Nelson Mandela and Plato

Baba Times Digest© | 29 June 2013 14:20 EST | New York Edition

RELATED TOPICS >>> Nelson Mandela | Reuters Report | Plato's Cave

New York: Reuters reports that the U.S. President Barack Obama met the family of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's ailing anti-apartheid hero on Saturday, offering words of comfort and praising the critically ill retired statesman as one of history's greatest figures. Baba Times brings in his philosophy and famous quote "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others" 

A brief note on Plato's Allegory is appropriate here.Plato's famous work on 'The Republic' illustrates the analogy of the Cave, Plato's cave is an allegory presented on "our nature in its education and want of education". In this analogy people who were chained inside a cave could only see shadows cast by real people outside the cave and these people mistake the shadows for real. They think 'particularies' are prior to 'universal' and actually it is the other way around. How is it connected to Nelson Mandela's quote? When one of the chained people was allowed to go out of the cave to see the 'real' world, his amazement was beyond belief. He saw real people, Sun light, movements ! He came back in and explianed to others and pursuaded to them to be free, cast off their chains ! But the others would not beleive him and they still thought the 'shadows' are real.

Wikipedia notes on Mandela: Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Becoming ANC President, Mandela published his autobiography and led negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory. He was elected President and formed a Government of National Unity in an attempt to defuse ethnic tensions. As President, he established a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.

Mandela preached 'real' freedom and not just casting off the 'chains' like the Cave people in Plato's allegory.

Picture Source: Mandela in May 2008

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