3. Plato’s “Philosophical Rhetoric” in The Republic
3.1 “Theory of Forms” Guiding to Find the Good
In The Republic, Socrates uses the Allegory of the cave and more specifically the Allegory of lines to illustrate the difference between the visible world and the intellectual world of the forms. As mentioned above, every thing in the visible world has a form in the intellectual world. Plato uses the allegory of light to illustrate that sun is the appearance of good, namely the form.
Socrates imagines a picture where a group of people live their whole life as prisoners in a cave, and are chained to the wall with their faces toward the wall. They therefore can not see the scene behind them. Only when there is sunshine, they can see the shadow of the scene behind them reflected on the wall. They think the reflected scene is what the objects behind them are. Then, according to Socrates, one of the prisoners is fortunate enough to get out of the cave and see what the reality is. In the beginning, the prisoner is blinded by the light, but, as he get used to the light, he see the fire and the statues and understand how they cause the reflection the other prisoners see in the cave. And Socrates says that the philosopher is alike the prisoner out of the cave. Only philosophers can distinguish the visible world from the intellectual world which the prisoners in cave see. What we see with our naked eyes everyday are appearance, the reflection of the forms. However, the philosophers are different from the common people. Because the philosopher can gain all knowledge themselves, they will not be blinded by the shadow or the appearance, they can see the real world with their knowledge. In this analogy, the sun is the symbol and representative of good, and good is the form of the Forms.
Socrates then gives more detailed explanation, namely “theory of lines”. According to him, the understanding stages of the prisoners are in accordance with the divided lines he imagined. The line is divided into the “visible world” and the “intellectual world”. The divider is the Sun, the form of the Forms. When the prisoners are in the cave, they know nothing about the world outside, and the shadow
on the wall accords with the lowest level of the line. When the prisoners get out of cave and see the sun and fire and light, they reach the second stage of the divided line, the stage of belief. Once the prisoners get out of the cave and see the sun, the fire and the light, they came to the third stage of the divided line, understanding. At last, the prisoners? turns to the sun, good, or the source of truth, they are at the highest stage of the line, named as dialectic. And the prisoners begin to understand all the other forms since then. At the end of his allegory, it is believed to be the philosopher?s duty to go back to the cave and educate those in the cave what the real world is. Since the philosopher is the only people to understand the form, good, he is the best to rule the state-city. This is the conclusion of philosophical-king.
Socrates says in the Republic that people who take the sun-lit world of the senses to be good and real are living pitifully in a den of evil and ignorance. Socrates admits that few climb out of the den, or cave of ignorance, and those who do, not only have a terrible struggle to attain the heights, but when they go back down for a visit or to help other people up, they find themselves objects of scorn and ridicule.
According to Socrates, physical objects and physical events are “shadows” of their ideal or perfect forms, and exist only to the extent that they illustrate the perfect versions of themselves. Just as shadows are temporary, inconsequential epiphenomena produced by physical objects, physical objects are themselves fleeting phenomena caused by more substantial causes, the ideals of which they are mere instances. For example, Socrates thinks that perfect justice exists.
The allegory of the cave is intimately connected to his political ideology, that only people who have climbed out of the cave and cast their eyes on a vision of goodness are fit to rule. Socrates claims that the enlightened men of society must be forced from their divine contemplations and be compelled to run the city according to their lofty insights. Thus is born the idea of the “philosopher-king”, the wise person who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are wise enough to choose a good master. This is the main thesis of Socrates in the Republic, that the most wisdom the masses can master is the wise choice of a ruler.
“Dialectic” is the tool to practice “theory of Forms”, and is regarded as the only way requiring no hypotheses to know the forms of universals. 3.2.1 On “Justice”
The Republic by Plato is an exposition of justice which proposes that justice of the state exists in harmony and order. The realization of state justice is dependent on the political qualities of citizens.
When concerning the issues “which is good, justice or injustice” and “which can make people happier”, Socrates does not give his answers directly, but spends much time and energy on defining, analyzing, as well as finding the origin of both justice and injustice. In the first book, two definitions of justice are proposed but deemed inadequate. Returning debts owed, and helping friends while harming enemies are common sense definitions of justice that, Socrates shows, are inadequate in exceptional situations, and thus lack the rigidity demanded of a definition. Yet he does not completely reject them for each expresses a common sense notion of justice which Socrates will incorporate into his discussion of the just regime in books II through V.
