. But Mrs. Kirby said it didn’t matter, he’d drawn a line connecting the two stars like he was instructed.

That was when we realized we’d been duped. By sticking to our preexisting assumption that we had to solve the maze, we failed to realize that the maze was in fact irrelevant. It was a cool moment, and actually amazing to my second grade mind. So I think maybe that’s what it’s like to be released from Plato’s cave on a smaller scale.



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