By Sudipa Sarkar
Plato (c. 427 – 347 B.C.E) formulized a varied range of areas of philosophy including epistemology, metaphysics, politics, ethics and aesthetics. Being a prototypical political philosopher of all time, Plato provided a reflective impact on successive theories of politics. The central ideology of Plato’s philosophical interpretation was primarily based on his use of dialectics, a mode of arguments concerning the profound reflections of nature of reality as well as using cognitive optimism, a principle believing in the ability of the human mind in order to accomplish truth and to use this truth for fulfilling the objective predominantly based on rational choice to act on human affairs set with virtuous ordering. Plato believed that a harmonious society can be attained by the interaction of specific mode of righteous and rational order of political philosophy based on the implementation of virtue. However, the “Republic” likewise the “Statesman” and the “Law” and other few other short dialogues, described as political dialogues, the political philosophy had received significant consideration in the approach of Plato. Conceptual analysis, as introduced by Plato for the first time in the framework of political philosophy, is defined as a mental clearance implying the clarification of a conceptualization in its implication, using which the philosopher and analyst can deal with incompatible ideas corresponding to the requirement based on rational reality. In his political philosophy, Plato thus, coined the conceptual analysis as a tool for evaluating beliefs corresponding to find out the result of the best political order. The continuum representing the movement from clarification of analysis by the virtue of evaluation of beliefs to attain the goal of best political order is enunciated in the structure of Plato’s Republic. This paper aims at finding out the basic philosophy of Plato’s analogies and his formulation of the division of soul structure as well as an insight of Plato’s defence of the Republic King in the “Republic” with a clear understanding of critical evaluation of Plato.
Basic Philosophical Conceptualization of Plato
Plato, being the idealist philosopher, described the idea of the Good in his volume “Republic” through the dialogues of Socrates. The idealization of the Good is described as the child or offspring (ekgonos) of the Good, as ascribed by the superlative model of goodness, hence attributing to the absolute determinant of justice. Plato’s explanation of his theory of justice, as articulated in his ideology of a city in dialectics, affirmatively attributed the rule of rational mind as implicated in the formation of philosopher-king, having the ability to take a hold of the Idea of the Good. Plato theorised that the highest attainment of knowledge or wisdom is the Idea of the Good, which has an implication in gaining usefulness and value. In general, the humans are programmed to practise the good, but without the knowledge of philosophical reasoning this attainment is not perfectly possible. Goodness has its own implication of involving factors such as justice, truth, equality and beauty that can be defined as the “Hierarchy of Forms”. Our ideologies to understand materialistic knowledge based on mathematics and science are propounded with the underlying theme of abstraction by the methods of opinion based on perception that is actually situated at the bottom of the materialistic plane.
The Republic is one of the most influential contributions made in the history of political philosophy and the Cave is the most popular allegory of the Republic. In the Republic, the human condition is described as in the state of prisoners constrained in a cave observing only the shadows reflected on the wall they are facing. The goal of human mind is thus transcendence from this state by virtue of incorporating genuine education, envisaged as liberation from imprisonment, and articulated as a movement towards an upward journey of soul from the darkness into light by virtue of employing new point of reference of one’s whole life. In the part VII of the book “Republic”, the Cave represents the philosophical position through figurative depiction. The allegory of the Cave is an out of the ordinary reflection as Socrates himself agreed that the Cave is not an exact phenomenon (504b5; cf. 435c9-d2). Plato’s cave depicts a central theme corresponding to the ideologies illustrated by Socrates’ philosophical examinations that the appropriate teaching only occurs when students are willing to search the wisdom for themselves, discovery for themselves. This readiness of for self-examination actually contributes to the possibility of the ‘care of the soul’.