At the end of Book I, Socrates agrees with Polemarchus that justice includes helping friends, but says the just man would never do harm to anybody. Thrasymachus believes that Socrates has done the men present an injustice by saying this and attacks his character and reputation in front of the group; partly because he suspects that Socrates himself does not even believe harming enemies is unjust. Thrasymachus gives his understanding of justice and injustice as “justice is what is advantageous to the stronger, while injustice is to one's own profit and advantage”.Socrates finds this definition unclear and begins to question Thrasymachus. Socrates then asks whether the ruler who makes a mistake by making a law that lessens their well-being, is still a ruler according to that definition. Thrasymachus agrees that no true ruler would make such an error. This agreement allows Socrates to undermine Thrasymachus' strict definition of justice by comparing
rulers to people of various professions. Thrasymachus consents to Socrates' assertion that an artist is someone who does his job well, and is a knower of some art, which allows him to complete the job well. In so doing Socrates gets Thrasymachus to admit that rulers who enact a law that does not benefit them firstly, are in the precise sense not rulers. Thrasymachus gives up, and is silent from then on. Socrates has trapped Thrasymachus into admitting the strong man who makes a mistake is not the strong man in the precise sense, and that some type of knowledge is required to rule perfectly. However, it is far from a satisfactory definition of justice.
At the beginning of Book II, Plato's two brothers challenge Socrates to define justice in the man, and unlike the rather short and simple definitions offered in Book I, their views of justice are presented in two independent speeches. Glaucon's speech reprises Thrasymachus' idea of justice; it starts with the legend of Gyges who discovered a ring that gave him the power to become invisible. Glaucon uses this story to argue that no man would be just if he had the opportunity of doing injustice with impunity. With the power to become invisible, Gyges is able to seduce the queen, murder the king, and take over the kingdom. Glaucon argues that the just as well as the unjust man would do the same if they had the power to get away with injustice exempt from punishment. The only reason that men are just and praise justice is out of fear of being punished for injustice. The law is a product of compromise between individuals who agree not to do injustice to others if others will not do injustice to them. Glaucon says that if people had the power to do injustice without fear of punishment, they would not enter into such an agreement. Glaucon uses this argument to challenge Socrates to defend the position that the unjust life is better than the just life. Adeimantus adds to Glaucon's speech the charge that men are only just for the results that justice brings fortune, honor, reputation. Adeimantus challenges Socrates to prove that being just is worth something in and of itself, not only as a means to an end.
Socrates says that there is no better topic to debate. In response to the two views of injustice and justice presented by Glaucon and Adeimantus, he claims incompetence, but feels it would be impious to leave justice in such doubt. Thus the
Republic sets out to define justice. Given the difficulty of this task as proven in Book I, Socrates in Book II leads his interlocutors into a discussion of justice in the city, which Socrates suggests may help them see justice not only in the person, but on a larger scale, “first in cities searching for what it is; then we could examine also in some individual, examining the likeness of the bigger in the idea of the littler”
Different from other branches of learning, “dialectic” requires no hypotheses to know the nature and essence of an object. As Socrates says,
Again, by the second segment of the “intellectual world” understand me to mean all that the mere reasoning process apprehends by the force of “dialectic”, when it avails itself of hypotheses not as first principles, but as genuine hypotheses, that is to say as stepping-stones and impulses, whereby it may force its way up to something that is not hypothetical, and arrive at the first principle of everything and seize it in its grasp; which done, it turns round and takes hold of that which takes hold of this first principle, till at last it comes down to a conclusion, calling in the aid of no sensible object whatever, but simply employing abstract, self-subsisting forms, and terminating in the same.(Republic, 222)
Plato?s “dialectic” is related with the sophist?s rhetoric at that time. Sophist?s rhetorical practice is profit oriented; while for Plato; right rhetoric should first know the nature of a thing and then tries to get its definition, to find truth not opinion. 3.2.2 On education of “dialectic”
This idea is also advocated in the education by Socrates. In book VII, Socrates discusses education with other debaters. The series of studies of which this may be predicted comprises: ⑴arithmetic; ⑵plane geometry; ⑶geometry of three dimensions; ⑷astronomy pursued abstractly as a science of motion; ⑸the science of harmonics;⑹dialectic or the science of real existence.