Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aristotle's version of the Allegory of the Cave

Suppose there were men who had lived always underground, in good and well-lighted dwellings, adorned with statues and pictures, and furnished with everything in which those who are thought happy abound. Suppose, however, that they had never gone above ground, but had learned by report and hearsay that there is a divine authority and power. Suppose that then, at some time, the jaws of the earth opened, and they were able to escape and make their way from those hidden dwellings into these regions which we inhabit.

When they suddenly saw earth and seas and sky, when they learned the grandeur of clouds and the power of winds, when they saw the sun and learned its grandeur and beauty and the power shown in its filling the sky with light and making day; when, again, night darkened the lands and they saw the whole sky picked out and adorned with stars, and the varying lights of the moon as it waxes and wanes, and the risings and settings of all these bodies, and their courses settled and immutable to all eternity; when they saw those things, most certainly they would have judged both that there are gods and that these great works are the works of gods.
-from Aristotle's "On Philosophy", quoted in Cicero, De Natura Deorum, II 37

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