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History of Philosophy II

Plato and Aristotle


Michal Zvarík

The coursebook presents Plato and Aristotle as the two most significant and groundbreaking thinkers of European thought from the era of classical Greek philosophy. The author provides prefatory orientation in the labyrinth of their complex thought and sketches their metaphysics, problems of knowledge and ethics. He departs from the fact that both thinkers are similar in striving to overcome problems of their period by localizing the human being into a hierarchical order of beings, which obliges in questions of the possibility of knowledge as well as of the right conduct.
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5. Plato’s Analogies


We have mentioned that Plato used in dialogues analogies in order to turn our attention to something important or essential, which we normally do not see. Analogies do not show us meaning directly, but indirectly: they reveal the unknown through certain images that are better known to us. Therefore an analogy assumes a listener or reader who has some previous experience. The presupposition of the analogy is that it brings together an identity and a difference between the two things, because similar things are not quite the same nor completely different. Similarly, analogies are always characterised by common features in spite of differences.

a) The Sun Analogy

The core of Plato’s thoughts can be outlined by three known analogies of the sixth and seventh books of the ← 37 | 38 → Republic. They are the analogies of the sun, line, and cave. These analogies together form a whole and mutually refer to each other. The central theme of the Republic is justice and the analogies were preceded by a discussion about the fundamental powers that shape justice in the city, as well as in the individual. As Socrates’ friends object, one key issue – the problem of the Good – remained unanswered. Socrates notes that he does not speak directly about what Good is, but first he presents his opinion of what appears to be a child of Good, opening the analogy of the sun (Resp. 506e).

Socrates starts his interpretation by differentiation:

“We say that...

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