Metaphor of the sun
In The Republic (507b-509c) Plato's Socrates uses the sun as a metaphor for the source of "intellectual illumination," which he held to be The Form of the Good. The metaphor is about the nature of ultimate reality and how we come to know it. It starts with the eye, which Socrates says is unusual among the sense organs in that it needs a medium, namely light, in order to operate. The strongest and best source of light is the sun; with it, we can discern objects clearly. Analogously for intelligible objects The Form of the Good is necessary in order to understand any particular thing. Thus, if we attempt to understand why things are as they are, and what general categories can be used to understand various particulars around us, without reference to any forms (universals) we will fail completely. By contrast, "the domain where truth and reality shine resplendent" is none other than Plato's world of forms—illuminated by the highest of the forms, that of the Good.
Platonic doctrine of recollection
The Platonic doctrine of recollection or anamnesis, is the idea that we are born possessing all knowledge and our realization of that knowledge is contingent on our discovery of it. Whether the doctrine should be taken literally or not is a subject of debate. The soul is trapped in the body. The soul once lived in "Reality", but got trapped in the body. It once knew everything, but forgot it. The goal of Recollection is to get back to true Knowledge. To do this, one must overcome the body. This doctrine implies that nothing is ever learned, it is simply recalled or remembered. In short it says that all that we know already comes pre-loaded on birth and our senses enable us to identify and recognize the stratified information in our mind.
Platonic epistemology holds that knowledge is innate, so that learning is the development of ideas buried deep in the soul, often under the midwife-like guidance of an interrogator. In several dialogues by Plato, Socrates presents the view that each soul existed before birth with the Form of the Good and a perfect knowledge of everything. Thus, when something is "learned" it is actually just "recalled."
Plato drew a sharp distinction between knowledge, which is certain, and mere opinion, which is not certain. Opinions derive from the shifting world of sensation; knowledge derives from the world of timeless forms, or essences. In The Republic, these concepts were illustrated using the metaphor of the sun, the analogy of the divided line, and the allegory of the cave.
Best of the Roses,
john alan conte jr.
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