This is the essay for the 4rth week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. It’s an answer to two questions about Socrates and Plato.
- What was the disagreement Socrates had with the Sophists?
- What was Plato’s point in his allegory of the cave?
To answer this question we first need to know what the Sophists taught. We’re actually a group who taught public speaking, but it goes a little deeper than that. They taught people how to make the weaker argument seem stronger. They didn’t care which one was actually correct.
They believed that there were no values. This means that truth is subjective. Something might be right for me, but wrong for you and vice versa. This is represented by the saying “Man is the measure of all things”. What they mean by all of this is that for example, in some countries cars drive on the right side and some on the left side. This makes sense this is just a subjective value. But the Sophists thought this about everything, even murder. Think about it for a second, it doesn’t make any sense.
Well, Socrates and Plato sorely disagreed with these ideals. Socrates thought that these kinds of beliefs were corrupting the youth of Greece. Socrates did think there were values in the world, objective truths. Socrates believed instead of just trying to win arguments and believing what is best for you, that people should search for higher standards of living.
First of all, what is the allegory of the cave? Ok, let me explain. Imagine a cave with a few rocks and people strapped around the rocks unable to look behind and move at all. Behind the rocks is an opening out of the cave. Above the opening is a ledge with a fire on top of it. In front of the fire are puppeteers. The fire casts the puppets shadows on the wall the people are facing.
The people facing the wall can only see the shadows of the puppets. So they think the shadows are the real objects. If somehow one of the people escapes. Then he will see that the shadows are not the real objects and that the real objects are the puppets. If this person will try to explain this to his fellow friends who are still tied to the rocks, they will not believe him. They will continue to believe that the shadows are real.
What Plato is trying to represent with this the real world and its own objects. Plato believes that the objects in the material world and also immaterial things, like Justice and beauty, are not the real things. He believes that there is objects or things true form, but you can’t ever imagine, because if you do then that thing is not the true form. In a sense, Plato believes there are two worlds, world of the objects, AKA the one we live in and the world of the forms with all the true forms. There is some other evidence that supports this because there is a way we relate beach chairs rocking chairs, dining chairs as all chairs. This is what Plato calls the form of Chairness. This is the way we relate all of these things.