“The Republic Stands as arguably the most important work of Western philosophy.” (Preface Central Works of Philosophy: Edited by John Sand: Acumen 2005)
Plato’s concept of the soul is the foundation for every argument he pursues through his philosophy. His teachings on the soul state that the human spiritual state may be greatly enhanced by knowledge and education. This relationship is most prominent in his dialogues in the form of The Myth of the Cave: from Republic.
In the story, Plato through Socrates describes a group of humans imprisoned in a cavern without light, their viewpoints totally fixated to the wall and the momentary shadows made by passers-by of the distant firelight. These people represent an uneducated society, entirely without knowledge of anything other than their present situation.
As one of the men is released from the shackles of ignorance and gradually led through the cave he gains knowledge increasingly through experiencing his surroundings, eventually reaching the mouth of the cave. The process of this revelation however is not without suffering; the man at first is reluctant to exit his current captured situation and as he graduates through the various levels of awareness more discomfort is caused. This experience is not unlike that of which Oedipus the King suffers in Sophocles’ play, as the closer the protagonist comes to uncovering the truth; the more he is forced to suffer. Plato argues that despite this pain the released captive can never be in the same state of ignorance again. Furthermore he would rather suffer in his enlightened state than be unfulfilled back in the depths of the cave.
In the story the gradual increase of the amount of light received by the man as a result of a change in the man’s position through the cave represents his movement towards knowledge and in turn goodness. Whilst the capacity to see the...