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Table of Contents
THE DIVIDED LINE (509d-511c)
Using the Analogy of the Sun Socrates demonstrated that there are two ways of knowing the world (two types of mental faculties)- perceiving with the senses and comprehending with the intellect. He also showed that two kinds of objects (two types of reality) correspond to these mental faculties-visible objects and intelligible objects. Now Socrates endeavors to reveal the inextricable relationship between mental processes and objects of reality. In the image of the Divided Line he presents an outline of his epistemology (theory of knowledge). And at the same time this outline is a concise educational model of the kinds of higher intellectual training needed for detaching the mind from a preoccupation with sensation and appetite, and moving the mind toward an understanding of the principle of knowledge itself.
Although a representation of the Divided Line is provided below, before you look at it see if you can follow Socrates' suggestions in the text.
Socrates gives the following directions: Draw a line divided into two unequal segments, the shorter segment representing the sensible world, the longer one representing the intelligible world. (The latter segment is longer because the intelligible world has a higher degree of reality and truth.) Next divide each major segment into two subsegments that have the same ratio as the sensible to the intelligible. Label the entire lower segment "sensible world" and the entire upper segment "intelligible world." Within the sensible world fill in one side of the line with the labels "shadows and reflections" on the bottom level, and "physical objects" on the next level. As you see, shadows and reflections are merely copies or imitations of such physical objects as animals, trees, and the like.
Moving up to the intelligible world, label the subsegment above "physical objects" with the words "mathematics and hypotheses," and think for a moment on the ways in which mathematics and other sciences use physical objects in order to illustrate the hypotheses generated by the mind. Finally, label the top subsegment "first principles and forms." Although these highest objects of knowledge use the hypotheses below to foster an understanding of the nature of absolute ideas, they are not affected by the imprecision and distortion of the sensible world.