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Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought

From Plato to Machiavelli

Kevin Dooley

Allegories and Metaphors in Early Political Thought: From Plato to Machiavelli examines allegories and metaphors that best exemplify the ideologies of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Niccolo Machiavelli. Author Kevin Dooley’s approach allows readers to gain a greater understanding of each thinker’s ideas through the lens of metaphor, which stimulates imaginative discussions and more thoughtful reflections.

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Chapter 2: Plato (427–347 BC): Gyges’ Ring, the Divided Line, and the Allegory of the Cave


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PLATO (427–347 BC)

Gyges’ Ring, the Divided Line, and the Allegory of the Cave


Before we begin an analysis of three of Plato’s most famous allegories—Gyges’ Ring, The Divide Line, and The Cave—it is important that a comprehensive examination of his life and times is conducted. Plato was born in 427 BC to an aristocratic Athenian family. Although little is known about the intimate details of Plato’s childhood, one can infer from the volatility of the Peloponnesus that there were several interrelated events that contributed to his intellectual development and public outlook. They are: the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), the two displacements of Athenian democracy, the installation of two short-lived oligarchies, and the contrast in educational styles between the Sophists and his mentor, Socrates.1 Any one of these might have been powerful enough to shape an impressionable Athenian aristocrat, but to witness them simultaneously and to have a strong connection to each one placed him in rare historical company.

It has been said that historical circumstances shape political attitudes. And Plato was obviously shaped by the aforementioned events. However, the sheer magnitude of such events coupled with his personal connections to them might be responsible for turning a brilliant mind into the most important thinker in Western civilization. John Aubrey, Thomas Hobbes’ biographer, ← 15 | 16 → suggested that the pending invasion of the Spanish Armada on England forced the yet unborn Hobbes...

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