In the cave, as described in the Republic, the prisoners are able to differentiate between different shadows and sounds (516c8-9, cf. e8-9), to relate the names of the shadows illustrating objects (cf. 515b4-5) as well as even discriminate between the patterns of their appearance (516c9-10), attributing to an understanding of reality insofar. However, their knowledge of entire reality encapsulates the understanding of two-dimensional, monochromatic interaction of figures and sound-echoes reverberating within the cave, which is pertinently unsuitable to the inclusion of reality and thus can be articulated as an error. They do not possess any clear concepts regarding the formation of shape and their existence likewise whatsoever (515b7-9). Metaphorically like prisoners, the human condition is composed of limited, small-scale, true beliefs characteristics. As put in the Republic, a human being possesses the ability to differentiate between a varieties of object, whereas, consists of an inadequate capacity of explaining those objects systematically and causally. In other words, a human being possesses true beliefs of what of phenomenon, but a distorted why of phenomenon. At this point, Socrates’ exploration of justice incorporates as a mechanism to find out the pragmatic explanation of why phenomenons are the way they are and the mutual interactive relationship between those phenomenons. As described by Plato, as an individual attains his wisdom articulated to the knowledge of form of a phenomenon in particular, a comprehensive account of its essence can be produced thereafter.
While putting his emphasis on the notion concerning the ideology of education and the value of justice in the account of political institution in large perspective, Plato idealized the defence of an aristocratic government seemed to have unlikely won the endorsement of democratic Athens. Plato particularly utilised the characters known as Galucon and Adeimantus while putting an emphasis for a practical argument against the plan. The notion particularly employed few fundamental characteristics whence defining the ‘guardian’ class including gender indifference during participation, exclusion of families and education for the children.
The majority of the Greek society of that time considered that as there is a natural difference between males and females, thus it is fundamental that there is a significant difference in their societal role as well. Plato recognised the implication of the natural differences among males and females including their size, colour, height and strength, however, Plato did not accept the ideology of any systematic differences between males and females regarding their role to play as a guardian as well as there is no gender bias in relation to the understanding of the reality and making reasonable judgement about it.
Additionally Plato considered that the children, if raised within the guardian class being separated from their biological parents, may possess the ability to serve the society in a best possible way which have been criticised significantly by several scholars (Shorey, 1982 & 1987).
Quite evidently, the general notion of impracticality surrounds the concept of philosopher king. However, according to Plato’s ideology ‘what should it be’ is preferred over ‘what it is now’ in order to pursue the truest form of reality in terms of transcendence of facts in daily lives. Believing in the ideal state, Plato perceived the embodiment of the highest and best abilities of human’s societal framework, if the perfect individual is set on charge. The primary key to the accomplishment of the entire manhood is wisdom which is employed rationally by the intervention of knowledge. Plato conceptualized that the attainment of perfect society is dependent on the interrelationships among kings and philosophers, that is, the attainment is possible only when the king has turned into philosophers or philosophers to king.
The Sun, as explained in the “Republic”, is considered to be a unique Form of the Good. This is unique in terms of distinguishing it as single out of other Form as distinct in category from the others, as Plato did not put any continual focus to the good per se. as Plato explained in the ‘Republic that the ‘good’ can not be defined, but an analogy can be provided with a mode of comparative analysis illustrating that good refers to wisdom and truth what the sun refers to light and sight. The analogy provides the objects of understanding the truth as well as the mind the supremacy of recognition is the Form of the Good. It refers to the knowledge truth, which is recognised as being itself known, to the higher degree and even higher than knowledge and truth itself. Plato analysed that as the light and sight can be considered as being like the sun, the wisdom is inappropriate while considering light and sight as being the sun itself which is as similar as the understanding of knowledge and truth as being like the Good, but not being the Good itself. Hence, it can concluded by following the allegory that the Good is the foundation for not only the intelligible part of the objects of wisdom as well as their presence and implication in reality; however, not indistinguishable with reality itself, but beyond the phenomenon of reality, by encapsulating the form of dignity and power with a superior mode of identification.
The analogy of sun primarily concerns following five essential principles –
The Eye is unable to visualize objects such as Tree for example in the absence of the Sun; which is similar to the understanding featuring that the Mind is unable to recognize the Forms without the knowledge of the Form of the Good.
The Eye must possess a nature of the same kind to the Sun so that objects such as Tree can be seen, which is analogous to the understanding that the Soul must possess a nature of the same kind to the Good so that the Forms can be known.
The Sun is responsible in the generation of living beings, which is analogous to the Good as it is responsible for the generation of Forms.
The Good contributes to the basis of wisdom and truth and like each of them either but not identical, and is better than both.
