According to Plato, a philosopher enters the realm of universal knowledge when his understanding is purely an abstract science. At this stage, the philosopher is in touch with the ultimate “Form of the Good,” and knows what is best for man. Imagination plays an integral role in reaching the Form of Good, because it serves as a means to which students can understand abstract ideas and eventually reach universal thought. In his pre-modern narrative The Republic of Plato, however, Plato finds that society can be easily consumed by the mimetic imagination, in which people are tricked into believing that the imaginary is reality.
Plato’s condemnation of the mimetic imagination alludes to Stanley Kubrick’s postmodern film, A Clockwork Orange (1971), which features a youth gang driven by images of sex, violence, and drug, set in a dystopian future Britain. Furthermore, Kubrick’s film resembles Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, as the prisoners of the imaginary are introduced to new realities. In Book VI of The Republic, Plato prefaces his Allegory of the Cave with his concept of the “theory of the forms. This view asserts that each thing existing on earth has a corresponding “form,” or perfect idea in the Form of the Good, the highest form of all. Those things existing on earth are part of the lower material realms, known as the Form of Intelligible and the Form of the Visible. Socrates, who is used as the main character in the dialogues of Plato’s Republic. Socrates cannot is unable to find a succinct definition of the highest good, so we provides an analogy which stretches into the Allegory of the Cave found in Book VII.
The metaphor begins with the sun, which illuminates the Visible Realm, just as the Good illuminates the intelligible realm. The sun is the source of visibility, sight, and is responsible all life, and thus the existence of the intelligible realm. Likewise, the Good is the source of intelligibility, capacity for knowledge, and is responsible for the Forms, or the existence of the intelligible realm itself. Just as the sun is beyond our physical being, Socrates says that the Form of the Good is beyond our intelligible being, and is the cause of all knowledge and truth.
Because it is the cause in the intelligible realm, it must too then be the source of all that is beauty in the visible realm. We can than imagine the structure of the three realms, in which the Form of the Good is overarching provider, with the Form of the Intelligible positioned beneath it, and the Form of the Visible at the bottom. Through an interpretation of Socrate’s analogy, we find that the “Good” is identical with unity, harmony, order, and balance in both the soul and society.
Socrates concludes that philosophers embark on the journey through the Visible and Intelligible forms in order to reach the Good, and they are the most fit to rule society as Philosopher-Kings. The question that arises then is how we can best accumulate knowledge through the lower realms. Socrates address this problem through the analogy of the divided line, which separates the correct vision of knowledge (episteme) from the false vision of opinion (doxa). Plato places reason (nous) and thought (dianoia) in the higher section. Thought is the use of sensible particulars to aid in reasoning.
Reason has the ability to contemplate truth as an abstract science using purely forms. Universal propositions can be formed and unproven hypothesis are unnecessary – universals are referents of general terms such as “manhood,” instead of particular referents such as the name, “John. ” Ultimately, reason allows one to access transcendental ideas. Belief (pistis) and imagination (eikasia) are relegated to the inferior form of opinion. Belief is a state where one correlates perceptions, but only looks for explanations in particular terms, as opposed to universal ones.
Imagination lies below belief. It is a state of mind in which our perceptions of the world are completely uncritical and we fail to differentiate reflections of objects from the objects themselves. Given that the objects are copies of transcendental ideas themselves, the imagination is no more than a copy of a copy. Plato finds this as a sufficient reason to denounce it as “an agency of falsehood. ” Allegory of the Cave Plato’s Divided Line of four ways of thinking lead into his Allegory of the Cave, which depicts four ways of living.
The Allegory of the Cave illustrates the effect of education on the human soul, specifically how it brings the student through the four divisions of the Divided Line, all the way to the Form of the Good. The scene is set in a dark cave, where a group of prisoners have lived, and never left, since birth. The prisoners are bound by chains so that they can only look straight ahead at the cave wall. A fire is lit behind them, and various statues are mounted on a partial wall behind the fire, which cast shadows on the wall the prisoners are facing. The statues are periodically moved by another group of people, of whom the prisoners are unaware of.
The stories that the shadows play out is what the prisoners believe are the most real things in the world. Thus, the prisoners are in the stage of imagination, because the shadows that they take to be real are copies of copies of the transcendental being. They exist in a “world of becoming,” and cling to images of the constantly changing physical world. A prisoner is then released from his bonds and turns around to look at the fire and statues. At first he feels pain and confusion, but then realizes the shadows he has been seeing since birth are copies of the real thing.
The statues and fire are now his highest reality because he is still unaware of anything beyond the cave. He has elevated his thinking to the stage of belief; he correlates perceptions and has found explanation in particular terms. He is then dragged out of the cave into the world above. Again he is dazed and confused, but soon sees the objects which the statues were made to mimic. The prisoner realizes the statues were copies of these real things and moves into the division of true knowledge. With real objects at his disposal, he can partake in rational thought processes to construct theorems and such.
Once the prisoner is fully adjusted to the light, he looks towards the sun – in reference to the analogy described in Book VI – and realizes the sun is the Form of the Good, “to which all lovers of truth aspire by following the way of reason. ” The prisoner has reached the level of understanding, and is in the realm of spiritual being. This world of being is a world of ideas, and is absolute, independent, transcendent, and unchanging. Reason and reason only, can bring us to this state of being. The Form of Good will stay inaccessible to those who “cling to images,” and remain in the world of becoming.