Does Maimonides ever refer to the Allegory of the Cave from Plato's The Republic?

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    Why would you think he does? I do know he mentions a cave in a different context that is when the society around you is extremely immoral he says you should go live in a cave – SimchasTorah Apr 21 '11 at 23:30
  • @SimchasTorah It is well known that HaRaMBa"M often cites and draws from Aristotelian philosophy. Aristotle was one of Plato's chief disciples. – Lee Jun 22 '16 at 7:22

The Rambam (Maimonides) writes in The Guide for the Perplexed Part II Chapter VI:

I wonder at the expression "contemplating", which is the very expression used by Plato. God, as it were, "contemplates the world of ideals, and thus produces the existing beings."

To me this sounds like the same idea expressed in the Allegory only from a different perspective. Looking at footnotes to this passage may lead you to find a direct reference if such exists.


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  • How is this the same idea as the Allegory? – Ze'ev haKohen Apr 24 '11 at 17:24
  • From my limited understanding of both sources there seems to be a connection. This is a quote from Wikipedia: "The Allegory is related to Plato's Theory of Forms, according to which the "Forms" (or "Ideas"), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. Only knowledge of the Forms constitutes real knowledge". This is the same idea the Rambam seems to be referring to in his discussion of angels from which I brought the above quote. – David Perlman Apr 25 '11 at 21:27

While not a direct reference to Plato's cave, Rambam expresses an idea that is somewhat similar in his discussion of Jacob's ladder:

Guide for the Perplexed 1:15

This ladder all may climb up who wish to do so, and they must ultimately attain to a knowledge of Him who is above the summit of the ladder, because He remains upon it permanently. It must be well understood that the term "upon it" is employed by me in harmony with this metaphor. "Angels of God" who were going up represent the prophets. That the term "angel" was applied to prophets may clearly be seen in the following passages: "He sent an angel" (Num. xx. 16); "And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim" (Judges ii. 1). How suggestive, too, is the expression "ascending and descending on it"! The ascent is mentioned before the descent, inasmuch as the "ascending" and arriving at a certain height of the ladder precedes the "descending," i.e., the application of the knowledge acquired in the ascent for the training and instruction of mankind. This application is termed "descent," in accordance with our explanation of the term yarad (chapter x.).

This is similar to one of the themes of the cave, wherein the philosopher escapes from the cave and acquires knowledge and then must return to the cave to impart his knowledge to the other prisoners.

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