History Of Allegory

Submitted By razormike10
Words: 1961
Pages: 8

Plato is most renown for his written interpretations of his teacher, Socrates. It is within the sixth book of The Republic in which an important analogy comes to sight; the analogy of the sun. Many questions regarding this analogy have been orbiting the minds of great thinkers, one being whether or not the analogy makes any sense. The obvious answer is yes, it does make sense, but before we dive into this topic, a proper explanation of the allegory of the sun is needed.

The origins of the allegory comes from a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon, Plato’s older brother. Within this discussion, Socrates brings forth the idea that the sun represents the good, and that the sun is God-like. It is further explained that the sun “makes our sight see best and visible things best seen.” (Reeve & Miller 199) Distinguished facts about the sun and the good then come into view, as Socrates states even though sight and the light are thought to be like the sun, they are not quite the same as the sun. Furthermore, the sun “not only gives visible things the power to be seen, but also provides for their coming-to-be, growth, and nourishment… existence and being are also due to it.” (Reeve & Miller 200) Socrates believes that all things come into existence due to the sun/the good, but not only does it make everything visible, it also makes everything grow.

With a brief summary of the allegory of the sun in mind, it is easy to suggest that this allegory makes perfect sense, and that in fact the sun/the good is being personified as Helios, giving the interpretation that the sun is God. While the sun represents the good, the good is seen as a source for light and visibility, more so a source for intellect. Furthermore, Socrates holds the sun responsible for giving us sight, and with the good enabling us to see, it enables us to have a capacity for knowledge. Lastly, as mentioned near the end of his argument, the sun is the cause for which things come to be nourished and therefore grown. The good is responsible for the existence of all objects, the existence of forms, essentially the cause of everything coming to be in the visible and intelligible realms. (Reeve & Miller 199-200)

When dealing with intellect, a quote from the sixth book of The Republic comes to mind. Socrates is believed to have stated, “the latter is in the intelligible realm in relation to understanding and intelligible things, and the former is in the visible realm on relation to sight and visible things.” (Reeve & Miller 199) He essentially means that the good is the source of intelligibility. The Oxford Dictionary describes intelligible as the ability “to be understood; comprehensible.” (Intelligible n.d.) Using this definition and relating back to the argument that the sun represents the good, the good is seen as a source for light and visibility, more so a source for intellect, it is easy to see that the sun makes the visible realm comprehensible due to its giving of light and visibility. If it were night, you would not be able to establish what certain objects are, they would seem rather imperfect. Socrates tells Glaucon to think of it as the same with the eye of the soul. He states “when it focuses on something that is illuminated both by truth and what is, it understands. But when it focuses on what is mixed with obscurity, on what comes to be and passes away, it believes and is dimmed, changed its belief this way and that, seems bereft of understanding.” (Reeve & Miller 199) An easier example could simply be as follows; a plant that you find in the middle of the forest during the night. If you were to stand several feet away from the plant, you would be unable to see it. The object you are viewing will appear a little distorted, maybe disfigured, and possibly animal like if you were not that experienced with plants. However, with the sun and much more light, you can see the object from a few feet away and can make it out to be a plant. Do not get this