Public Opinion

PUBLIC OPINION

BY

WALTER LIPPMANN

TO
FAYE LIPPMANN

Wading River,
Long Island.
1921.

_”Behold! human beings living in a sort of underground den,
which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all across
the den; they have been here from their childhood, and have their
legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only
see before them; for the chains are arranged in such a manner as
to prevent them from turning round their heads. At a distance
above and behind them the light of a fire is blazing, and between
the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will
see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen
which marionette players have before them, over which they show
the puppets.

I see, he said.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying
vessels, which appear over the wall; also figures of men and
animals, made of wood and stone and various materials; and some
of the prisoners, as you would expect, are talking, and some of
them are silent?

This is a strange image, he said, and they are strange prisoners.

Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows,
or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the
opposite wall of the cave?

True, he said: how could they see anything but the shadows if
they were never allowed to move their heads?

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they
would see only the shadows?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to talk with one another, would they not
suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?”_
–The Republic of Plato, Book Seven. (Jowett Translation.)