Tag Archives: Allegory of the Cave

From Peanuts to Plato: It’s Troglodytes All the Way Down

charliebrown“Education tries to redirect the psyche appropriately” (Plato)

Charles Schulz (d. 2000) is famous for his daily comic strip Peanuts. This strip follows the melancholy adventures of Charlie Brown, a boy growing up in a small town with a dog and a band of friends. A small, but recurring, character in the comic is a teacher. The iconic voice of the teacher, burned into the neurons of more than one generation weaned on Peanuts television specials, is an unintelligible, garbled mess of “Wah, wah, wah wah.” Whatever one thinks about Charles Schulz and his comic, he got the auditory reception of students to teachers, and therefore professors, correct. What is professed is received as unintelligible, garbled nonsense.

Turning from Schulz to Plato provides some philosophical gravitas to Schulz’s playful observation. Whether Schulz knew it or not, he was channeling one of the most well-known sections of Platonic dialogue, The “Allegory of the Cave.” Continue reading From Peanuts to Plato: It’s Troglodytes All the Way Down

Was Chief Beatty Right?

Book_burningThis is the second post of a two-part essay on the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, core texts, and Truth.

The story-line of the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is deceptively simple. Bradbury presents a dystopian society in which ubiquitous electronic media inoculate the masses from the emptiness of their, largely externally determined, lives. Most books are banned, but media immersion ensures that most people don’t care one way or the other. The relative few who do care are watched, controlled, eliminated if necessary, and subjected to having their beloved books burned by the so-called “firemen.” One such fireman is the protagonist, Guy Montag. Montag believes himself to be happy, but his unexpected realization that he isn’t drives him on a quest for true happiness. That quest takes him into the forbidden world of books and ultimately away from all that he knows in his sad little world. Continue reading Was Chief Beatty Right?

Core Texts and Truth in Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit451This is the first post of a two-part essay on the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, core texts, and Truth.

I think it best to open with a disclaimer: I am not a classicist. I specialize in the history of Christianity, with an emphasis on Jacobean England. But in our very efficiently staffed history department, all faculty members teach in the Core Curriculum. I teach “America and the World,” a course that uses core texts to bring the students into engagement with modern history, especially modern Western history, and more particularly American history. We have chosen the course’s core texts mainly for their bearing on ideas of proper governance and societal justice.

In our module on the 20th century, we include Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. At first blush, it seems we’ve chosen this work for its commentary on government censorship, but it is better understood as an application of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (and associated Diagram of the Line of Knowledge), and therefore as a commentary on justice. That is how I teach it. Continue reading Core Texts and Truth in Fahrenheit 451