Feed on
Posts
Comments

The Compelled Man

In book seven the image of the cave compiles several problematic ideas from the books before it. When the idea of whether or not a man who was pulled from the cave could adjust his sight is discussed, there arise problems with truth, sight, chance, and understanding.
In 515c, Glaucon and Socrates establish that truth to those in the cave is only understood as “nothing other than the shadows of artificial things.” This is because the prisoners, as they are called earlier, are positioned in the cave so that all they are able to see are shadows in the darkness. Therefore, by this conclusion one can understand truth as defined by what one is able to see. In 515d, Socrates discusses the possibility that the light would overwhelm the man who is compelled to see the light, and that he would revert to believing that the shadows are the highest form of truth. In book six the idea is introduced that one is “compelled by the truth” (499b) which sends things into action. This relates to how the man is compelled to find the highest form of sight, as a kind of truth. Instead of reverting to the shadows as the only truth after he is dragged from the cave, the man is forced to become accustomed with the light and he eventually could obtain the ability to see at the highest level.
When the individual is initially released from his bonds, it is interesting to note that the word “healing” (515c) is also used in conjunction with his release. This makes the idea of being released seem more metaphysical than something that was physically done to him. The steps that he has to go through in order to reach the highest level of sight also seem to convey a sense of independence in the act itself. Even though other forms aid him, the choice of sight seems to be ultimately up to the man. It is as if he is healing his own blindness.
In this same paragraph, Socrates uses the word “compelled.” Earlier this term was used to understand that the prisoners “had been compelled to keep their heads motionless throughout life” (515a). However, in 515c, the term is used to describe what made the man decide to get up and attempt to see the light. It seems that by using this term he means to relate back to books five and six where the idea of chance was discussed. In book five, 455c, chance is discussed in relation to the body, “while the other, having chanced on a lot of learning and practice, can’t even preserve what he learned.” Here it seems as though one who encounters thought and action by chance is without a good nature and without higher thought. Then, in 499b, when Socrates is discussing philosophers as rulers, he again implies that there is an outside force moving such a person towards a form of truth. He says that neither city, regime, nor man is considered it its perfect form until “some necessity chances to constrain those few philosophers…to take charge of a city.” Again, chance is involved in spurring a situation forward in pursuit of obtaining its truest form. Therefore, it seems as though a form cannot be perfected unless there is an element of chance. These references relate back to the use of “compelled” in 515c because not only is the man released and in a process of healing, but it takes a moment where he is “compelled to stand up, to turn his neck around” to begin the process.
The issue of sight then arises in this scenario due to the fact that although the man was compelled by his own will to search for more than the shadows, he is blinded in his search. Although he is told in 515d that the light, which blinds him, is actually clearer sight, he remains blind to the new forms. Again, he is skeptical of these new forms and resorts to seeing the shadows as clearer forms than those being shown to him in the light.
Another issue with the image of the cave occurs within understanding that human beings are the puppet handlers. However, throughout this scenario of the man being compelled to stand, it is not clear who is with him. For instance, in 515e when Socrates says, “if he compelled him,” Socrates could be referring to the same man with the use of both pronouns or there could be another being present. If there is another being present, it is not clear whether that is a human or larger idea such as nature. Even when Socrates is discussing that which the man is being shown in 515d, it is not clear if the introduction of light is what is showing him, if a human is showing him, or if something within himself is showing him the other forms beyond the shadows. Later in 515e, when Socrates is discussing what would happen to the man if he were forced out of the cave, he uses the term “someone” to describe that which removes him from the cave. In this instance it would appear that there is an external being acting on the man. However, it is not clear whether or not this person is the type of human that was described in the beginning or not. Someone is a term also used for what tells the man that the forms in the light are the clearest in his sight. This idea of an external force relates to the idea of chance. Both chance and someone seem to be external factors to the man that must exist in order for him to reach the goal of obtaining truth through sight.
Later, when the man is dragged from the cave in 516a, it is interesting to note that even after he has risen through the levels of sight, he is still unable to see things in their true form. Socrates states that the man could “turn” again, an additional turn from his initial one when he faced the light in the cave, to see the heavens and heavenly beings. This sight is described as more easily done at night, by the moon and stars than by day with the direct sun. Therefore, the man is to study the moon, which is ultimately illuminated by the sun. This seems similar to the step where it became easy for him to study the “phantoms” in water (516a), as this study is of the reflection of the sun. Eventually the man is presumed able to view the sun as it is and in its own place. Once the man can see this, he is able to understand all that the sun causes to come into order and causes to be. Since this is the highest level of sight, and by extension understanding, one can then conclude why when the man returns to the others in the cave they would want to kill him. He is then the only one with complete sight, who now has returned to the darkness. The others who have not been compelled are without sight and therefore inclined to misunderstand what they are not able or willing to comprehend.
Although fraught with issues of truth, sight, chance, understanding, and others, the discussion about the man who is compelled to leave the cave is one that seems to inspire deep thought into the idea of the soul more so than most of the books thus far. The man’s struggle to be able to see and comprehend the highest truth is laid out in this discussion so that one might be able to grasp what it is they need to do in order to attempt to also reach the highest form of sight.