The Good is also considered as the source of being and is beyond being in solemnity and outshining power.
To make the reader understand the analogy, Socrates derived tripartite relationship among the Eye, the Sun and the perceivable object (the Tree) in which the relationship among the knower, the known and the phenomenon that makes the knowing possible are explored.
In the Republic, volume VI as explained by Socrates the fictional methodology of a divided line is used to teach the fundamental philosophical ideologies attributing to the four levels of existence and the corresponding approaches about the existence.
The Divided Line
Socrates illustrated an imaginative line divided into two segments, in which the larger segment (CE) depicting the intelligible world as the smaller segment (AC) depicting the visible world. Again, each segment of the line is subdivided into another two segments following the same ratio. The sub-divisions constituting the intelligible world represent the higher (DE) and the lower (CD) form, whereas on the other hand, the sub-divisions constituting the visible world represent the ordinary visible objects (BC) and reflections and other representations (AB). The implication of inequality of line segments particularly represents their virtual transparency as well as shadows in terms of attainment of ‘reality and truth’. As per Socrates’ prescription, the two middle segments denoted as BC and CD essentially are of same length. This implies that our interaction with ordinary perceptual objects leading to the attainment of reality and truth in particular, whereas, if the shadows or reflections are attended, this may lead to the attainment of relatively obscure opinion of phenomenon that is actually not real. As Socrates pointed out the intimate relationship between ordinary objects and their representative imagery can be described in terms of explaining the interrelationship among the visual objects and their corresponding images along with world of forms. The visual world is in particular a referential framework of specific reflection of the world of forms that corresponds to more reality and truthfulness. While considering the ideology behind the sub-divisions articulating to the intelligible world, it can be conceptualized that the lower form (CD) constitutes the real items in terms of the shadows all around particularly reflected from the ordinary particular objects; the higher form, on the other hand, representing hypothetically ‘the Form of the Good’ are in essence shaped into priori reasoning, as the wisdom contributed as the experience not particularly dependent of any perceptually-known particulars or ideologies.
Plato’s Theory of the Division of the Soul
In the “Republic”, Plato reflected a great insight on justice assuming that justice is an outstanding condition of soul; hence, the “Republic” portrays a significant reflection on the Plato’s notion of the soul. As defined as the ideology of central characteristics of the soul entirely depends on the accountability for the life of a being attributing to the cognitive and intellectual functioning by means of moral virtues inclusive of courage and justice. At the end of “Republic” volume I, Socrates provided Thrasymachus an intricate argument at the end of the discussion by declaring that “injustice is never more profitable than justice” (357a), however, injustice and justice are in essence evenly profitable in the dialectical context. This evidently concludes that just individuals are more happier than the unjust, so the spectacular distinction implies on how good individuals live their lives which essentially depends on the reflective differences stemmed from the practicing of cognitive and intellectual functioning, are functionally symbolizes the divergences in the states of the soul, on the basis of analysing the presence or absence of virtues of justice, courage and temperance.
The “Republic” signifies that the human soul in particular comprises of three main aspects –
• Spirit / Emotion
• Spirit / Emotion
Reason is considered as having the greatest value, while spirit or emotion and especially appetite are considered as being ‘lower passion’. An ordered state of soul is particularly governed by Reason. Plato concluded that only the ‘happy’ individual is a ‘just’ individual, whose state of the soul is presided over by Reason and it eventually takes a control over the state of emotion and appetite. In order to attain a balanced state of soul, the ‘emotion’ and ‘appetite’ must be submitted under ‘reason’.
