Puppy Philosophers (p 1154)

Convicted murderers Leopold and Loeb, students at the university of Chicago:
the misapplication of Neitzsche's theory of the Ubermesch.

Shelley's cave

Shelley’s mobilized reflections on poetry, like the poetry in which they are brilliantly thematized, engage a terrifying "Abyss" whose "secrets" remain to his skeptical frame of mind forever sealed. Poetry thus becomes for him a form of magic, which he images in Alastor as the dream

Of dark magician in his visioned cave,

Raking the cinders of a crucible

For life and power, even when his feeble hand

Shakes in its last decay.

(Shelley’s Poetry 86)

This same thematizing metaphor is present in Adonais, where Shelley describes his "weak hand" holding the thyrsus, which vibrates under the influence of his "ever-beating heart" (400). It is also present in his identification of poetry in his Defence with a "secret alchemy" that "turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life" (505). The "more select classes of poetical readers" (135), whom Shelley would initiate into the art of alchemy, have, in his speculative account, no illusions about the nature of metaphor. They know themselves, as Shelley himself warns in his preface to Alastor, to be momentarily "deluded" by "a generous error," "duped" by an "illustrious superstition" (69). In the absence of anything more certain, they also know that human civilization is precariously founded upon illusion, or maya (a notion encountered by Shelley in his study of the Hindu zodiac, described in his notes to Queen Mab ). That illusion is the vitality of metaphor endlessly inventing new relationships, the stability of which forever threatens its vitality.

from Ross G. Woodman, "Shelley, Percy Blysshe" in The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, 2005 (to see link, click title)


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Plato's Cave: the claymation adventure

Plato's Cave: the movie


Hello, puppet. The word "puppet" is defined by the less renowned
Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, "1 a: a small-scale figure (as of a person or animal) usually with a cloth body and hollow head that fits over and is moved by the hand b: marionette2: doll 13: one whose acts are controlled by an outside force or influence." The function of the word "puppet" within the context of Plato's discussion is to define the nature of the shadows cast by the ignorant campfire cavers. Yet in a more metaphorical sense, the word "puppet" also represents the arbitrariness and relative nature of human knowledge, which Plato iterates in his juxtaposition of the enlightened freed cave-dweller, who knows now that the shadows,the sole knowable entities to his former kinfolk, are in fact only creations based in relativity, depending entirely on solid objects and the position of a given light source, against his unreceptive and ignorant community.

Charles Carter

"You will see vastly better than people"

In his Allegory of the Cave, Plato uses his example of the cave as the human experience of acquiring education. A human's escape from the world of the cave is their gaining of knowledge. A superiority is then given to the escapee because the rest are still held captive by ignorance. Plato seems to call for the educated to return to the beginnings of knowledge and asks them to see from the perspective of the unaware. This, he believes, is how great leaders are born. They do not fight over the shadows, but instead understand the truth and how shadows are merely manipulations of that truth.

Plato. "The Allegory of the Cave" Book VII of The Republic, pp. 1132-1155. Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Assc Ed. D.S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis, IN/Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing, 1997.

Charles Gardner


Glaucon uses the word "Supernaturally" to agree with Socrates' assertion that calculation is one of the subjects that is worthy of seeking on the quest to find truth. Merriam-Webster defines "supernaturally" "as of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe". This particular definition applies to the text because Socrates is trying to find a way to move beyond the shadows on the cave wall by utilizing learning in a non-mechanical way. In order do do this, one must enlighten oneself to an understanding that cannot be acheived through vision alone. Normally I think of something being supernatural if it is something that is not currently registered in our minds as evidently beliveable. Glaucon is using it as an adverb to advocate that arithmatic and calculation can be considered methods of acheiving a higher state of living.

