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An Analysis Of Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave And The Importance Of Light In Discovering Truth

1136 words - 5 pages

In The Republic, Plato introduces a philosophy that transcends the exclusivity of the contemplative and the active lives. He defines the ultimate truth as “aletheia”, which literally translates to mean “unhidden” or “that which does not remain unnoticed”. Through his use of the term and his allegory of the cave, Plato makes the strong implication that philosophers must actively seek to discover the absolute truth, rather than relying on traditional methods of contemplation and the persuasive tone of rhetoric to prove its existence. To better explain his reasoning, Plato constructs a metaphor between the sun and the ultimate good. He argues that “the soul is like the eye” in that it requires an exterior force to establish clarity of vision (Book VI p. 25). When the ultimate good illuminates an idea with truth and reason like the sun illuminates an object, the soul understands with clarity. When an idea is not illuminated, the soul perceives nothing clearly and retreats to the ignorance of an unenlightened opinion. Plato extends this metaphor throughout his writings and succeeds in relating the complexity of the intellectual world to the tangibility and familiarity of the visible world. In this way, Plato allows for a complete understanding and, by only suggesting his position with figurative language and dialectic, he encourages Glaucon and the reader to come to their own realizations of the ultimate good, thereby achieving “aletheia”.
Plato introduces the importance of sight and light by comparing the commonalities of the physical realm with the ideals of his higher, philosophical realm. Through a series of linear questions, he comes to the conclusion that the sun is “to the visible world in relation to sight” as “good is [to] the intellectual world in relation to mind” (Book VI, p. 25). Accordingly, Plato associates twilight or nighttime with ignorance and opinion. He writes, “when turned towards the twilight of becoming and perishing, then [the soul] has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and seems to have no intelligence” (Book VI, p. 25). By establishing opinion as the opposite to the ultimate good, and by definition, the ultimate evil, he criticizes the use of rhetoric and persuasion while praising to his long-winded, circuitous form of writing. By continually asking questions and telling parables, Plato avoids direct advocation of his beliefs and allows his readers to discover the truth for themselves, rather than to be coerced through eloquent language.
Plato expands this analogy in the allegory of the cave. The prisoners, who have lived in the cave since their childhood, “have their necks chained so that they cannot” turn their heads (Book VII, p. 1). From the beginning, their range of sight has been restricted, symbolizing their lack of knowledge. A fire, which resembles a lesser form of the sun, provides the cave with its main source of light, but instead of illuminating objects for the prisoners, the light serves...

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