The Dividing Lien of Plato's Allegory of the Cave

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Plato’s allegory of the cave, located in Book VII of The Republic is one of the most famous allegories in which he has created. This simile touches base on a number of philosophical ideas which Plato developed over the progression of The Republic (Plato, G.M.A Grube, 1993), the most noticeable being the dividing line. The dividing line is the point between the world of ideas where we live and the world of the forms which is in the heavens. This allegory of the cave helps people understand the theory on which philosophy is based. It is also in this Book where the education of the guardians is outlined.

We are asked in Book VII of The Republic to imagine a group of people sitting inside a cave, with their hands and feet bound. It is by this that we can decipher that these people did not ask to be in the cave but are merely prisoners. By being chained they are only able to observe what is in front of them, unable to fully see their surroundings or the people who reside in the cave with them. Behind the prisoners there is a fire burning, this fire is the only source of light in the cave. There is also a wall, where people, walking along a pathway carry objects of various materials, shapes, and sizes. These objects are held higher than the wall itself. With the aid of the fire burning behind the wall these objects are projected onto the wall in front of the prisoners as dancing shadows. The prisoner’s ignorance would lead them to believe that the names which they use to describe the various shadows were indeed the names of the object themselves. These prisoners have been residence of the cave since their childhood, and have grown to accept their surroundings are being true. Their entire experience is based on the shadows, which u...

... middle of paper ... of dialectics. It is only when a person has studied all of these subjects that they are truly able to understand the importance of dialectics. “...that the power of dialectic could reveal it only to someone experienced in the subjects we described and that it cannot reveal itself in any other way?” (Plato)

Plato’s theory of philosophy is clearly defined throughout Books VI and VII. It is in these two books that the allegory of the cave is introduced, setting up specific boundaries of what philosophy entails. The simile of the cave helps people grasp a perceptive of the complexity of what philosophy is in a way in which it is easy to understand, while still encompassing all the elements of philosophy. In Book VII the education of the philosopher king is addressed, showing insight to how various forms of education are valued in a philosophy based society.
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