Andrew Behringer

Precis: Shoot for the stars, but remember to come back down to Earth

In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato uses a description of people deprived of knowing "real" reality to explain people without education. Interestingly, their false reality of the "shadow world" is more real and good than true reality, once they are exposed to it. Plato's writing deals with the idea that, once exposed to the good and the light, these people become outsiders to those still living in the dark. Plato does argue that people must experience both light and dark in order to experience true education, however. So, although the light and "truth" may seem to be total and full education in its most positive form, with no need to ever return to the ideas one possessed before seeing "reality," in truth, only knowing and experiencing both states of being constitutes full understanding and education. In essence, Plato feels that sight and knowledge can only come from opening one's vision to all that is around them, instead of only living in the enlightened state above or the ignorant state below.

Eyesight--heart or soul?

In the story of the man who leaves the cave, it is mentioned that if he returns to the cave after seeing the sun that he will be ridiculed because his eyesight has been ruined.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, eyesight is "The power or faculty of seeing; sight: attributed also to the heart, soul, etc". Looking at the way that Plato utilizes the word eyesight can be seen as not just referring to his actual eyes but to their soul and heart because they have been exposed to truth and they will no longer be able to be satisfied with the life of the cave.

When we think of eyesight we should think of more than just the actual eyes which were changed by the light but of the enlightenment which reached the soul.

The Soul Reason

The idea of a soul is one of the main driving forces in the Allegory of the Cave. Plato helps his readers try to understand the soul’s intricate involvement in the ultimate enlightenment of truth that Plato often refers to as knowledge and education. Rising out the cave, a prisoner becomes free and this person will only be able to comprehend education and learning if that person can go back to the cave and find reason and reality through both realms. Plato tries to say that the soul is the filter in which the individual learns; he says that we all have the capacity to learn, but we have to take our soul and use it to guide us through the light of the sun and dimness of the cave. Like Plato says, we must turn ourselves all the way around in order to see not just part of the good but rather all of the good. --Sarah Knoth

Plato's espousement of civilization

"Education takes for granted that sight is there but that it isn't turned the right way or looking where it ought to look, and it tries to redirect it appropriately."

This is one example of Plato's embracing of objectives standards of law, order, and conformity brought by civilized society.  Here he acknowledges the validity of individual subjective experience, but lauds the possibilities brought by assimilating a populace into a standardized set of rules regarding the classification and observance of phenomena in a shared reality.  All individuals experience said phenomena and gain a foundation of understanding of it based on previous experience.  Plato posits that by educating individuals to view this phenomena in accordance with a more objective system of classification, i.e. science and mathematics.  Were all individuals within the populace of a civilization able to be properly educated, the frequency of differences of opinion could shrink and pave the way for a newer and more unbridled brand of civilized progress.  He goes on to say that "the other so-called virtues of the soul...aren't really there beforehand but are added later by habit and practice."  In other words, not only does universal education aid the society but also encourages growth in the individual, albeit a growth that chiefly serves the purposes of furthering Plato's civilized society.

Precis: The Forest and the Trees

Plato's overall argument seems to be that in order to have a proper education, in order to see the world as it truly is, people must first understand issues on multiple layers. One must be able to see the stars, recognize their beauty, and understand the intricate mathematics that make them as beautiful as they are. One must see the simplicity of the world while seeing the complexity of it. Conversely, a person who only thinks of music as a series of tones, vibrations, and notes has lost the ability to understand the overall piece as a work of art. Plato argues that, to paraphrase a cliche, a truly educated and wise man should be able to see the forest and the trees all at once. This idea is one that is universal- a man who wants to lead many people must see from many points of view to determine what is best.

"Because no free person should learn anything like a slave."

"Because no free person should learn anything like a slave. Forced bodily labor does no harm to the body, but nothing taught by force stays in the soul."

