The Cave Analogy in “The Republics” by Plato Essay
Plato presented the allegory of the cave in his book the Republics in a manner suggesting that the king should play the role of enlightening people in society. The seventh book of Plato discussed the extent to which people should be enlightened in society. Plato suggested that the king would live a philosophic life by simply avoiding evil in society. Through this, leaders in society would achieve their objectives peacefully. Plato utilized the idea of the philosopher-king to explicate the metaphysical and epistemological hypotheses, which described the uniqueness of the philosopher-king. Plato used the analogy of the sun, the line, and the cave in explaining the living conditions of prisoners in the cave. Plato observed that people should always avoid evil and aim at doing good things in society (Elliott, 1967). In this regard, the philosopher-king should be somebody with the interest of the majority at heart. Human beings have the ability to behaving in four different ways. However, only the philosopher-king can behave in four different ways. According to Plato, the allegory of the cave is the most important. The allegory of the cave illustrates the impacts of education on the human soul. In this regard, education is crucial to human life.
In the cave, there is no light. The cave is designed in such a way that people can only look in front but not sideways. Moreover, people cannot look behind since the cave is so squeezed. Fire and other dangerous objects surround the cave. Another group of people occupies one section of the cave. The group is very arrogant and unsupportive. The prisoners in the cave can only see the shadows of real objects. In their senses, prisoners believe that these shadows are the real creatures. One day, one of the prisoners was taken out of the cave to see real objects. The prisoner noted that there was a difference between something real and a shadow. After some time, the prisoner was able to see the sun. As soon as the prisoner saw the sun, he concluded that the sun is the source of light. From Plato’s view, the sun is equivalent to the king. This means that the king represents the good image of society. Therefore, the King should be a reliable person in society.
Plato came up with his form of government after analyzing the analogy of the cave. Plato observed that the best individuals in society should always be allowed to rule. In this regard, only qualified persons should occupy influential positions in the public and private sectors. Plato noted that democracy is the worst form of government because it does not give the best individuals in society a chance to exercise their power. In other words, it is the worst system of government. Democracy is the tyranny of the multitude because the majority might force the leader to implement deformed policies. Individuals who receive the best form of education are compared to the sun. The prisoner from the cave saw real objects because of the availability of the sun. Similarly, society can achieve its goals and objectives if the best are allowed to rule. If the best were allowed to rule, society would achieve justice. According to Plato, the issue of justice must be found in both the individual and the city. This would bring out the analogy of the individual and the city. The individual has three major qualities. The same applies to the city, which should have three qualities. An individual should be rational in his or her actions. The individual must be reasonable in order to be different from animals and plants. Rationality would help an individual differentiate between the right and wrong acts. Furthermore, some situations demand courage. An individual must develop courage in order to face difficult situations. However, rationality would help an individual differentiate between situations that demand courage and those that demand a reason. The last aspect that Plato discussed was appetite. Human beings share this aspect with animals.
Therefore, leaders must be sensitive to the sufferings of citizens. In other words, leaders must be responsive to the demands and wishes of the majority in society. The philosopher-king must be somebody with an adequate education. This would help him categorize the situations that demand reason and those that demand courage. In the allegory of the cave, the sun symbolized the ultimate form. Similarly, the philosopher-king represents the interests of the poor and the helpless. The sun was the form of good, which was the source of reality, kindness, and beauty. However, the philosopher-king could only excel if soldiers provide enough assistance to him. The soldiers are compared to courage because they risk their lives to protect both the philosopher-king and the populace. The populace is compared to appetite because it is full of criticism. Nonetheless, the populace is very important because it supports the king financially. The city must have soldiers, philosopher-king, and citizens.
Elliott, R. K. (1967). Socrates and Plato’s Cave. Kant-Studien, 58(2), 138.
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