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Metaphors in Plato's the Republic: the Sun, the Line and the Cave

  • Date Submitted: 11/30/2010 10:28 PM
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Plato's The Republic is a compilation of books written about a philosopher by the name of Socrates and his attempts to teach the importance of philosophy to his students so as to better aid them in the decision between leading a just or unjust life. To Socrates, understanding philosophy is also understanding metaphysics and understanding metaphysics is also understanding one's inner erotic desires; the basic primal instincts of a human being. This is so because metaphysics is understanding those things that hold what we know to be reality and part of a human's soul is to instinctively or learnedly know what is real and what is not. In an attempt to explain metaphysics, Socrates gives three images to his student, Glaucon, to help explain the nature of reality, the human soul's participation in reality and the significance of politics. Socrates finds himself solely focusing on one of his two students because of the potential that particular student, Glaucon, had shown as a potential future philosopher. In order to introduce Glaucon to the nature of reality, his soul's participation in reality and the importance of philosophy, Socrates conjures up a story with specific images to relay to Glaucon to help him further understand the lesson. These images are the allegory of the sun, the allegory of the divided line and the allegory of the cave. The three images are told as part of the same story because they are all interconnected. Without one of the images, the story could not make sense to explain the merging of reality and politics and how the human soul participates in reality. While one could take the most literal sense of the images and be inclined to take each part of the story at face value, there are also some strong metaphors attached to each of the three images. With the cave segment of the story, there are metaphors for ignorance, enlightenment by philosophy, the immorality of the world without philosophy and the natural progression of the human race from the...

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