What makes a good ruler? Here, Socrates is trying to emphasize to Glaucon that to be a good ruler there must be a good balance between warrior and philosophy. Together they sit and discuss which of the sciences best lend themselves to the foundation of what a future ruler must know in addition to the training they would receive as an athletic combatant. Yet despite what Socrates and Glaucon agree is best, Socrates steps back from the argument to say that one cannot force these rigiments upon a child and exepect them to suceed naturally since to find the best ruler one must sort out those whom he calls "summoners" or those who can see the positive and negative of a thing at the same time, and those who "do not awaken understanding." Forcing a child to learn will not produce an ideal result, as the child must be extraordinarily quick, smart, persisstant and hard working.

Plato. "The Allegory of the Cave" Book VII of The Republic, pp. 1132-1155. Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Assc Ed. D.S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis, IN/Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing, 1997.

**Here is a link to a picture of the cave in case anyone like me, was trying to imagine what it might look like when Socrate's was depicting it:

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

Precis of Plato/Things I thought were interesting

Henry McDonald
Group 3

Plato's argument pertains to education. More accurately, to the purpose of education in an organized society, the manner in which education takes place, and which subjects are appropriate to be deemed compulsory for citizens to study in said society.
Plato begins his argument with a story about people in a cave that teaches the lesson of how knowledge is constructed and what the true nature and role of knowledge is in our lives. After this is established Plato begins to discern the difference between education that leads to being and education that leads to becoming. This difference is crucial in Plato's eye, in determining whether or not a means of education is valuable. The goal, then, of education, is to promote the understanding and contemplation of becoming, and this is accomplished through the study of subjects that promote though about becoming. The subjects that do this are subjects that help develop citizens fit to lead. A person fit to lead is skilled in war, but also a philosopher. As such the subjects that will be chosen for education are math(numbers), geometry,astronomy, music and poetry and philosophy, and physical fitness.
Two other parts of this article I found rather interesting as well. First, the way that Plato breaks up the steps of education. "It will therefore be enough to call the first section knowledge, the second thought, the third belief, and the fourth imagining...The last two together we call opinion, the other two, intellect." This paints an accurate picture of the process of education according to Plato.
The second part of this article that I found thought-provoking is his opinions concerning how and when they are to teach the skills and idea of argument. The idea that argument is a dangerous thing in the hands of those too young or too unstable to exercise is correctly was enlightening and rings true in my life. "...when young people get their first taste of arguments, they misuse it by treating it as a kind of game of contradiction...Then when they've refuted many and been refuted by them in turn, they forcefully and quickly fall into disbelieving what the believed before." This is interesting to me because I have met many people, who are given a taste of philosophy and the process of arguing, who are all too willing to impress with their powers of contradiction and spend more time disputing than in meaningful discussion, or as Plato puts it, "dialect."
This whole article attempts to paint a picture of the process of educating citizens for a ruling class. The picture, on the while, in my opinion, does not seem feasible. The process does not seem like it would actually function in the real world or even be fair at all in the selection process of individuals to learn. However, the ideas laid out in it are novel and have many are indeed practiced today. On paper, his idea does seem to be a perfect one though.

What do you see, what do you know?

“The power to learn is present in everyone’s soul and…the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body.”
The popular notion of knowledge, Socrates reasons, differs vastly from the actuality of knowledge and learning. Education is not academic, it is not the intelligence that institution academia prescribes. In its place, Socrates deduces that knowledge is opening up to the world, in all sects. Those who live in light should journey to darkness, and likewise, so that as a rational individual, one may truly enrich his/her life by knowing what is good and what is inferior humanity.
Plato. "The Allegory of the Cave" Book VII of The Republic, pp. 1132-1155. Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Assc Ed. D.S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis, IN/Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing, 1997.

Precis: Seeing the Light

Socrates uses his allegory of the cave as a device to illustrate the effect of education on the soul. Education allows one to understand greater truths of the world and to dispel the falsities their imagination provided them in their sheltered ignorance of the cave. This enlightenment can only make one understand with increasing confidence that there is a higher source behind life and beauty. There are responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with knowledge though. What is learned must be used to better society and the lives of others. One must pursue truth to understand and become closer to that which is Good. This produces the best men and women and society; the most fit to become tomorrows guardians of the city.

