Plato's Allegory of the Cave
Jack and Owen's Allegory of the Tent

Since my days in college, I have read about and studied Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Since Jack and now Owen, my four and two year old grandchildren, are taking a comprehensive college-level arts and science class from me, it seems appropriate to expand the course even further to include philosophy. By the time that Jack goes to kindergarten this fall, he will be well prepared for his formal educational experience.

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Jack and Owen saw this drawing of the cave depicting Plato's allegory. Jack, who has studied art history for nearly two years, wanted to know who painted this picture. It did not look like any of the artists, which he knows like Turner, van Gogh, Vermeer, Chagall, Rembrandt, Leonardo, or Monet.

After explaining that I did not know the artist either, I went on to explain the picture. Plato wanted his readers to understand from his allegory what many saw as real was not real, but merely shadows. Plato's complaint was that many people see light and shadows and think that is reality. I wanted to replicate the light and shadows so that Jack and Owen could comprehend Plato's literary technique. Instead of starting a fire in one of their bedrooms, I asked Jack and Owen to get their flashlights. Jack, who always wants to go the extra mile, gets both of their flashlights and their flashlights that they wear on their foreheads.

Then Jack and Owen got into a tent that Jack has in his bedroom, and we began the allegory of the cave. Each child had a pair of flashlights: one they held, and the other they wore.


Scott, who is my son and in his mid-40s, gave me a set of finger puppets of several famous philosophers several years ago, Plato, Lao Tzu, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Since one of them was Plato, I took them to Indy for my philosophy lesson.

Jack and Owen had to pick a pair of philosophical puppets with which they would use. Jack initially wanted Plato, who wore an all-white garment, and Lao Tzu, who wore an all-yellow garment.

Jack with puppets

However, it was not long before they got into a discussion about which child would get which pair of philosophical puppets. Owen was willing to give Jack the Plato puppet, but he wanted Lao Tzu.

Jack and Owen playing

After a bit of discussing, we got back to the issue at hand, that of setting up their tent allegory. Jack got Plato and Nietzsche, and Owen got Lao Tze and Schopenhauer. Now, they were both happy.

Jack and Owen in their tent

It was not long before Jack and Owen were having their puppets talking with each other.

Owen playing

Owen had Schopenhauer and Lao Tze discussing something about which interested Owen.

Owen with his toy

Jack has Nietzsche and Plato arguing over Nietzsche's comment, "Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler." Apparently, Plato dissed Nietzsche's dealing with shadow since that was Plato's forté. Additionally, Plato was not into Nietzsche's notion of Übermensch. Just look at Plato's face.

Jack with his flashlight

Finally, Jack tells Plato and Nietzsche to cool it, or they would go to timeout.

Owen thinking

Owen's two finger puppets are better behaved than Jack's. However, Owen is intrigued by what Schopenhauer and Lao Tzu are discussing.

Jack and Owen playing in their tent with tent

After a great deal of preparation, the boys planned to create the shadows on the tent's wall. However, they realized that they had to pick just one of their philosophical puppets, since they also had to hold a flashlight. Finally, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer were put aside for the moment.

Flashlights in the tent

Their allegory of the tent began. It amazed both of them how they were replicating something done by Plato over two millennia ago. What amazed me was how anxious they both were to learn as two young pre-schoolers. They wanted to understand and enjoyed their allegory.

This is an interesting video of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.