How a gif of a pug is helping explain an ancient philosophical theory
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave meets the 21st century.
We might like to think dogs are wise creatures, but it’s not often our furry friends contribute to philosophical debate – yet one pug is doing just that.
Twitter users have pointed out that a gif of the pug attempting to drink water from the shadow of a running tap is a perfect illustration of a theory put forward by Plato.
i've never seen a clearer explanation of plato's cave pic.twitter.com/R8EIgpdLIx— cowboy bijbop (@bijanstephen) October 23, 2018
The Allegory of the Cave comes from the Ancient Greek philosopher’s book The Republic.
The analogy describes three prisoners chained in a cave with a fire behind them, which causes shadows to appear on the wall in front of the trio as objects pass by.
The prisoners have spent their entire lives in the cave and do not know what is casting the shadows, so ascribe the different shapes their own names.
One day, one of the prisoners escapes and sees the outside world for the first time, amazed by the extent of life beyond the shadows.
The freed prisoner returns to the cave to tell his companions what he has seen and free them, but struggles to see in the dark after being out in the bright sunlight, leading the others to believe his freedom has damaged him.
The two prisoners thus resist his attempts to free them, willing to fatally attack anyone who would try to release them.
The story is a metaphor, with the prisoners’ chains representing ignorance, the shadows the illusions of the physical and superficial world, and the freed man those with the understanding of the limitations of human senses.
The pug’s lapping at a shadow sadly makes it one of the prisoners trapped in the cave and limited by ignorance – but also the cutest little philosophical metaphor.
This isn’t the only dog gif out there illustrating ideological teachings either, as one Twitter user recently pointed out – here are 10 more.
I’m going to do a dog rates but as to which philosophy they’d most likely subscribe:— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
This is René. Clearly aware of his existence but questioning whether that existence defines who he is in a reality of perception. Cartesian. Heckin’ good pupper, 12/10. pic.twitter.com/oumAqiGIdW
2. Aristotelianism and teleology
This is Maimonides. Fully embraces teleology, but disagrees that a stick’s purpose is related to natural development. The stick lived and died as a tree, but served its purpose only once fetched. The stick does not agree. Aristotelianism. 12/10. pic.twitter.com/qPRGpJZ7YN— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
This is Spinoza. He identifies a problem (cold pupper) and the most expedient solution (tug snuggly). Rationalism. 11/10. pic.twitter.com/ci7k6jeePG— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
This is Aquinas. Disagrees that his is not a field of philosophy, but instead merely a manner of learning. In large part because he can’t read. Scholasticism. 11/10. pic.twitter.com/LcgUQm0wSa— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
This is Aurelius, acts on virtue for its own sake without expectation of reward. Virtue is its own reward. Also he’s tired of that ball. Stoicism. 12/10. pic.twitter.com/Q6E3Ohvfan— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
This is Nietzsche. As a superior specimen believes his will to be superior than the will of those that would hold him in bondage. Also believes this to be an oversimplification of his principles.— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
Nihilism. 10/10 for lack of morality. pic.twitter.com/dhiajKg4PL
7. Transcendental idealism and asceticism
This is Schopenhauer. Though struggling to identify reality from perception he still wishes to share his bone. Transcendental idealism with asceticism leanings. The goodest of boys, but frankly exhausting to talk to. 13/10. pic.twitter.com/qevCvzlIiY— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
8. Linguistic philosophy
This is Wittgenstein. He gracefully attempts to help you understand the barrier between us is not a difference of opinion but a difference of communication. Made more challenging because this is all he can say. Linguistic Philosophy. 12/10 pic.twitter.com/86nOs9jYh3— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
9. Analytic philosophy
This is Bertrand. He believes any problem can be solved with the proper application of formal logic. Though recognizes this problem is grounded in the physical, while he prefers logical-positivist principles. Unfortunately he’s terrible at both. Analytic philosophy. 12/10. pic.twitter.com/9UUQ80qITo— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
10. Classical realism
This is Leviathan. Though he believes in the rights of the individual he also sees a need for the sovereign to maintain absolutism. Unfortunately, unlike Hobbes, he believes he should be the sovereign. A cornucopia of contradictions. Classical realism. 12/10. pic.twitter.com/yuKDm6LkkH— MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0) September 11, 2018
Who ever said looking at dogs on the internet couldn’t be educational?