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11. In Books VI and VII of The Republic Plato uses three images to explain his theory of knowledge and to demonstrate the educational steps one must take in order to have knowledge of reality. The Analogy of the Sun is the first and simplest image. Here Socrates distinguishes between visible and intelligible objects. He compares the light of the sun, by which we are able to see the actual things of the world, to the sun itself, which is the source of things being visible. Like the sun, the idea of the good is the source of things being intelligible; it is the source of all ideas. And reason is the faculty of the mind that grasps ideas. Thus the sun is to seeing as the idea of the good is to reasoning.
The Divided Line explains the distinction between the sensible and the intelligible more fully. The visible world of things that we daily come in contact with are shadows/ reflections of physical objects and the physical objects themselves. But to truly understand the physical objects and events of the actual world, we must grasp the intelligible ideas on which they depend; the ideas give physical objects meaning and essence. Ideas are intelligible objects and are divided by Plato into the objects of mathematics (for example, the concept of a circle) and into the forms (the highest principles and theories that inform us about the greatest function and the greatest knowledge of mankind-the Good Life and the ultimate purpose of all things).
After presenting this blueprint of the realms of knowledge, Plato puts his theory of knowledge and education into a poetic form, which is sometimes called the Allegory of the Cave. This cave image is the story of a man's ascent from the subterranean depths of ignorance, from thinking that shadows of sensible objects are reality, to his revelation in the sun of the cause and purpose of all things, of the reality of the good and of how things are and ought to be for all mankind, including the other people in the cave below.
What do these images on knowledge and reality have to do with the concept of justice? "Justice" is, of course, an intelligible object and is one of the principal components that comprise the highest idea, the form of the good. To truly understand justice, one must understand the Good Life and the harmonious functioning that is necessary for true pleasure to be achieved in society and in the individual soul. Is such understanding an impossible goal? Maybe. But Socrates claims to offer only a vision of the ideal. And the three images that Plato has him present make the ideal more vivid.
12. For Plato, Socrates is the model philosopher and the model for potential philosophers. Socrates is a lover of wisdom and a seeker of truth. He is not dogmatic in his beliefs; rather, he continually questions other people on their beliefs. He scrutinizes the statements of others with an intense, unrelenting logic. In The Republic Socrates plays two roles: the role of examiner of others' beliefs, especially in Book I, and the role of the wise man. In the latter role he puts forth his own ideas for the scrutiny of others (or perhaps he puts forth the ideas that Plato garnered from his tutelage with Socrates and that Plato embellished as a result of his own experience and insight). Among the issues that the philosopher Socrates discusses in The Republic are the characteristics of philosophers, their proper activities, and their rightful place in society.
After constructing the just state, in Book V Socrates says that until philosophers become kings and kings become philosophers the troubles of society and of individual souls will continue. But why should philosophers become kings? What attributes do they have that present politicians do not have?