University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Criticisms and dedication
Plato used analogies throughout his writings to be able to explain clearly what concepts and relationships he would like to imply. One of the problems or issues that Plato would link to address is the misconceptions about a philosopher. Plato demonstrates that the soul is divided into three, the reason, the appetite and passion. Accordingly, Plato explains this idea using an analogy of a chariot drawn by three horses. Ideally, a person should be run by reason instead of the other two as Plato indicates.
With this in mind, the distinction between a philosopher and a non-philosopher can easily be distinguished since a philosopher is someone who is led by reason instead of passion and appetite. Plato had another way of representing the distinction. He used the analogy of the Navigator. A navigator’s role in a ship is most commonly disregarded since it does not concern the actual steering of the ship. For the crew or the sailor, there is nothing significant about the navigator. Plato used the parable of the ship and the analogy of the navigator to demonstrate instances wherein philosophers’ are mainly seen as queer and useless.
Plato compared the State with the ship. The state, in these terms, is composed of unruly individuals. Plato elaborated that the sailors or the crew are disorderly and unmanageable. Their leader, the captain, has authority but short-sighted. The crew always argues about where the helm should move. The helm, in the point of view of the crew signifies power to control the ship. The captain, which controls the helm, would follow either what crew suggest or follow his own way. When he disapprove with the crew’s opinion, he risk being hated and the possibility of mutiny, thus, in the end, it is safer for the captain to side with the crew.
The navigator, as stated above, is not interested in directing the helm. His interest lies in the stars, the direction of the wind, the probability of storms and the sky, which would secure the ship in the sea. As compared with the state, the crew and the captain resemble the politicians. They are shortsighted individuals who would like to get hold of the steering wheel, believing that this would give them the power to direct the whole state. Indeed, it is, but these politicians are very unlike to think about long-term goals.
Most likely, these politicians think only about their personal welfare and about the state as a whole. In contrast, a navigator does not pay heed to what the crew and the captain thinks. The navigator focused on whether there might be problems that the ship will encounter and is mainly concern to whether the ship will arrive at port safely. Like a philosopher, the navigator is concern with what an ordinary crew or sailor would think of as useless or impractical. In the end, it is actually the role of the navigator, which will prove to be of primary importance.
The ship crew would not turn for the navigators help if there were no problems. It wass the same with the role of the philosopher, politicians and individuals in the city would not go to the philosopher if everything were fine. However, once there was storm, the crew would realize that they need the expertise of the navigator to guide their way. This, according to Plato, was similar with the role of the philosopher in the state. Nonetheless, not before long, after the problem was solve, everything would go back to where they were before, the navigator and the philosopher would again be seen as useless.
The common conception that most people hold especially the public is a practical sense —if ‘one will not use something then it’s useless’. A person who would like to practice philosophy faces these circumstances. If a person would like himself to be governed by reason, then he must pursue philosophy or wisdom. Otherwise, he is taking the road towards becoming one of the unruly sailors/crew mentioned above. Either he will be led by passion or by appetite and become a shortsighted individual. Another analogy that Plato used is the hybrid plant. He creates a simple analogy regarding the importance and cultivation of wisdom.
He put fort, that like a hybrid plant, wisdom needs special care and attention; otherwise, weeds will overrun it. The weeds represent vices in the society, which are present and may sip out all the nutrients needed by the hybrid plant if it is not taken care of. This pertains to the fact that efforts are needed not only to arrive at wisdom but also to retain it. With response to reason being the guiding principle of a philosopher’s soul, the analogy of he beast represents the idea that it might seem that the trainer is in control of he beast when in reality, it is the other way around.
A person should learn to control the beast, which both represented by passion or appetite and let reason take the lead. Lastly, the analogy about the bald tinker undermines the possibility of impostors and becoming an impostor. Impostors are fake. These are simply people who know in themselves that what they offer or shows to the public are merely facade. In these terms, if a wise person becomes persuaded by fake wisdom, he himself would become fake. Plato tries to warn the person that this might happen, since there are many impostors that looks and talks as if they are saying the truth.
The prejudice that people holds about philosophy springs from their ignorance. Since they do not concern themselves of the future and they do not understand how and what the philosopher knows, they think of him as queer and impractical. Nonetheles, Plato warns that a philosopher should not take heed of these falls judgment for a true lover of wisdom understands what ordinary citizens think. Plato sees that the souls of the people are led either by reason or by appetite and/or passion. In contemporary setting, those who are led by reasons are often thought to be useless as applies to people searching for the commonly held ‘improvable’.
It also applies to those people who are often considered as weird and non-sensical. For the public, indeed, this kind of people talks irrelevant matters, but for those who can understand or for those who are also led by reason, what they are saying is amazing. To explain Plato’s analogies and ideas in the contemporary sense, consider geologist and scientist who are trying to find out if global warming is cyclical or a product of increased industrialization and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Nowadays they post all those scary scenarios that ask people to minimize carbon dioxide reduction or to always be ready for a forth-coming ice age. For an ordinary politician or simply a worker in a financial firm or law firm, it is weird and gibberish. However, once alarming rates of weather and climate changes occur and once the effect of global warming are felt by these people, they turn and ask the scientist to explain things and even demand for a solution. In my own terms, I believe that Plato is right concerning how the public view a philosopher in contrast with a non-philosopher.
The soul like the state must be ruled primarily by reason not by shortsighted wants and desire put forward by appetite or passion. However, it would be hard to distinguish a true knowledge or wisdom from impostors. A person might fall into thinking that he is promoting wisdom when in fact it is his passion, appetite, or false wisdom. A philosopher is someone who can distinguish false wisdom from true wisdom, in Plato’s explication. He is also someone who is governed righteously by reason.
Most people rendered him incompetent for he do not participate and indulge in practical notion that most people holds. A philosopher thinks about the future and is a logical thinker. In contemporary time, a scientist could indeed be considered as a philosopher however, scientist are often biased with prior theories and dogmas ad are more commonly considered to be followers of scientific beliefs. Nonetheless, they somehow represent a close resemblance. Anyone can become a philosopher, although ordinary people might consider it as an impractical move.
The attainment of true wisdom has often been regarded as elusive since there is a notion that everything changes. Nonetheless, as far as Plato is concerned, becoming a philosopher would take so much courage to be able to endure all the criticisms and dedication, so as not to be swayed by impostors or overrun by weeds. To be like the navigator would entail being laugh at which calls for endurance and sincere love for wisdom.
Plato, THE REPUBLIC translated by H. D. P. Lee. Penguin Classics. 1955.