Plato was was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. I was recently pointed to a work of his called the Allegory of the Cave. This writing of Plato’s originally appeared in his work titled The Republic and discusses our view of reality as seen through ‘shadows’ vs. ‘real form”:
Plato imagines a group of people who have lived chained in a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as the prisoners get to seeing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not constitutive of reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.
I believe this allegory has modern-day application to the work we as Internet researchers and sourcers do, and indeed, to the way we actually do our jobs. Its original intent was political in nature, desiring to shed some light (no pun intended) on justice and truth, and to show how people’s perception of truth was widely varied based on what limited information they may have been exposed to. But this thought process I believe can be applied to our approach to sourcing, especially given our affinity to stay firmly loyal to a certain set of resources or methods of research.