The more you know

Myths, stories and analogies in the “Republic”

The Ring of Gyges (Second Book)
Gyges was a shepherd who worked in the employ of the king of Lydia. Following an earthquake in the ground where his sheep were grazing, a chasm was created; Gyges went down inside and found a bronze horse, hollow, of immense proportions, inside there was the corpse of a giant with a gold ring on his finger. Gyges took the ring and, returning to him, realized that, by turning it so that the gem set was facing the palm of the hand, the ring made the wearer invisible. Known this power he brigaded to be one of the messengers to be sent to the king, seduced the queen and, with his help, killed the king and took power. With this myth Glaucone wants to show that no one is fair, and it is the laws that dissuade us from committing injustices.


Those born of the earth (Book three)
The divinity who created men, forged them with gold, silver and bronze: the golden ones, very few, with the function of government; the silver ones, few, to defend the state; the bronze ones, very many, to be farmers and artisans. These men were born of the earth, and for this reason they are called the “born of the earth”; the whole population of the world derives from them and in the ideal state this original division into three classes must be respected. Socrates does not show that he believes this myth and hesitates for a long time before telling it. In reality this is one of those good-for-good lies that rulers must tell artisans to make them believe they are all brothers and convince them to be governed willingly.


Analogy of Tincture (Book Four)
The human soul is like a cloth that must receive a dye; in order for the dyeing to be effective it is first necessary to select the most suitable fabrics, that is the guardians, then the fabrics must receive a particular treatment, gymnastic-musical education, and finally they are dyed. The fabrics that have not undergone the treatment, while receiving the color, or “the opinion on fearful things and their nature”, fade when subjected to the action of solvents: pain, fear, craving.


Ship Analogy (Book Six)
The state is like a ship in the throes of a storm, whose helmsman is an old man, strong and vigorous but hard of ears, weak of sight, and with little knowledge of the coast; sailors struggle with each other to decide who should be the pilot, but they ignore everything the good pilot should know, while those who are competent are prevented from doing their job. The old helmsman are the rulers of the polis, the competent pilot are the philosophers, who cannot realize themselves as such because they are impeded by the ignorant mass.


Analogy of the Sun (Book Six)
The good is like the sun, from it comes the light, that is the truth and this allows the eyes, our soul, the sight, that is the knowledge; the objects we see are the object of knowledge and, if badly illuminated, they appear confused, doxa, if instead they are well illuminated, we have their episteme, their science.
Line Analogy (Book Six) AC: CB = AE: EC = CD: CB AC = Sensible world / Opinion / Doxa CB = Intelligible world / Science / Epistéme AE = Shadows and reflections / Imagination / Eikasìa EC = Animals, plants and artificial objects / Belief / Pìstis CD = Geometric bodies / Dianoetic thought / Diànoia DB = Ideas / Intellection / Nòesis


Myth of the cave (Book 7)
Inside a cave there are some men chained since childhood, unable to see the entrance; behind them a fire burns and, between the fire and the entrance to the cave, passes a road with a low wall that acts as a screen; several men pass along the road, carrying various objects on their shoulders that cast their shadows on the bottom of the cave. For prisoners, the shadows they see are reality; if one of them were freed and forced to turn around and leave the cave, he would be dazzled by the sunlight and feel pain, however he would gradually get used to it, he could see the reflections of the waters, then the real objects, the stars and finally the sun. Returning to the cave he would have to get his eyes used to the darkness again, and he would be laughed at by his companions; if he wanted to get them to follow him up there, they would kill him. This myth can be interpreted with different interpretations: * Ontological: the shadows at the bottom of the cave are the doxa, the opinion, the objects that cast the shadows, the sensible world, the reflections are the mathematical entities; the real things the ideas, the sun is the idea of ​​the good. * Gnoseological: – Cave = Opinion; – External world = Science; – Shadows = Imagination; – Items brought = Sideboard; – Reflexes = Mathematical-geometric sciences; – Reality = Intellection and dialectic; * Politics: the philosopher, once out of the cave, that is, after having contemplated the ideas, must return to put into practice the ideal state, even at the cost of his life, as happened to Socrates.


Soul Metaphor (Book Ninth)
The soul is like a mythological monster, formed by the union of a man, a lion, and a polyphalus monster; justice is when man, a rational soul, allied with the lion, an irascible soul, holds in check the multi-faceted monster, an attractive soul. Conversely, there is injustice, when man is dominated by the policefalo monster.


Myth of Glaucus (Tenth Book)
Glauco was a Boeotian fisherman who, after taking a bath in a magical spring, sank into the sea becoming a sea creature capable of prophesying the future. We must not contemplate the soul mixed with other evils, as it would be unrecognizable, like Glauco after the transformation.

Myth of Er (Book Tenth)
Er, son of Armenius, was a valiant warrior of Asia Minor; dead in battle, the corpse was recovered after ten days still uncorrupted, on the twelfth day, just before the funeral pyre, the corpse woke up, and began to tell what he had seen. Leaving his body, the soul had arrived in the world of ideas, in a place where there were four chasms, two in heaven and two on earth; in the middle sat some judges who, judging every soul, directed the righteous to the right abyss of heaven and the unjust ones to the left of the earth; from the other chasms other souls flowed, dirty and torn from underground, neat and clean from the sky. The souls exchanged news about the facts of the world while Er was informed that, after death, one spent a period equal to ten times one’s life (1000 years, because the duration of the perfect life is 100 years) to serve ten times the penalties committed, or to rejoice for ten times the good done. For the wicked, the disrespectful towards their parents and the murderers, there is an additional penalty: they were skinned and dragged onto asphalted plants; furthermore, if they approached the exit, they were terrified by a great bellow. The souls that had to reincarnate were led to another place, from where the axis of the universe could be seen; suspended in the air was the spindle of Ananke, goddess of Natural Necessity, all made of diamond; around it revolved eight concentric spindles (hemispheres with the opening facing upwards), each corresponding to a planet and colored (the Babylonian astrologers had attributed a color to each planet); from each whistler a siren emitted a single note; the eight notes, combined with those of the three Moiras, Lachesis, Clotho and Atropos, formed a harmony that could be heard by the philosophers. The souls, who came from Lachesis, had to choose the paradigm of the desired life, among the many who lay on the ground, more than the souls present. The paradigms were of human and animal lives, and each chose according to the inclinations of the previous life; the order of souls was chosen by lot. Philosophy allows you to carefully choose a just and happy life; the first, a soul from heaven, chooses the life of a tyrant, since virtue, if founded on temperance and courage but not on wisdom, does not help in the choice: the soul of Orpheus chooses the life of a swan, Ajax a as a lion, Agamemnon as an eagle, Atalanta as an athlete, Ulysses makes the best choice and takes the life of an ordinary man. Subsequently the souls confirmed their choice and the plot of destiny was spun. The souls were then led to a warm and sunny plain, on the banks of the Athete river: the foolish, thirsty, drank a lot and forgot all their past life, the philosophers, guided by reason, did not drink, thus they kept the memory, just a little dormant in the world of ideas.

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