Monday, August 2, 2010

Correspondence: Plato Cave Edition

FLG received a couple of emails regarding this passage:
what's interesting to FLG is that it's not just that Plato pulls one toward the light, it's scary and painful and you must endure, but that once you've accustomed yourself to the light Plato is trying to bring, you realize that it isn't the light at all. That Plato has, to continue the allegory, only brought you to another cave, which admittedly has more light. And so, as FLG has always maintained, it's never about society really, but about your individual soul.

Specifically, they are asking about what I mean when I write about another cave.

Okay, let's start from the beginning. For those who haven't read the Allegory of the Cave, it's here.

Most people read the allegory as somebody compelled from a cave darkened by ignorance into the light of Truth. This is true. However, FLG, who might be completely fucking nuts, sees it slightly differently.

As FLG has maintained for a long while in this space, he views the Republic entirely about the right ordering of the soul. The Good City is merely, like the cave, an allegory for the Soul. It isn't meant to be taken literally.

Let me put it simply. The Allegory of the Cave tells reader that the Truth lies beyond our sight. That we are seeing and hearing only shadows of Reality. Likewise, the Good City is merely an allegory for the rightly ordered soul, which stated at the beginning when Socrates starts to sketch the Good City, as FLG has quoted before:
When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of our search will be more easily discovered.

The search continues after the state has been completed. Therefore, the State is merely a means to the true object of the search -- the right ordering of the soul.

Pretty much everybody acknowledges the parallel between City and Soul because Socrates makes it plain. However, what fewer people seem to accept is that the discussion of the State is simply to pull you out into the light. It is not the end. You then need to understand that it is intended as instruction for your soul. You need to then retreat back into your own personal cave and through an enlightened governance of your reason and spirit control the appetites and passions. They'll kill you if they figure out what's going on, but the reason and will are stronger and know the Truth. It's isn't unjust for reason to impose a tyranny upon the soul.

In any case, it's not literally about banning poets or eugenics or anything like this. Indeed, Socrates, at the end, pretty much admits his city couldn't work. It's about rightly ordering the Soul first, then you'll act justly within your Polis.

Plato makes a lot more sense if you can get your head around this.

Then again, FLG gets a lot of disagreement about this and lots of smart people have taken Plato literally. FLG thinks they're dead wrong and still trapped in the cave. But maybe FLG's nuts.

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