February 9, 2005

Well, it was allegorical...

To see the light, quite literally in Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic, is to be transformed. Not a big leap in current culture, but one that is well worth reading and revisiting, despite the sometimes circular language, which Plato's master, Socrates, is known.

Like Johanna, I also had a philosophy course last semester, and I did bring with me a similar knowledge of Plato. In my class, we did not discuss this particular section, but I knew the language of Plato, and was ready for a sometimes awkward, read-me-five-times-over selection.

The best part of the entire set-up of the dialogues is the insertion of another person, just to make the title of "dialogue" applicable. The other speaker, Glaucon, in this instance, has lines like "I see" and "I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you."

The dialogue format of this entire work is all wrong. I would rather read all of Socrates' work together, rather than the choppy nature of Glaucon's interruptions.

On the other hand, this format does offer the reader a chance to settle into the rhetoric of Plato/Socrates, which permits the concept of truth to shine through the sometimes difficult language.

This concept of truth/learning is inherent to Plato:

"The power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already;...the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul...and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being."

The inherent nature of truth confounds me. I am not sure if it is possible to make that kind of generalization. Can the people down in the cave think that there must be something grander than the shadows that they perceive? Is it possible for them to believe? And if so, why do they turn the seer away?

In my Islam course with a visiting professor, Abdul Dardery on Wednesday nights for 4.5 hours. We have lots of time to discuss, and last night, we went into dialogue on the supposed inherent understanding of God that functions in every human being. The author of the book we are reading, Faruqi, states that it is a sixth sense that enables all of humanity to perceive God.

Socrates also believes this statement, but perhaps in his Greek cultural context:

In a world of knowledge the idea of good apears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual."

In this understanding of truth/the divine...whatever you wish to call it, we are confused, with the "bewilderments of the eyes...coming out of the light or from going into the light." That is the manner in which we live our lives; using our senses, and through experience, one either retreats into shadow, or advances into light. To be entirely in darkness or entirely in the light are extremes that I am not sure are possible.

In another of Plato's works that I did read last semester, "The Apology", Socrates knows that he does not know, and that his wisdom is meaningless, and is found to be the "none wiser" when he sees others thinking that they are in the light. I would classify these people as "fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest" that he mentions in the allegory. Blinded by their senses, by what others say, they cannot see past the shadows--do not want to see beyond the vanities of their comfortable lives.

Anyway, that's my understanding, but sometimes Socrates runs circles around me, too.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at February 9, 2005 4:01 PM | TrackBack
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