Wojciech SzczerbaCorresponding authorORCID id

There and Back Again as a Free Person 
Philosophical Shades of Freedom on the Walls of Plato’s Cave in the Thought of Heidegger and Arendt

Article
27/1 – Spring 2022, pages 69-88
Date of online publication: 15 June 2022
Date of publication: 15 June 2022

Abstract

The article refers to the issue of freedom from a philosophical perspective. First of all, it discusses Plato’s metaphor of the cave in Politeia, in which the philosopher writes of freedom in its individual and collective forms. Then the article indicates how the metaphor was read by such contemporary philosophers as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt, who interpret Plato’s metaphor from existential-phenomenological and political perspectives.

Heidegger stresses the freedom of a human being, who in the light of the subjective existential experience begins to live objectively in an authentic way. He frees himself up from the impersonal-I. A person, who experienced the truth as un-concealment, is not enslaved anymore to the impersonality of the crowd. He is able to face his own mortality and to take responsibility for his own fate. A special expression of freedom is shown in his care for others, even if it means risking one’s life.

Hannah Arendt interprets Plato’s metaphor from the perspective of political philosophy. Her assessment becomes some kind of memento. What if the prisoners of the cave simply do not want to leave their place? Does the philosopher have a right forcefully to pull them out of the cavern? What is better, the attitude of Socrates, who dialogues with people or the attitude of Plato, who simply lectures the mob? In this way Arendt refers to the concept of freedom, as it is sketched in Plato’s cave. At the same time, she argues with Heidegger’s interpretation of the Platonic metaphor.

Heidegger stresses the freedom of a human being, who in the light of the subjective existential experience begins to live objectively in an authentic way. He frees himself up from the impersonal-I. Human, who experienced the truth as un-concealment and freedom, is not enslaved anymore with the impersonality of the crowd, which reject individualism and authenticity. He is able to face his own mortality and to take responsibility for his own fate. A special expression of so understood freedom is shown in his care for others, even if this way he risks his own life. 
Hannah Arendt interprets Plato’s metaphor rather from the perspective of political philosophy. Her assessment, rooted in the very foundation of the political-philosophical thought becomes some kind of memento. What if the prisoners of the cave, simply do not want to leave their place? Does the philosopher have a right to forcefully pull them out of the cave of shadows? What is better, the attitude of Socrates, who dialogues with people and treats them as equal partners or the attitude of Plato, who simply lectures the mob?

Keywords

Cite this article

Szczerba, Wojciech. 2022. "There and Back Again as a Free Person: Philosophical Shades of Freedom on the Walls of Plato’s Cave in the Thought of Heidegger and Arendt." Forum Philosophicum 27 (1): 69–88. doi:10.35765/forphil.2022.2701.04.

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