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Chapter 8 - The Cave

from Part III - Myth and Allegory in the Republic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2023

Malcolm Schofield
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

The Cave analogy in Book 7 of the Republic admits of no single consistent interpretation. It communicates not one philosophical vision but two. One is developed in the initial narrative, which tells its own compelling story, dropping plenty of hints – varying in directness or mysteriousness – on how it is to be read. The other vision is articulated mostly in the philosophical commentary on the Cave that Plato’s Socrates supplies when he tells his interlocutor Glaucon how to decode it. We should take the commentary as enunciating inter alia a set of instructions not on what the narrative means as originally articulated, but on how it is to be reread as an allegory of the trainee philosopher’s education. The Cave as narrated begins as a moral and political allegory of the condition of ordinary people in the city – in the first instance, the democratic city – and of their need for redemption from it. The Cave as reinterpreted in philosophical commentary is an image of the reorientation of the soul which can be achieved by the practice of mathematics. Consistency of interpretation as between original narrative and subsequent commentary is therefore not mandatory.

Type
Chapter
Information
How Plato Writes
Perspectives and Problems
, pp. 163 - 180
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • The Cave
  • Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: How Plato Writes
  • Online publication: 27 July 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108672603.010
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  • The Cave
  • Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: How Plato Writes
  • Online publication: 27 July 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108672603.010
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Cave
  • Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge
  • Book: How Plato Writes
  • Online publication: 27 July 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108672603.010
Available formats
×