The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Allegory of the dorm

Joey King | Sunday, March 22, 2009

Socrates: And now let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened. Behold!

Students living in a single sex dorm. Here they have been since their freshman year. They have had their drinking games dismantled, their beer bong confiscated, and their time and money assigned to fines and community service.

All around them are better options; and you will see, if you look, a couple of apartment complexes within walking distance, as well as numerous houses only a short bike ride or drive away.

Glaucon: I see.

Socrates: And do you see the crowded study halls turned residencies?

Glaucon: You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.

Socrates: And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their on-campus residency. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to buy groceries and clean the bathroom, he will suffer sharp pains; the chores will distress him, and he will be unable to see the world of which in his former state he had seen only the bubble; and then conceive someone saying to him that what he saw before was okay for awhile, but to be moved on from – what will be his reply? Will he not fancy that the bathroom which he formerly used was cleaner than the one used now?

Glaucon: Far cleaner.

Socrates: And when the police come to break up his party instead of the RA, will he not have regrets? He will not immediately appreciate his additional freedoms.

Glaucon: Not all in a moment.

Socrates: He will require to grow accustomed to the workings of the slightly-more-real world. At first he will see the old habits best, then he may stock a bar, then he will gaze upon the light of the ability to be belligerent on his own terms.

Glaucon: Certainly.

Socrates: Last of all he will be able to purchase a keg, and not mere cases. He will then proceed to argue that this is what gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?

Glaucon: Clearly, he would first purchase the keg and then reason about it.

Socrates: And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the dorm and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?

Glaucon: Certainly, he would.

Socrates: And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who had had the best dorm events or had been the hall of the year, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them?

Glaucon: I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner. He would be particularly glad not to have endured the conditions of a girls’ dorm, especially Pasquerilla West.