Plato defined theoretical framework of soul division was primarily illustrated in ‘The Republic’, which was essentially derived by challenging the theme propounded by Sophists to analyse the reason behind an individual should live morally. The Sophists in Plato’s time, in particular, were a group of individuals who utilized philosophy as a mode for making profit as well as for promoting so called ‘immoral behaviour’ by exploiting the philosophical aspect of moral loopholes. The cynics questioned about the significance of morality considering as a social device for maintaining social order, whereas if immoral behaviour does not promote any consequence, there is no motivational pressure for morality. While answering this quandary, Plato explained that morality is an essential reason for becoming a happy individual, thus happiness can be an important motivational factor for an immoral individual acting towards becoming a moral individual. The happy individual is a just individual, according to Plato, and vice-versa as illustrated below:
If Y is happy, then Y is just and
If Y is just, then Y is happy
If Y is just, then Y is happy
But the critics argued that the daily activities contradict with Plato’s logic of morality versus immorality, as challenged the first statement describing the principle of tyrants, motivated by unjust principle, actually found to be very happy. The second statement as well challenged by the sceptics by illustrating the fact that saints are meant to suffer however they are just otherwise. This is where Plato’s theory of soul intervened. He answered this contradiction using his ideology of soul division illustrating that to be truly happy an individual’s Emotion (for example, anger and fear) and Appetite (need for food, sex, money) must be governed by Reason (persuasion, logical thinking, and argument). On the other hand, a just individual’s lower passions are also governed by Reason.
In addition to the illustration of the division of the soul, Plato explained that tyrant is not in practice truly happy, which is reflected in his pattern of behaviour. Governed by lower passions, tyrants are known to dislodge Reason with Emotion which is characterised by fear of elimination and powerlessness over trusting others; as well as with Appetite which is characterised by the insatiable hunger for being rich or attainment of power. At the end, as Plato concluded, such an individual will be pulled apart by his lower passion, becomes unable to find out the possible condition for being happy with a disordered state of soul. Reason, being the most superior part of the soul, contributes to the attainment of knowledge and truth. Reason, in essence, is concerned to conduct and standardize the life force by following an ideal framework attributing to the wisdom by virtue of understanding three aspects of soul independently as well as mutual interaction among them within the periphery of soul.
The primary objective of the Republic is to define the principle framework to form an ideal society. While conceptualizing this phenomenon, Plato reflected upon various factors in relation to education, ethics, politics, and morality in terms of textual illustration and allegorical exemplification. Researchers have identified that the primary argument of the Republic is essentially a part of a response to the political turbulence and instability which was witnessed by Plato in Athenian societal framework. Being a witness of the consequence of post-Peloponnesian war, Plato formulized the concept for attainment of stability as a result of true justice after viewing the contemporary forms of authoritative corruption. As he postulated that the humankind would have no reprieve from problem, if the true philosophers could have the political power or the political leaders possess the knowledge of philosophy. In the perspective of this principle, Plato revealed the proposal of the creation of educational system primarily focusing in shaping the character, in contrast to the Sophists promoted the ascendancy of oratory over moral education, leading to the attainment of eventual objective of the educator being not just conveying the knowledge, but also make the learners to open their mind’s eyes to the wisdom so that this makes the reflection possible.
Plato’s first theories in metaphysics were regarded as the most intelligible and the most existent in nature, such as One and Good, considered as the highest universals. Aristotle hypothesized significant particulars as the truest phenomenon, yet not the intelligible objects all the time, hence the universal knowledge may be possibly hypothesized by him. It can be assumed that the influence of mathematical science motivated Plato to conceptualize the highest invariants, the One and the Good for example, in contrast to the possible biological and physical investigation led Aristotle to focus on the individual personifying explicit attributes that actually separate them from other entities. Thus Aristotle’s particulars numerically one was attributable for him, while universals generically one less attributable however considered as more intelligible for consideration. Hitherto the generic principles like Forms and Good as defined by Aristotle are almost as universal as Plato’s however Aristotle reflects on them more thoroughly by virtue of investigating their precise demarcation, in the perspective of both epistemological and ontological framework. Considering the milieu of generic principles, both of them are analogically no more than equal; yet need to be further explored on the basis of specific differentiation as governed by the principles of special sciences. Quite evidently, Aristotle criticized Plato’s generic principles arguing it as a mistake of getting into another genus of things in particular.
The criticism of Plato’s contribution to the philosophy primarily comes in a way as his dialogues not meant to Academic treatise that can be embark principles of inquiry following any systematic methodology, leading to a crucial form of difficulties in exploring his fundamental principles. In contrast to this, Aristotle explicitly investigates the principles of metaphysics in relation to other sciences. Both of the thinkers considered mathematics as the study of wisdom and logic; however the implementation differed in both of the cases quite significantly. Primarily Aristotle defined mathematical science as a method similar to physical principles; however, he rejected the notion of considering mathematics as explained in Platonic ontology defining mathematical entities (Cleary, 1995).
