Philosophy and PR
There is not enough space in cyber space to impress upon anyone who may read this blog how important and intertwined philosophy is in every aspect of our lives and communication (even public relations) is no exception. In fact, it can be argued that philosophy is at the foundation of communication. In this week’s series and the others that will follow, I will invite you to put on your ‘thinking caps’ as I connect two seemingly strange bedfellows – Philosophy and Communications. This post is about the concepts in Plato’s Allegory of the Caves and its relation to messages in the news media, public relations and entertainment.
One of history’s most famous thinkers, Greek philosopher, Plato, gleaned about the Allegory of the Caves in his philosophy classic The Republic. It is as follows:
Three prisoners were tied up in a cave since birth, they were tied up in such a way that their backs were turned to the entrance and they could not turn their heads or bodies. All they could see were shadows of the things (plants, animals, people, other objects) that would pass outside of the cave entrance which would reflect on the wall in front of them. They would name the reflections they saw, thinking the images on the wall were real.
One day one of the prisoners were freed, when he ventured outside the cave, the light of the sun hurt his eye, and he was disoriented and confused. Later, he learnt from people he had met that the shadows that he thought was real, were mere reflections of things. He also learnt of the reason the shadows existed. It was the sun that shone light on objects that caused the reflection. He went back into the cave with his new knowledge of the world outside the cave and was shun by the other prisoners who did not believe him. In fact, they were hostile to his newfound knowledge and wanted nothing to do with him.
If you think about it, this was their reality, naming the shadows, was how they made sense of their world, they would have discussions about the shadows thinking they had knowledge.
According to Plato this story was told to show ‘effect of education and the lack of it on our nature’.
Do we see shadows of things and think they are real? No we don’t, not in the physical context anyway, but on a daily basis we see mere snipets of people’s lives, their pain, their suffering or their happiness and success, and we form stories of their realities in our own minds. That’s quite similar to Plato’s point.
When we see things in the media and in our immediate environment even, take it with a grain of salt, as there are many sides to a story and we usually only see the side that makes sense to us, we tell ourselves stories that make sense to us.
Something to think about right? Of course there are many other theories about this allegory, this is one of the simpler versions. People have conceptualised aspects of it to speak to religion, politics, in my case, the media.
I’m open to discussion for anyone who wants to engage in respectful debates.
Thanks for reading!