The allegory of the cave by Plato, one of the great Greek ancient philosophers, is one of the most famous works in the history of philosophy. He states that there are prisoners chained together in the cave. Behind them is a fire and in between are objects which men in a hood are carrying. These objects cast shadows on the other side of the wall. The prisoners watch these shadows and believe them to be the real things. Doesn’t such an illustration reflect passive individuals who have no regard for knowing the truth behind what is seen at first glance? Doesn’t it say how some people give importance to individual freedom rather than acknowledging the purpose of things before their actual existence?
In today’s society, especially in the context of the Digital Age, people can easily find out something they are curious about with just a click on the search bar. This does not, however, mean that these nosy lads first process such information if it be true or not. Many are lured into thinking that all said in the social media and in the news are downright reliable. This mindset clearly presupposes that such persons do not filter what comes to them. They do not think. Plato suggests in his allegory that the only way to achieve true knowledge is to use that by which is unique in man: our ability to reason. Now, does it imply then that if an individual uses this faculty, he or she is already heading towards the Truth?
Jean-Paul Sartre, a famous French modern philosopher, in his theory of existentialism, he resonates that way of thinking by people 一 without knowing such an ideology that is rioting and causes deep unrest to our society. Sartre’s notion of existentialism is that existence precedes essence. For him, there must be no one, even a thing, that dictates a human person on how to behave. He suggests that one’s freedom, because of existence, is the basis on how to live. People today determine who they will be, the forms and patterns of their life. The essence which can be a family, culture, and religion for some degree who teaches us how to live a good life was rejected by Sartre; and this is what people today are doing. There is a rejection of Moral Truths and the Natural Law. Why? Just because these concepts do not abide by what they want as true or right. So there is only one thing left to do: make freedom absolute. Hence, existence precedes essence.
In this present time, what was once the trends of just some men, this idea by Sartre, is now the default position of most young people today. They do not want the essence to tell them what they are, what to believe, and on how to behave, because they want to assert their liberty and their existence that is for them precedes essence. And as a result, this reliance on freedom makes most people of today still not capable of reasoning in its wholeness. Some follow their own designs without asking the most fundamental questions of humanity: “Who am I?,” “Why am I here in this world?,” “What should I do?”
To some degree, political structure, family, culture represents essence to us, but the ultimate avatar of essence is none other than the one who has given existence to everything, in contrary to what Sartre and some of his supposed-followers propose. The Creator Himself is the ground of objective truth and moral values. He alone directs the essential form of life, what we ought to conform. Let us reflect, then, to the teachings of the church. Let us not fool ourselves by making ourselves, our freedom, the anchor for life. Only God can make us escape from the cave of arrogance and ignorance. If we do not think just now, we are again imprisoning ourselves just like those men in Plato’s allegory of the cave, fooled because of ignorance. John Carlo Garino