Plato, dialectic

Plato begins to discuss the word “dialectic” near the end of Book VII. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines dialectic as “logic” or “discussion and reasoning by dialogue as a method of intellectual investigation” (link). Leading up to and after this, he discusses with Glaucon the importance of education and looking upward. In this context, he seems to be adding his own twist to M-W’s definition. Not only is it logic or reasoning but also the journey on which the reasoning sends you; it “awaken[s] the best part of the soul and lead[s] it upward” (1148). The two conclude that dialectic is the most important ability, just above arithmetic. It seems as if the combination of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy is also included in his definition of the word. One must understand logic and be able to question things to come to one’s own conclusions, therefore coming closer to the ultimate “good” in order to even begin to fully understand the three subjects and use them well.

Precis: Plato’s Good End

Plato delves into the importance of “the good” and how one attains it, and while it proves to be a complicated manner, Plato provides ample evidence to negate many contradictions. He provides the audience with the knowledge that the cave-dweller who was brought from the darkness to the light must be gradually introduced to the visual world, beginning with water and shadows, moving to animals, and finally ending with the sun. Plato compares this to the search for “good;” one must begin by finding the finding the “being” within everything, which will illuminate the “good itself,” and it leads to complete understanding. “He reaches the end of the intelligible, just as the other reached the end of the visible” (1148). We must understand the beginning and existence of everything before reaching the end, and the end is what allows us to understand “the good.”

Plato: “The Allegory of the Cave” from Book VII of The Republic (360 BC), Tr. G. M. A. Grube, rev. C. D. C. Reeve. Pp. 1132-1155. In: Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Assc. Ed. D. S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis, IN / Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing, 1997.

I've never seen THAT before...is it really there?

"He would be unable to see them, at least at first."

For me, this phrase demonstrates how time influences the ability to discern the unknown. While reading this I thought of something that I’d heard before: when European ships approached the horizon of the New World, the people already on land could not actually see the ships for some time, as their minds did not have the ability to comprehend what was there. This concept is a powerful one. Could there in fact be an entire world co-existing within ours that we have merely yet to get our brains around? In "The Allegory of the Cave" this tidbit came back to me. An individual brought from darkness into light would slowly adjust to a new environment, or to new objects, allowing for knowledge to evolve as the brain became capable of putting shapes together in new ways. As is stated in this work: "Education takes for granted that sight is there [...] and tries to redirect it appropriately." Over time, what is not seen may be seen, and the unknown known.

Plato: “The Allegory of the Cave” from Book VII of The Republic (360 BC), Tr. G. M. A. Grube, rev. C. D. C. Reeve. Pp. 1132-1155. In: Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Assc. Ed. D. S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis, IN / Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing, 1997.


Education is Crafty

In Plato's Republic, Socrates says that
"Education isn't what some people declare it to be....putting knowledge into souls that lack it, like putting sight into blind eyes."
Human beings, Socrates acknowledges, have the potential to learn--just as a man in a dark cave has the potential to see the light--and should not be judged. Therefore, lack of knowledge does not indicate potential intelligence. As well, Socrates insists that those "above" the cave should visit this darkness in order to fully see the light. In this way, one can differentiate between the good and the bad. In this radical and historic philosophical text, Plato relates Socrate's musings on education and power, and how they are intertwined.

Plato. "The Allegory of the Cave" Book VII of The Republic, pp. 1132-1155. Plato: Complete Works. Ed. John M. Cooper. Assc Ed. D.S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis, IN/Cambridge, UK: Hackett Publishing, 1997.


Archeology of Knowledge

While the text of this essay may be hard going, the illustrations that evidence our tendency to map out ideas genealogically are terrific.
Click the title to access the website.