Plato's Book of Images
In Plato's parable of the cave, in Book VII of the Republic, we are given the image of the education of a prisoner making his way through several layers of images, as he seeks to gain a better understanding of reality. In a striking moment during his presentation of this image, Plato has Glaucon express puzzlement at the strangeness of such prisoners, and Socrates responds by saying they are "like us." In this paper, I argue that such prisoners really are "like us," the readers of the Republic, as Plato leads his readers through a series of images, each new one being the original imaged by the one before it. The form of education we are offered by the Republic, then, is much like that Plato associates with dianoia (thinking) in the second highest subsegment of the famous Divided Line simile at the end of Book VI. Like Plato's geometers, we use Plato's images to proceed from perceivable things to those that can only be conceived by the mind, as Plato educates his reader as to what justice, truth, and knowledge really are.
Keywords: Plato, Republic, Divided Line, Cave, Images
Nicholas D. Smith
James F. Miller Professor of Humanities, Department of Philosophy, Lewis and Clark College