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). [...]
[...] Just as the realm of mathematical thought on the Line uses reflections of Forms themselves represented through imperfect symbols, the individual must first observe the shadows of objects, then objects themselves, then the stars and moon at night, before finally being able to observe the Sun directly. “After that he would already be in a position to conclude about it that this is the source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place” (Bloom, 195). [...]
[...] In a certain sense, this is a more accurate portrayal of the dialogues that take place between Socrates and others, as Socrates often seems to be dragging their viewpoints in a particular direction, with their dialectical input consisting of “certainly” and must be In conclusion, Plato's Divided Line is an interesting symbol through which he introduces one of philosophy's first major theories of epistemology and metaphysics. Further, the Allegory of the Cave also represents a progress of “soul turning” in which an individual follows steps of logical progression/eye adjustment in order to grasp the final objects of the dialectical method, which are the Forms [...]
[...] To attempt an example of how one might progress through the levels of understanding in the Divided Line to ultimately reach a state of knowledge superior to their original hypotheses, let us follow an individual's understanding of evil and crime. When their knowledge is limited to the realm of imaginary opinion, they might base their view of crime solely on television shows that glorify bank robbers and decide that criminals are cool. Next, when this individual unfortunately gets mugged on the way home, this sensory experience with an actual criminal would probably provoke the individual to reason that criminals are not always so appealing. [...]
using our reader.