Outline Plato's Simile of the Ship and Two of It's Possible Purposes (15 Marks)

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Outline Plato’s simile of the ship and two of its possible purposes (15 Marks) Plato’s simile of the ship is used as a retort to Adeimantus’ assertions that philosophers are “very odd birds, not to say thoroughly vicious”, and even their best qualities prove to be completely useless to society. In the simile, each feature represents an element of Athenian society. The ship itself represents the Athenian democratic state. The captain of the ship, who is large and strong, is also deaf and short-sighted, as he cannot what is good for society in the long run, thus represents the currently democratically elected ruler. The crew of the ship represent the politicians. They quarrel amongst themselves, with a desire to seize power of the captain. Alike political parties in the democratic state, they form factions. They will vie against one another, using various underhand means (such as alcohol and drugs)to try to manipulate the captain in order to overthrow him. When the faction succeeds in seizing control, the cruise becomes a “drunken pleasure cruise” - what is ultimately good for the state is not a concern for the politicians. The navigator represents the true philosopher. He has the ability to bring the ship to its port through his knowledge of the star-maps, skies and the changing seasons (which represent the Forms). This represents the Philosophers ability to bring the state, and its people, to its ultimate destination through his knowledge of the Forms. However, Plato purports that even though the Navigator (philosopher) holds all the necessary knowledge, his voice is only lost and ignored.

One possible purpose of the Simile of the Ship is to further illustrate Plato’s views on the short-comings of democracy. Here, Plato is referring to the corrupt nature of Athens and the reality of democracy. Plato speaks of ways in which the current democracy in Athens is inequitable. Firstly, women and slaves were prohibited to vote. Secondly, 80 days per year, citizens...
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