Analogy Of The Sun Essay

2000 words - 8 pages

Plato is most renown for his written interpretations of his teacher, Socrates. It is within the sixth book of The Republic in which an important analogy comes to sight; the analogy of the sun. Many questions regarding this analogy have been orbiting the minds of great thinkers, one being whether or not the analogy makes any sense. The obvious answer is yes, it does make sense, but before we dive into this topic, a proper explanation of the allegory of the sun is needed.

The origins of the allegory comes from a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon, Plato’s older brother. Within this discussion, Socrates brings forth the idea that the sun represents the good, and that the sun is ...view middle of the document...

The good is responsible for the existence of all objects, the existence of forms, essentially the cause of everything coming to be in the visible and intelligible realms. (Reeve & Miller 199-200)

When dealing with intellect, a quote from the sixth book of The Republic comes to mind. Socrates is believed to have stated, “the latter is in the intelligible realm in relation to understanding and intelligible things, and the former is in the visible realm on relation to sight and visible things.” (Reeve & Miller 199) He essentially means that the good is the source of intelligibility. The Oxford Dictionary describes intelligible as the ability “to be understood; comprehensible.” (Intelligible n.d.) Using this definition and relating back to the argument that the sun represents the good, the good is seen as a source for light and visibility, more so a source for intellect, it is easy to see that the sun makes the visible realm comprehensible due to its giving of light and visibility. If it were night, you would not be able to establish what certain objects are, they would seem rather imperfect. Socrates tells Glaucon to think of it as the same with the eye of the soul. He states “when it focuses on something that is illuminated both by truth and what is, it understands. But when it focuses on what is mixed with obscurity, on what comes to be and passes away, it believes and is dimmed, changed its belief this way and that, seems bereft of understanding.” (Reeve & Miller 199) An easier example could simply be as follows; a plant that you find in the middle of the forest during the night. If you were to stand several feet away from the plant, you would be unable to see it. The object you are viewing will appear a little distorted, maybe disfigured, and possibly animal like if you were not that experienced with plants. However, with the sun and much more light, you can see the object from a few feet away and can make it out to be a plant. Do not get this mixed up with the theory that just because you can not properly see the object, it does not exist. The plant still physically exists, however when it is shrouded by darkness it is hard to point out certain characteristics of the object, it is nearly impossible. Even though things are there and visible, their true perfect form cannot be seen without light. Therefore, it can be seen that the good, by producing light and visibility, acts as a source of intelligibility.

Now that the good has granted us light and visibility, allowing us to see objects clearly and understand what they are, the next thing that comes to the plate is knowledge. As defined in the Oxford Dictionary, knowledge is known as “facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.” (Knowledge n.d.) Some philosophers will argue that knowledge is a priori (knowledge that is independent of any experiences, knowledge that you are born with) while...

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