The Republic

The republic by Plato

what do you think the allegory of the cave means 

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Analysis: Book VII

The Republic's most famous allegory, designed to encapsulate Plato's Theory of Forms, the Allegory of the Cave is evidence for not only philosophic genius, but imaginative genius as well. A summary interpretation of the allegory's Œmeaning' cannot be better or more concisely stated than in Socrates' addition: "the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upward to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual worldŠ" So, to be very clear on one point of possible confusion, the blinding sun of the allegory is not the real sun, but a symbol for the good.

The concept of duty and service are addressed in response to the objection raised by Glaucon. While contemporary philosophers are, for the most part, self-taught, they have no obligation to serve their state; however, the guardians are nurtured and educated, that is, liberated, by the State‹they are unshackled. Therefore, and if their probity is not enough to dictate for them, compulsory service to that which has made them what they are is just.

The unique quality of arithmetic is its capacity to differentiate and unify at the same time; for example, the number one is both singular and infinite (i.e. between 0 and 1 lie an infinite multitude of numbers [fractions]). Platonic ideals are commensurate, in this mode, with abstract numbers, while calculations‹of five apples, for instance‹work with actual manifestations.

Mathematical sciences join Plato's educational curriculum only so far as they remain fixed on the proper goal: the ascertainment of being and not becoming. But dialectic is superior to all of them in that it has no hypotheses, no presuppositions. It is worth reproducing here the following syllogisms as found in the text:

"As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion. And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and understanding to the perception of shadows."

The guardians must master dialectic and be able to employ it to grasp the good.

In the course of the dialogue, Plato has constructed the fundamental outline of the liberal arts education offered by most contemporary universities, whose pedagogy descend from Plato's Academy.

The long and arduous road to becoming a ruler of the State begins with informal intellectual stimulation. Plato advances the position of early learning as amusement, so as not to discourage children from it. Gradually, the most promising children are tested; those who succeed, move onward. The education and training of a guardian is a combination of the different types of knowledge and experience available to human beings, from the purely speculative and academic to the experiential. In this way, the guardian emerges, after fifty fully realized years, the only person capable and worthy of ruling the ideal State. He (or she) is, in Plato's terms, the perfect, or at least the complete and just, ruler‹the philosopher-king, just as the State can be the only truly just state.