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‘Taken as a whole, the Sun, Divided Line and Cave present us with a coherent picture of Plato’s ideas’. Discuss.

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Introduction

'Taken as a whole, the Sun, Divided Line and Cave present us with a coherent picture of Plato's ideas'. Discuss. The purpose of the simile of the Sun is to show the difference between knowledge and opinion. In the world of opinion the sun gives light for us to gain empirical knowledge through sight. Objects (such as tables and mugs) and concepts (such as beauty and love) are part of the world of opinion because they are detected by our senses. The Form of beauty (or love) exists in the realm of the Forms. Plato believed that the Form of good gives philosophers knowledge of the Forms. The Form of Good gives the mind's eye the power of knowledge and illuminates other Forms with truth and reality. In this way the Form of good allows us to see other forms and ultimately it allows us to see the form of good. The sun is also the source of all growth, and thus the Form of good is the source of all the Forms, and the cause of all existence. In the Sun, Plato's idea is that visibility is opinion and the Form of good gives us the reality behind visibility - knowledge of the Forms. The divided line goes into more depth on Plato's previous idea. ...read more.

Middle

There are people talking outside holding statues. Their voices and the images of the statues are projected into the cave, and the prisoners believe these are real. The people trapped in the cave are all looking at shadows of statues (images themselves) projected against the wall, and therefore are doubly ignorant. Plato allows a prisoner to be released, and he walks towards the fire where he is dazzled. It hurts him, and he is told that the people on the road are real and that the shadows are nonsense. He returns to the cave: choosing illusion. Plato is showing a would-be philosopher failing his journey of knowledge, due to a flawed character. Later on, the prisoner is taken into the sunlight and held until his eyes grow accustomed to the sunlight. Once accustomed he can see shadows and reflections within time. Plato here brings in the idea from the simile of the Sun, creating a coherent idea between the two similes, that the Form of good (the Sun) allows the philosopher to see other things until finally he can see the forms, and finally the Form of good itself (the Sun). Through duty the prisoner returns to the cave and is blinded by the darkness. This is an idea Plato has that the eyes can be blinded by the light and by the dark, as the mind can be confused by greater and lesser minds. ...read more.

Conclusion

He also contradicts what he said earlier in the section on the Philosopher Ruler, that people in general only experience opinion / belief. This is only a problem if we use a strict interpretation, and in that case it would not be a simile at all, as similes should be open to wide interpretation. Another problem occurring in the Cave is that the shadows are used to describe illusion once, and mathematical reasoning another time. If we take the Divided Line, shadows should show illusion, and mathematical reasoning should be based upon physical things and a certain amount of belief. Plato has misused his metaphor of shadows in one of these similes and created an inconsistency. Although Plato has given us a clear picture of what his idea of knowledge and opinion is, and how the Form of Good fits into it, he has left many questions unanswered and a lot of gaps which need filling. His similes have been written and laid out in such a way that they can be interpreted in many varying, some contradictory fashions. This leads to the question of "did Plato actually know himself where he was going with his arguments, or did he make them up as he went along?" I personally think he thought them out well, but had to manipulate some things to fit in with his line of reasoning. This is perhaps a reason why these three similes are partly incoherent. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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