Both Plato and Aristotle focus on the intrinsic problems of exploring initiating-points that are confirmed enough as the basic structures, including both ontological and epistemological perspective, in order to develop a dwelling place for the philosophical entity. By considering Socrates as his moral guide, Plato developed the notion of Forms in order to solve the difficulties associated with foundations, leading to the transcendence of flux of sensibilities considered as the predetermined paradigm of conduct. However, the controversy in relation to the notion of Good as illustrated in the Republic is also present as it is considered as the absolute hypothesis following the principles of uniqueness and intelligibility for the Form in concern, however, there are no frame of reference in the dialogue that in practice postulates to any corresponding theory of multiplicity.
It seems that the origination of concepts including the implication of numbers out of two principle elements led to a debate among the mainstream Platonists and Aristotle, interpreting it as a sequential genesis. Unity in both of the schools of thought is considered as being responsible for the generation of the integral numbers. This unity is eventually linked with the idealization of order and harmony in the entire cosmos. As briefly explained by Plato in Phaedo and Republic that the principles of unity is assumed to be associated with the principle of the Good. However, Plato did not put his emphasis on establishing such an explicit link, yet Aristotle claimed that Platonists did so. The second principle illustrated in Platonic genesis includes the indefinite continuum of quantity on which the principle of Unity or the principle of Goodness inflicted limitation. Scholars have suggested it as identical with the Pythagorean principle of the Indefinite or Infinite, which is defined by Plato as ‘Great’ and ‘Small’ for providing the interpretation for ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’ in general. Plato explored the notion of ‘limited’ and ‘unlimited’ as the fundamental elements apparently considered as one and many by using his dialectical process of collection and division. Evidently the significant applications of Platonic principles include the characteristics of the philosophical realm consisting of mathematical numbers, where an indefinite congregation of units particularly encircled to exist and can be considered as definite and discrete numbers. Aristotle specifically criticized Plato for his inadequate explanation of the principle of nature. As per example, he mentioned as part of his criticism how Plato analysed the notion of phenomenon coming into being from non-being but an inadequate explanation for substratum or matter in particular.
In his book The Open Society: Chapter 6, Karl Popper provides a concise proclamation of a democratic and equalitarian principle of justice along with a critical review Plato’s theory of justice by putting a special emphasis on the non-interventionist or defensive state with a clear declaration of the language containing political proposals. Popper in essence analysed Plato’s rhetorical process by illustrating the confusions Plato originated while formulized his notion about individualism and altruism linking with selfishness and collectivism of organic state. These confusion becomes apparent with the theoretical perspective of Hegel regarding state, in practice far beyond from being a discovery, the reformulation of Plato’s organic theory of state illustrating the individual attainment of highest accomplishment by identity with the whole. Popper considered Plato’s envisaged state had totalitarian components due to its advocacy of governance not elected by its citizens led to the recognition of the ruling class’s concerns as being the destiny and way of the state in question. Additionally, Popper claimed that conceptualization of state as illustrated by Plato need to undergo censorship due to its manifestation as an autarky (Popper, 1950).
Plato’s ultimate state is a rigid phenomenon describing as a stratified chain of command where individuals are born into their suitable function and exist there, concentrated by selfishness and greediness acting towards individualism and egalitarianism. The absolute criterion for justice is the even and unwavering operation of the entire society rather than focusing on individual interest, as according to Plato, individualism and social chaos are considered as the greatest evils for mankind. Apologists claimed not to declare Plato as a totalitarian as Greeks did not possess the contemporary ideology of democracy. There is considerable substantiation regarding both internal and external form of dialogues to illustrate that far from being uninformed about contemporary perception of justice and freedom, dynamically assailed the equalitarian democratic principle which exists even in modern society as a part of classical liberal tradition. The democrats as well as humanitarian perspectives reflect the ideology of Plato which can be considered as an accolade to his rhetorical abilities and his conceptualization for the weakness considering the crucial aspects of democratic principle and protective state. The ‘natural rights’, illustrating the slogan “we all are born equal”, can be considered as the weakness in the principle of equalitarian justice, however, in the most visible frame of reference, humans are in practice found to be unequal, or may be manifested as dissimilar, which quite evidently lead ‘natural rights’ to be undermined before the proclamation of law. Thus the principle of equality before the application of law including other aspects of democratic justice needs to be re-evaluated and protected through the principle of political applications or demand of the society, not through the essentialist perspective of ‘natural rights’.
