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Dialectical inquiry and the divided line

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David C.
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  1. Introduction
  2. The dialectical method of inquiry
  3. Description of the epistemological and metaphysical journey of a philosopher
  4. The levels of understanding
  5. Plato's Allegory of the Cave
  6. Conclusion
  7. Works cited

In Republic, Plato (using Socrates as a literary mouthpiece) examines the nature of justice and describes the ideal city as being ruled by philosopher-kings. In Books VI and VII, the philosophers engage in a discussion of the qualities of true philosophers and the process through which these qualities can be cultivated in certain individuals throughout their lifetimes. One particularly essential tool for philosophers is the dialectical method of inquiry, which consists of establishing a dialogue between competing philosophical viewpoints so that one might eventually overcome the other through rational deductions. In this manner, philosophy is able to progress toward a better understanding of the Forms rather than simply arguing in circles about irrelevant thought experiments.

[...] This process the hypotheses not beginnings but really hypotheses-- that is, steppingstones and springboards-- in order to reach what is free from hypothesis at the beginning of the whole? (Bloom, 191). In other words, many intellectual endeavors only seem to produce sound knowledge because their conclusions are in line with their initial postulates, but there is actually no guarantee that these knowledge is consistent because the initial postulates are still only assumed to be true. In contrast, the dialectical method uses initial hypotheses with the primary goal of eliminating the need for them by allowing the dialecticians to grasp the Form of the Good, which is the source of eternal truth that precludes any hypothesizing based on sensory experience. [...]


[...] To describe the epistemological and metaphysical journey that a philosopher must take as they move towards comprehension of the Good through dialectical reasoning, Plato creates the image of the Divided Line, which represents his conception of reality. ?Take a line cut in two unequal segments, one for the class that is seen, the other for the class that is intellected? (Bloom, 190). Within the visible portion of reality, he further distinguishes images such as shadows and reflections (leftmost on the line) from the actual objects they represent (Bloom, 190). [...]

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