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How a gif of a pug is helping explain an ancient philosophical theory

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave meets the 21st century.


(Clara Molden/PA)

(Clara Molden/PA)

(Clara Molden/PA)

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.

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.

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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.

1. Cartesianism

2. Aristotelianism and teleology

3. Rationalism

4. Scholasticism

5. Stoicism

6. Nihilism

7. Transcendental idealism and asceticism

8. Linguistic philosophy

9. Analytic philosophy

10. Classical realism

Who ever said looking at dogs on the internet couldn’t be educational?

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