Plato associated individualism with selfishness and greediness whereas altruism with organic state of collectivism. This perspective of individualism and altruism shed a light on contemporary psychology, especially Freud’s psychoanalytic theory focusing on the dynamism of human mind and its functioning. Quite evidently, the critics also put their emphasis by coining the debate about human nature and the vision for rational social restructuring taking the form of the debate between groups in the support of human nature considered as social or altruistic and groups in the support of human nature considered as individualistic or selfish. This argument not only covers the philosophical perspective only rather extended the idea with an interaction of ethnology and socio-biology where one group defining it as a result of genetic influence or instinctual basis of action and the other group explaining it as a pathological behaviour stemmed from social and environmental influences.
Plato had been criticised up to quite a length for his undermining the protective principle of the state, which is essentially characterised by the state’s assumed capability to defend the rights and freedoms of minority groups as well as individuals refrained from illogical intrusion by majority or other groups. In each generation the resources and demands reflect the degree of security in reference to ‘unreasonable interference’ as well as ‘positive’ benefits. The protective state can be represented in the debatable form regarding the ‘essential nature’ of the state in question or regarding the historical source of the state in question corresponding with the Social Contract for providing security. The principle of Social Contract evaluates the phenomenon implemented by liberals to explore the ambiguity beneath the totalitarian principle of the organic state. However, this theoretical perspective likewise equalitarian principle received significant criticism as because inadequate evidence approaching a primitive social contract along with an apparent indication of individuals as social animals prior to being align with individuality as well as being compliant with democratic rights in particular. The perspectives of Popper and Hayek are not susceptible to the defence by virtue of resurgence of Platonic ideology of the organic school of thoughts identifying classical liberalism in the form of the alleged principle of ‘social atom’ in explaining the freedom of self. Apart from that, Popper contributed significantly while criticising the concept of rational individuals being able to open their eyes or mind to the authenticated authority by virtue of manifestation of truth. The truth, in particular, was assumed to be apparent for those individuals whose insights were uncovered by evil’s intervention or from the disruption of conventional prejudices.
According to contemporary philosophers and scholars, however, the Greeks discovered political freedom as the truest phenomenon, whereas to delineate western identity entirely as the legacy of philosophical framework is found to be ambiguous for several reasons. One of the first reasons may include the moralistic perspective which is particularly set up as vague dichotomy among high principles, existing as an external factor and an inconsistent realism, characterising inequality, prejudice, exploitation and conflict. This dichotomy in question placed a burden on western philosophical background including justification and political framework for democracy, by virtue of explaining the deviation of ideology differed from realism along with the implication of the difference as being a problematic issue in the perspective of political will as illustrated by its protectors (Grees, 2004).
As described by Tacitus in his Annals about the description of an ideal real state and the modalities of governing the same, he provided more practical implication regarding good versus bad governance than that of philosophical discourse on the ideal structure of governance. While criticising the concepts of social mobility and bureaucracy as illustrated in the Republic, Eric Voegelin (Voegelin, 1956) described the controversy in relation to the crude analysis of social mobility as transference of lower class to the higher one by virtue of having ‘gold in veins’ or bureaucracy as not belonging into family by the ‘guardians’. On the other hand, philosophers like Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom (Strauss, 1987; Bloom, 1991) criticised the conceptual framework, in the background of ideal city, of ‘sacred’ marriage as a consequence of manipulating couples and forcing them in subtle way to get into predefined intercourse by virtue of breeding guardian-warrior, which had been immortalized by Plato in the Republic. While reprimanding some of Plato’s proposals, Leo Strauss in practice undermined the concept of justice by illustrating the city is not a real one but abstraction (Strauss, 1964).
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