20 Responses to “The Compelled Man”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    I like your use of the mentions of chance at 455c and 499b. Might it be, then, that somehow chance is what compels the prisoners to be free at 515c? In other words, somehow they “chance” upon a situation in which their shackles are removed or something like that. That sounds dubious, but I’m not sure it’s any more dubious than talking about “some necessity chanc[ing]” to constrain the philosophers to rule at 499b.

    Of course, Socrates may mean it is necessary for us to compel them to return, but how and why is chance operative here? It’s just strange.

    I have mentioned some relevant things for your paper in the comments for other posts so I will not repeat them all here. However, I think you are right to suggest that “someone” is present in the cave to release the shackles. They might do so by chance, but it certainly seems to be the case that someone has freed the prisoner (as opposed to something).

    One thing that puzzles me is the identity (and self-understanding) of the puppeteers. Who are they? Are they self-conscious deceivers? If not, how and why are they not bound themselves? How can they be liberated and yet dissemblers? Are they perhaps the implied lovers of non-being at the end of Book 5?

    In general, what compulsion means in the Republic is very strange, especially since some of the words used for persuasion include variants of the term “ananke” (necessity). So maybe even persuasion is a type of compulsion. Maybe there is a verbal way to release someone from shackles and “compel” them to leave the Cave? How does philosophy relate to this idea of turning around?

    KH

  2. Gems form the internet

    […]very few websites that happen to be detailed below, from our point of view are undoubtedly well worth checking out[…]…

  3. Websites worth visiting

    […]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[…]…

  4. Great website

    […]we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[…]…

  5. Online Article…

    […]The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available […]…

  6. Visitor recommendations

    […]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[…]…

  7. Websites worth visiting

    […]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[…]…

  8. Related…

    […]just beneath, are numerous totally not related sites to ours, however, they are surely worth going over[…]…

  9. Websites worth visiting

    […]here are some links to sites that we link to because we think they are worth visiting[…]…

  10. Awesome website

    […]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]…

  11. Recommeneded websites

    […]Here are some of the sites we recommend for our visitors[…]…

  12. Superb website

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]…

  13. Online Article…

    […]The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available […]…

  14. web page says:

    Online Article…

    […]The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available […]…

  15. Awesome website

    […]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]…

  16. AGUSTO.PL says:

    Superb website

    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]…

  17. Visitor recommendations

    […]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[…]…

  18. Great website

    […]we like to honor many other internet sites on the web, even if they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[…]…

  19. Read was interesting, stay in touch…

    […]please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web[…]…

  20. this post says:

    Websites we think you should visit

    […]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we feel they are actually worth a go through, so have a look[…]…