In this book, Socrates and Adeimantus debate the usefulness of philosophers. Adeimantus says that they are useless, and surprisingly, Socrates agrees. Socrates claims that today’s philosophers (or the people that are called philosophers) are not true philosophers because they have been trained incorrectly. In his opinion a lover of wisdom must be a fast learner, musically inclined or measured and graceful by nature, high-minded, a lover of truth and justice, courageous, and good at remembering.
Unfortunately, the nature of the true philosopher can be corrupted in many ways. One way is having the basic qualities of a philosopher but not receiving the proper nourishment. In another case, one may be born into a great city, well-born, good-looking, and tall. The people one associates with, then, will resort to flattery, causing that person to become pretentious and complacent. If this same person does see the value of pursuing knowledge and truth, his companions will dissuade him from this path in order to protect the companionship. In order to be a true philosopher, Socrates said, one would have to be born in a small town and disdains city affairs, become an outcast, have some sort of physical limitation (such as with Theages), or be led to philosophy through some other study.
To Socrates, the current constitution in Athens does not foster future generations of philosophers.
Analogy of the Ship:
Ship owner – bigger and stronger than everyone else, but hard of hearing, near-sighted, and unfamiliar with seafaring
Sailors – haven’t learned seafaring in the classroom; claim that it is unteachable and threaten to kill anyone who says otherwise
Stargazer – the one who knows how to navigate ships; pays attention to the seasons, the stars, the winds, and anything that pertains to his craft
The sailors repeatedly try to force the ship-owner into letting them steer the ship. They use either brute force or alcohol/drugs to persuade him. Those who are successful are usually executed by the ones who covet the position. The person who steers the ship is called “navigator,” “captain,” or “one who knows ships,” and everyone but him is considered useless. The stargazer is considered useless because he insists that the true captain ought to have knowledge of navigation and seafaring.
The ship represents Athens or any city. Socrates concedes that philosophers are useless to the majority, but insists that this the fault of those who do not make use of them, like a sick man refusing to go to the doctor.
Next, Socrates moves into discussing the Form of Good, which he says is the most important study for the philosopher-king. The Form of Good is neither pleasure nor knowledge, as most people think. He never actually says what it is, but he does give the analogy of the Sun, the Line, and (in the next book) the Cave.
The Analogy of the Sun
The Form of Good = the Sun
1. The sun is a source of light and visibility.
2. The sun is responsible for giving us sight.
3. The sun is responsible for causing things to exist (in the visible realm). It regulates seasons, which allows flowers to bloom and animals to give birth.
1. The Form of Good is the source of intelligibility.
2. “ gives us the capacity of knowledge.
3. “ is responsible for the existence of Forms in the intelligible realm. It is the cause of all existence, “beyond being.”
Analogy of the Line
To Socrates, there are four grades of knowledge or accessing the world. He tells us to imagine a line broken into four segments.
1. Imagination: the lowest grade, because the person considers images and reflections to be real things
2. Belief: Is more concerned with real things and considers things that you can touch to be the only reality in the universe
3. Thought: deals in logical Forms, but uses tangible/sensible objects to direct its reasoning. It also relies on hypotheses or unproven assumptions.
4. Understanding: the highest stage of knowledge, understanding the Form of Good. Reaching a universal proposition that makes all unproven assumptions unnecessary.
Segments one and two represent our access to the visible, while the last two represent our access to the intelligible.