The Cave Parable

Politeia VII: Plato continues now about God. God cannot be known through discussion, observation or the mind. Education cannot build a relationship between God and the believer, this has to come from divine revelation and human reasoning and interpretation. Goodness itself is God’s substance. Plato mentions one God as creator, goodness itself, governor of creation. If a community is cut off a divinity, it can never reach harmony as coming from true happiness. Therefor Plato likes to see a representative of the divinity and spokesman of divine will as leader of the community. The Egyptians were seen as role models for a happy society. The cave parable as explanatory example has become famous; it deals with observation, knowledge and human limitation. Light and water are important divine forces of knowledge, intelligence, purification and creation. The Sun is the highest source of light and goodness; God is the Sun. What about the cave? The cave is a subterranean prison where people with their necks and legs in tight chains; all they can is look forward. An opening the size of the cave itself supplies them with air and behind their backs, hight above them, burns a fire. There’s a road between the fire and the prisoners, shielded from them by a wall. Many people walk on this road, carrying objects like rocks, wooden statues of men and animals, lifted above the wall. Some talk, others don’t. The only thing each prisoner can see, is his own, his fellow prisoners’ and the shadows belonging to the objects carried around him on the road behind him. The prisoners take the shadows for the entire truth, maybe their own conversations and those of the pedestrians outside, for reality. Truth is that the prisoners live in a very small reality. If one of them is released and allowed to go outside, he has to get used to the abundant light, before he can see the landscape, other people and last but not least the Sun itself. He will understand that the Sun is source of all light, including the little bit in the cave. Now his reality has expanded, he never wants to go back to the small cave world, which stands for ignorance. The world that many people live in. Should he go back, he eagerly wants to enlighten the prisoners of the big world outside. They, however, see him stumble in clumsily, having to readjust to the darkness, and don’t believe that he is in such better situation. They will refuse to follow him outside. This is the position of those who have seen the bigger truth of divine observation and light having to return to human sorrows and behave clumsily, the popular image of philosophers and religious figures that cause others to mock them. Eyes can be blinded both ways: coming from darkness and coming from the light, it causes the observer to feel fortunate over the experience and living conditions before and pity the others. It shows that knowledge can’t be planted into a person. Man possesses all capabilities on every field, but has to focus with the entire body towards the light in order to see the reality of everything and be able to bear it’s shine. It’s about looking into the right direction, to about implanting the capability to see. What we call good qualities resemble bodily functions; a quality not yet present can be developed by repetition and training. Reason rather has a divine origin, it never leaves us and depends on what we focus on and how, if the intention is good or malicious. The leaders of a perfect society must have seen both the big outside world and been back in the cave and look with its inhabitants to the shadows on the wall, knowing where the shadows originate from. Observation alone isn’t always enough to inform our senses, because some observations miss context: presence of contrasts, different size, or distance between different observations. An objective, eternal, universal standard is needed for comparison of observations and then we end up needing accounting. How soft is soft? How big is big, how red is red? Our vision confuses these concepts. Both the military and philosophy need reason by means of arithmetics and algebra to end up at truth. Those aspiring to fulfill the highest posts in society ought to master arithmetics, not for making a profit, but if they successfully want to dedicate themselves to truth and reality. Socrates passionately supports the thought that numbers had to be separated from physical objects and must be seen as abstraction; in his view division into fractions really is multiplication. Only by reason, not by observation arithmetics can be properly understood. Physical objects and shapes, in other words down to earth practicality, are no useful first study realms for leaders of society; practically can only be understood if we understand the truth behind it all. Arithmetics should be the first compulsory study, then two-dimensional geometry, then three-dimensional geometry and fourth astronomy, if we want to know eternal truth. First simply numbers, then length, then, being more complicated and unknown, depth in single objects, and fourth depth in and between moving objects. Musicology is seen as astronomy’s opposite and should be studied not for its emotion but for its mathematical tone harmony and contrast. Both astronomy and musicology should be studied for their common characteristics and origin. If ever we want to practice reason, we must first have complete view over all that is, like the released cave prisoners, before we can properly judge what we see. To understand Goodness itself, we must have seen all of truth: the borders of everything we can reach, namely the Sun, the celestial bodies. Researching all that grows or was made by man isn’t the method; the clean and objective methods of arithmetics, geometry, astronomy and musicology are the right way to gain real knowledge. Reason, not empirical research. Reason must be part of higher education that must start at young age. The way to raise philosopher able to lead the community is higher education starting at very young age with sports, then the science mentioned and finally, no means before thirty years of age, an effort at debate can be made. Only those children with high intellect, strong memory, endurance and honesty are suited for this life, women included.

Sources:
Works by Plato, The Internet Archive http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Plato.html
Wikipedia.org
Philebus http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/philebus.html
Plato’s Politeia

 

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Filed under Known scientific research & development during the rise of Islam

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