The Philosopher King stands far above others in ancient Athens. At his own peril, amidst constant political chaos and corruption, Plato takes a brave stand for justice, for freedom, and for equality. The Republic, written around 375 B.C., isn't just Plato's treatise on the ideal state, nor is it just a state-of-mind journey from ignorance to enlightenment. Plato also taught at his Academy, the first university in Europe, that political science is the science of the soul.
Indeed, Plato's wisdom is a striking example of visionary perfection, where a pure idea of virtue allows the greatest possible human freedom in accordance with laws by which the freedom of each is made to be consistent with that of all others. The Republic also denotes a strong philosophic conviction, where the temporal is only a shadow of the eternal, and that ultimately, "the human soul is responsible not simply to itself but to God."
In addition, the Republic's allegorical contrasts between objective reality and empirical observation is the intuition of the form of the good revealed mathematically. This pure knowledge releases the true philosopher from the shadows and illusions of information derived from sensory observation. Plato explains that "what gives the objects of knowledge their truth, and the knower's mind the power of knowing, is the form of the good. It is the cause of knowledge and truth, and we will be right to think of it as being itself known, and yet as being something other than, and even more splendid than, knowledge and truth."
The cave allegory does not stand alone in the Republic, for it is best understood as a successful philosophical conclusion to a trilogy of allegories. This trilogy, expressed in beautiful pictorial and poetic fashion, begins with the sun, then moves on the divided line, and concludes with the cave. The philosopher ruler's final descent into the cave is not to leave everyone to please himself, but "to make each man a link in the unity of the whole". That is, outside the cave, the philosopher ruler, either man or woman, reaches the summit of speculation, destined to return once again to serve the prisoners in the cave, uniting all citizens so that they can collectively reap the benefits of each individual contribution.
The first allegory begins with a symbolic narrative of the visible world outside the cave as the source of growth and light, and also the source of reality and truth. The sun gives intelligibility to objects of thought, and the power of knowing to the mind. "And just as it was...