Led by Professor Robb, this unit provoked questions regarding reality, truths and paradigms from a philosophical perspective, defining revolution as a shift in conceptual schemes. This post is a response connecting the texts Ficciones by Jorges Luis Borges and Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave.
Borges’ Hrönir & Plato’s Shadows
Both the Borges and Plato readings were difficult to fully grasp, however, the videos and Dapia’s analysis were useful in uncovering meaning. One concept that Borges discusses is “hrönir” which are described as “secondary objects”. Literally, we can understand hrönir as duplications of lost objects. However, a quote from the Dapia reading enlightens a deeper understanding. Dapia says, “We cannot access reality without conceptualizing it, so perhaps our ways of conceptualizing do not duplicate reality but simply create it” (95). In this way, hrönir are imperfect duplications created by the mind. A hrön is an attempt to recreate reality, however, it is always flawed and inaccurate. Similar to the way humans try to understand reality, their conceptual schemes create lenses which distort the ability to perfectly duplicate what is real. In Plato’s narrative, we can understand the concept of the shadows in the cave as similar to the hrönir. These are reflections of “real” objects which are lit by the fire behind the prisoners. The prisoners believe that it is these shadows which are reality. It is this that forms the prisoners’ conceptual schemes. However, once a prisoner is released, he slowly is able to grasp more accurate representations of reality, ultimately seeing the sun directly and altering the individual’s conceptual scheme. The hrönir are the shadows of humans who are mislead to believe falsehoods because of their conceptual schemes. According to Plato, it is philosophers who are able to find the truth of reality and truly see the sun. As a philosopher himself, this narrative reveals that Plato believes that it is his job to communicate “truths” and enlighten the conceptual schemes of others.
As we learn more about conceptual schemes, translation can be understood in a similar way. The September 26th lecture discussed how translators seek the most truthful or accurate translations. Following the lecture, I asked if the best translations are more literal matches of words or if they emphasize the tone and general ideas of the language. However, regardless of the translator, we can never really have a perfect translation. Plato’s and Bourges’ views of reality explain how our conceptual schemes interfere with our ability to create accurate understandings of reality. In a similar way, language is just an attempt to understand the incomprehensible reality. Translations bring us farther from reality, just as the hrönir become less accurate as they are duplicated.
Borges, Jorge Luis, James East Irby, and Rikki Ducornet. 1983. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. Scarborough, Ontario: Porcupine’s Quill.
Plato, The Republic “Allegory of the Cave”