Worth 10 Thousand Eyeballs

Socrates claims that an “instrument” exists within each human being. And while he twice acknowledges the instrument, deems it indispensable and worth preserving “more than ten thousand eyes,” he still lacks to define its meaning (1136; 1144). Its purpose, however, is clear: to guide us toward the truth, to reveal what is good (1136; 1144). He compares the instrument to an “…eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body,” and later he states that it can be “…purified and rekindled” by subjects like astronomy and geometry (1144). Socrates talks about the truth being invisible, so perhaps its lack of a definition suggests its validity on some level. Still, if this instrument, the “tool” that helps us learn, is perhaps something like the mind, then why doesn’t he just call it that? There seems to be no distinction here between the mind and the soul, and furthermore, the lines between what is natural and what is compulsory are often similarly blurred in the context of the instrument’s purpose. The instrument seems to demand both a natural place in one’s “soul,” or wherever it dwells, and from that, is its obligation to seek goodness and truth. Still, from what Socrates discusses with Glaucon, it doesn’t seem like the individual would have much say in what subjects would suit them best to study, as they’d be observed by someone else, who may compel them to do something unnatural, and thus the instrument would lose its purpose.

Plato Complete Works. Pages 1136-1144

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