Truth is a concept that has been discussed and analyzed for thousands of years. There are different ideas about its properties and forms. Two ancient Greek writers, Plato and Sophocles, have used Truth as a main idea in many of their writings. In “Allegory of the Cave” by Plato and Antigone by Sophocles, the two writers address many properties of Truth. These properties are objectivity or subjectivity, and clarity and attainability. In “Allegory of the Cave,” Truth is objective and clear, but not easy to attain. In Antigone, Truth is also difficult to reach, but is subjective and vague.
Plato would argue that Truth is objective. It is something that externally exists outside of the human mind and cannot be influenced by personal opinions. Absolute Truth is also known as “The Good.” The sun is the symbol of the “Good” and is the source of everything that is right and reasonable. In “Allegory of the Cave,” everyone lives in a cave, and can only see shadows of objects, but they believe these shadows to be real and true. When they are released, Plato says: “At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to…walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows” (317). One who leaves the cave begins a journey uphill toward the sun, and eventually his eyes adjust to the light. Once fully accustomed to the light, he can see everything in its true form. He becomes a “Philosopher-king,” which can only be obtained by taking a “steep and rugged ascent…until [one] is forced into the presence of the sun” (317). Symbolically, those in the cave are “in the dark.” In “Allegory of the Cave,” darkness is a symbol for ignorance, while light represents Truth and knowledge.
Plato shows his readers that there is one clearly defined Truth that can only be seen by the Philosopher-kings. Those in the cave believe that the shadows are Truth, when in fact they are only mere representations of Truth. Not everyone can achieve absolute Truth because human nature has limits, and for many humans, these boundaries cannot be bent or broken. There are even some who attempt to exceed their limits, but cannot make it to the top. Plato makes it clear, however, that knowledge can be acquired. He says: “Our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn…the good” (320). This emphasizes his point that the human mind is capable of understanding Truth, although it is not a simple process.
Sophocles’ view of Truth differs from Plato’s view in that he portrays Truth as subjective and unclear; however, they both maintain that Truth is difficult to acquire. Truth in Sophocles’ eyes is internal, and each individual is entitled to his own idea of what Truth is. It is dependent upon a person’s tastes, views, morals, and beliefs. This is what makes Truth unclear. If there were one clear idea of Truth, there would not be a dispute on what is right or wrong. Sometimes what one views as right could be seen as wrong by another person. This is shown in the argument between Antigone and Creon. Creon wants to leave the body of Antigone’s brother, Polynices’, “left unburied, his corpse carrion for the birds and dogs to tear, an obscenity for the citizens to behold” because he betrayed Creon (229-231). Creon uses his power and position of king as justification for this decision, and anyone who disobeys is just as much a traitor as Polynices. He feels that the security of Thebes is most important to human life. Antigone, on the other hand, feels that duties owed to the gods are most important to human life. This is why she goes against Creon’s ruling and symbolically buries Polynices. Both are correct in their reasoning, which demonstrates that there can be more than one right answer, but that there are not necessarily a broad range of answers. Truth in Antigone is often unattainable because people are not willing to see what is true. Creon likes to jump to conclusions without consulting logic or reason. Tiresias, the blind prophet, can ironically see the truth in everything.
In “Allegory of the Cave,” Truth is displayed as objective and indisputable, while in Antigone, Truth is subjective and ambiguous. By contrasting these two views of Truth, it is apparent that there can be more than one view of Truth, therefore demonstrating its ambiguity. I think that Plato’s views were applicable back in Greece during a time when everyone was conforming to the same ideas and principles, and not many people were educated enough to “think outside the box.” Socrates’ ideas, although made centuries ago, are still viewed as modern because people are constantly changing and new ideas are always forming. In a growing world, there is not one answer that can suit everyone, which is what makes this society unique. Knowing Socrates’ outlook on Truth, he would approve of the way his ideas have shaped the world.