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Metaphors In Plato's The Republic: The Sun, The Line And The Cave

2495 words - 10 pages

Plato's The Republic is a compilation of books written about a philosopher by the name of Socrates and his attempts to teach the importance of philosophy to his students so as to better aid them in the decision between leading a just or unjust life. To Socrates, understanding philosophy is also understanding metaphysics and understanding metaphysics is also understanding one's inner erotic desires; the basic primal instincts of a human being. This is so because metaphysics is understanding those things that hold what we know to be reality and part of a human's soul is to instinctively or learnedly know what is real and what is not. In an attempt to explain metaphysics, Socrates gives three ...view middle of the document...

The divided line, as the second allegory introduced to Glaucon, can be taken as a metaphor for the natural progression of some people based on their individual level of intelligence, and the difference between the levels of activity in comparison the level of cognitive thought capability. Lastly, the sun, otherwise known as the Form of the Good, can be a metaphor for the highest level of attainable human perfection, or even God. The sun, the line and the cave are perfect explanations for the nature of the ultimate reality, the human soul's participation in reality and the importance of philosophy. Through the explanation of the three allegories and their metaphors it will become clear how these images could explain the three important lessons Socrates wanted to teach Glaucon.

The cave is the first allegory for Socrates. Glaucon is told by Socrates about a cave where a handful of prisoners have been kept since their birth. These prisoners were tied in such a way that they could only stare forward at a wall in front of them. They could not see the statues behind them, the fire behind the statues, or the other people silently positioning the statues so as to cast shadows at the wall the prisoners stared at. The only things these prisoners could see were the stories the shadows were playing out on the wall in front of them. "Then the prisoners would in every way believe that the truth is nothing other than the shadows of those artifacts." [515c] These prisoners, having been born in the caves and never released even once to experience the world were completely unaware of their surroundings outside the cave and assumed everything they saw and experienced to be true within the cave and that these things were the utmost real things in the world. This image of these prisoners in the cave is a metaphor for ignorant people. People can only have insight to things of which they know and the things they know make up their ultimate reality. These prisoners knew nothing else besides the shadows on the wall. They could not see each other, or the statues making these shadow stories on the wall. This relates to ignorant people in the world we live in today. Narrow-minded people are people who think their way is right and there is no other way better than this. These people should not be confused with ignorant people. The ignorant just simply do not know there is another way, just as the prisoners did not know that the shadows depicted real things and people above the earth's surface. Whilst being ignorant could be considered a negative thing, so too could being enlightened by philosophy and then returning to the situation from which one came. "If this man went down into the cave again and sat down in his same seat, wouldn't his eyes--coming suddenly out of the sun like that--be filled with darkness?' [516e] The cave could also be a possible metaphor for the darkness of the world without the enlightenment of philosophy. The prisoners being held in the depths...

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