28 Nov

Paulie Fink and Plato’s Cave

My new book, Paulie Fink, is light in tone, but it’s also jam-packed with philosophy…which is, of course, just a big word for asking questions about the world around us.

Some of the philosophy — like multiple references to the post-modern philosopher Jean Baudrillard, for example — goes unnamed, and will likely be unnoticed by all but a few. That’s just fine with me. Other philosophical references are  named directly, and in explored multiple ways: Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, for example.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a thought experiment from the fourth century BCE. This was right around the time that mythology as a way of explaining the world was yielding to something — what we today would call critical thinking. Plato knew the value of a good story, so he wrote it as a dialogue between his mentor, Socrates, and his brother, Glaucon. The below animated video, from TED-Ed, is a better, more concise compelling explanation than I could possibly give here:


One of the core questions at the heart of the allegory is this: what if we can’t trust our perceptions? What if we’re wrong, even about the things we think we know for sure? Will we leave are cave, or will we retreat into the seeming safety of the darkness we’ve always known?

The question — what if we’re wrong? — has never felt more essential than it does today. It feels essential as I look at worldwide disinformation campaigns, the rise of propaganda, the echo chambers of social media and real-world social divisions. It feels essential as tools that give me access to the whole globe show me just how little I understand about this world in which I live.

It’s also, of course, one of the essential questions involved with growing up. Maybe that’s why it felt so right to place it at the heart of a book for middle-grade readers.

Here’s to thinking about the world. Here’s to opening up when given the chance. Here’s to leaving our respective caves.