A Comparative Study of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Suhrawardī’s Tale of the Western Exile

Document Type: Research Paper

Authors

1 PhD Candidate in Comparative Philosophy, University of Qom, Qom, Iran

2 University of Qom, Qom, Iran

10.22034/ri.2019.100715

Abstract

An important allegory throughout the history of philosophy is Plato’s allegory of the cave. There are remarkable similarities between this allegory and an allegory from Islamic philosophy—that of western exile (al-ghurba al-gharbiyya) proposed by Suhrawardī. This paper seeks to consider fundamental components and issues within the two allegories, including the issue of the soul as the true human essence, its immateriality and origin, the material world as a cave and Kairouan prison of the soul, and an immaterial world as a locus of light, knowledge, and perfection, as it is referred to by some as the world of the image (imaginal world or ʿālam al-mithāl) or the world of intellects (ʿālam al-ʿuqūl) and by others as the world of forms (ʿālam al-muthul). There is also an epistemological issue underneath both allegories regarding how knowledge is acquired and what true knowledge consists in. Although there are differences in thoughts and philosophies of the two philosophers, a commonality can be discerned between them in light of these allegories. The main points of this commonality are that knowledge constitutes the main essence of human happiness and that the soul as the immaterial human origin should seek release from the cave and Kairouan prison of the material world and return to its true abode—that is, the eastern world—because human perfection consists in the transcendence of his soul and its emancipation and arrival at pure truth, knowledge, and light.

Keywords


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