The Concepts of Plato, Bacon and Jung


The understanding of human, personality and people’s knowledge with sophisticated image of one’s consciousness and mind requires proper critical approach. Plato, Bacon and Jung made significant attempts to explain the origin of people’s knowledge, logic and emotions from the perspective of surrounding, natural and gained qualities, archetype, etc. Plato’s works are framed in a non-standard form of dialogues, and most of them are conditionally addressed to Socrates. Plato did not set his philosophical foundations in one clear order: in his dialogues, they remind a system of ideas. Bacon’s concept of the four idols that does not allow people to get to know the truth has pragmatic theories that involve the allegories of in the spider, ants and bees. Jung created a complicated system of archetypes and explained consciousness and unconsciousness, and ego. The paper provides a brief analysis of the three texts united by the key ideas of personality/ego, knowledge, understanding and happiness used by Plato, Bacon and Jung.

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Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave”

“The Allegory of the Cave” is one of Plato’s famous allegorical scientific theories about human society and belief in a higher power. The text itself is Plato’s allegory, which he uses to explain his theories of knowledge and happiness. The text begins with the description of the scene as if it is a dwelling underground, such as a cave. Some people stay there in strong bonds that do not allow them to turn to the light or turn around (unhappiness). These people can see only things directly in front of them. There is a wall nearby, and behind it, other people carry different things: statues, items and luxury households. The prisoners of the cave can observe only small shadows, give them names, but they cannot comprehend its color and sense. Similarly, the sounds prisoners can hear are mistakenly related to shadows, which again confuses the authentic knowledge.

Later, Plato in his dialogue with Glaucon develops the story as he leads the reader to think about how the prisoner will behave if he gets freedom, how he will see the things, the shadows of which he saw before. Plato’s colleague mentions that it can be painful to former prisoners, and they should get used to that. Considering the image of the cave, several aspects may come to one’s mind. First, cave is a limitation of person’s visibility, knowledge about surrounding and understanding of its real sense. It is a framework for human knowledge, and if a prisoner goes beyond these frameworks, he will never be accepted back. The cave protects itself from any possible destruction. If people inside could see the sunlight at least once, they would give anything to come out. However, the cave closes the world to these people, and lonely prophets meet faith which does not make them happy to make own mission.

The most reasonable and obvious aspects of the meaning of myth include:

  • Sensuality and transcendentality: the shadows are visible to everyone, and the voices can be heard. However, people need to make efforts to understand the essence of things. The state becomes as shackles, release and return (this aspect has many variations and sub-topics).
  • Visibility and impression: the man sees shadow, but does not see the object. He is projecting own impressions on the shadow, and thus, a review replaces the notion.
  • Way of life: equation only on the senses – limited ascetic life. It is a mental effort to assess what one saw, which requires hypersensitivity of perception and philosophical evaluation.

Francis Bacon’s “The Four Idols”

Bacon believed that human mind was not able to understand fully and accurately the subject of study. According to him, a major obstacle to the full and accurate knowledge could be prejudices that prevent people from understanding the truth. Bacon considered them the idols of kind, caves, market and theater. The first two types of idols were believed to be the natural ones that appeared from one’s birth. The other two types were acquired during their life. Bacon strongly recommended removing those idols that were one’s obstacles on the way to knowledge and thus making life more receptive to the happiness of truth. He believed that the best way to abolish idols was to appeal to experience and experimental data processing by scientific method.

Later, it became important to solve the second problem: which method should be considered as scientific knowledge and how to use it in a particular case. In the text, the solution to this problem appears in the form of allegory of spider, ants and bees. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Not being a naturalist, Bacon sometimes unreasonably assessed some discoveries and scientific ideas of his time. For example, he underestimated the role of mathematics in science, and later refused to recognize the truth of the Copernican heliocentric system. Simultaneously, he was the ancestor of experimental science, being able to catch its new spirit and understanding its needs and interests.

Carl Jung’s “The Structure of the Psyche”

Compared to Plato and Bacon, Jung considered the structure of personality as consisting of the three components that formed people’s understanding and happiness that included consciousness – ego, private individual unconscious, and collective unconscious, consisting of mental archetypes. Jung mentioned that one’s unconscious received knowledge from the outside world. However, he proved that such knowledge was inaccessible to human consciousness since initially it had a low intensity or other parameters. Jung paid great attention to the concept of unconscious and its dynamics, but his idea of it was radically different from Freud’s one. He regarded the psyche as a complementary interaction of conscious and unconscious components in a continuous exchange of energy between them. Jung did not consider unconscious as a psychobiological dump for the seized instinctive tendencies, repressed memories and subconscious inhibitions. He considered it as creative, intelligent principle, linking person with the whole humanity, with the understanding of nature and space.

Jung noted that the human mind consisted of several components: perception, thinking, emotional evaluations and intuitive anticipation. The process of anticipation, intuition is one of the main functions of the psyche. A person can be aware of the situation through perception of the potential opportunities within it. Jung distinguished different types of people with regard to the components of consciousness that dominated in a person. They were divided into: 1) mental and emotional; 2) sensing (based on the real perception at the moment) and intuitive (based on hunches and intuition); 3) volitional, rational or perceived irrational, spontaneous.

The volitional type of character has high expression of the will of the processes (this is the fifth component of consciousness). In Jung’s concept, these processes remind a pulsing line of thinking and understanding, which allows acting by own clear decision and implementing own will to happiness. Perceived irrational and spontaneous character is biased to predominance of instinctual processes (the sixth component of consciousness). They encourage one to change own decisions and actions repeatedly. These people follow impulses and fluctuations that appear from unconscious and strongly develop the character of dependence and coercion.


The paper provides brief analysis of the texts by Plato, Bacon and Jung discussing the issue of human ego in getting some knowledge, and understanding and becoming happy. They all made unique explorations of people’s thinking and acting mechanisms. Plato’s allegory of the cave prisoners limited in discovering the world later continued in Bacon’s concept of the four idols that make obstacles on the way to understanding the truth. In addition, Jung made revolutionary innovation by defining people’s ego, individual unconscious and collective unconsciousness. The archetypes he distinguished are widely used in psychology even nowadays.