Why was the conversation in Plato's Republic initiated?© BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com October 9, 2019, 5:51 pm ad1c9bdddf
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Why was the conversation in Plato's Republic initiated?
In Plato's well-known book The Republic, he tells a wonderful story about a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon (notice the similarity between the name "Glaucon" and "glaucoma"). Now, it is important here for us to review a little history about Plato. As the father of rationalism, he initiated the philosophy that our ideas of reality lie deeply embedded within our rational processes. Thus, the conversation was to that end. Plato's cave allegory is just that - an allegory. The men in the cave were the men of ignorance; they did not have the truth.
The following excerpt explains the conversation more fully:
I've slightly abridged the opening of this dialogue to help you understand the context of their exchange. Socrates begins...
"Behold! Human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can see only a large wall before them, being prevented by the chains from turning 'round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance.
'You have shown me a strange image,' said Glaucon, 'and they are strange prisoners. Like ourselves; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?'
'True,' said Socrates; 'how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?'
'And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?' asked Glaucon. 'To them, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.'
'That is certain,' replied Socrates."
Who is Socrates talking about in reference to Plato's cave? We notice that the cave dwellers are prisoners - chained, in fact. Now, it is important here for us to review a little history about Plato. As the father of rationalism, he initiated the philosophy that our ideas of reality lie deeply embedded within our rational processes. Further, he believed that people were born with different intellectual capacities. So Plato readily would have said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," but he never would have said, "that all men are created equal."
For Plato, the people in the cave were prisoners of ignorance. They saw only shadows of the truth, and Plato held little hope that these captives were capable of intellectually leaving the cave. A prisoner released from the chains who turned toward the light would quickly turn away from the painful brightness. I hope none of you are quite so pessimistic about human potential.
BUT, Plato wrote, "Suppose someone were to drag a prisoner away forcibly up the steep and rugged ascent and not let him go until he had hauled him into the sunlight...? Would not his eyes be so full of the light's radiance that he could not see a single one of the things that he was now told were real?"
Plato goes on to observe that eventually this "prisoner of unwisdom" would grow accustomed to the forms beyond the shadows, and therefore would be able to "act with wisdom, either in his own life or in matters of state."
So, does this new, enlightened soul now live happily ever after? Not exactly. Plato writes, ...
This solution discusses why the conversation in Plato's Republic was initiated.