Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Cave

Plato's allegory of the cave is one that a lot of physicists have been exposed to. The dwellers in the cave are so constrained that they see only shadows of objects in the external world that pass by the entrance projected on their walls (link).

Mathematicians and physicists seem fond of taking an ontological point - the notion that the reality we see is just a crude image of the real world. If you watch the video at the link, though, I think you will see that Plato's central point was not ontology but morality - the obligation of those who see to try to enlighten those who don't, even at the risk of their own lives.

In my town, as in many places, we have something called "Great Conversations," which consist of people sitting in a circle discussing some topic of current or perennial interest. There are rules - no rudeness, domination of the conversation, interruption, insults, disrespect and so on. Last night's topic was the Allegory of the Cave.

It's really pretty hard to get even six people to stick to the topic. Besides our moderator there was a thoughtful older lady, a rather quiet man I recognized as a regular, a young woman who was a disillusioned Obama liberal, and a conspiracy theorist who's eyes had been opened by LSD adn some other hallucinogens whose names I did not recognize - plus one slightly obnoxious know it all.

It was still fairly fun though, and I did get home early enough to catch some Cowboys being devoured by angry (Chicago) Bears.