Monday, February 20, 2017

Reading #34: Descartes: Doubt, Self, and God


Meditation I.

Of the things which may be brought within the sphere of the doubtful. It is now some years since I detected how many were the false beliefs that I had from my earliest youth admitted as true, and how doubtful was everything I had since constructed on this basis; and from that time I was convinced that I must once for all seriously undertake to rid myself of all the opinions which I had formerly accepted, and commence to build anew from the foundation, if I wanted to establish any firm and permanent structure in the sciences. But as this enterprise appeared to be a very great one, I waited until I had attained an age so mature that I could not hope that at any later date I should be better fitted to execute my design. This reason caused me to delay so long that I should feel that I was doing wrong were I to occupy in deliberation the time that yet remains to me for action. To-day, then, since very opportunely for the plan I have in view I have delivered my mind from every care [and am happily agitated by no passions] and since I have procured for myself an assured leisure in a peaceable retirement, I shall at last seriously and freely address myself to the general upheaval of all my former opinions. Now for this object it is not necessary that I should show that all of these are false—I shall perhaps never arrive at this end. But inasmuch as reason already persuades me that I ought no less carefully to withhold my assent from matters which are not entirely certain and indubitable than from those which appear to me manifestly to be false, if I am able to find in each one some reason to doubt, this will suffice to justify my rejecting the whole. And for that end it will not be requisite that I should examine each in particular, which would be an endless undertaking; for owing to the fact that the destruction of the foundations of necessity brings with it the downfall of the rest of the edifice, I shall only in the first place attack those principles upon which all my former opinions rested.

All that up to the present time I have accepted as most true and certain I have learned either from the senses or through the senses; but it is sometimes proved to me that these senses are deceptive, and it is wiser not to trust entirely to anything by which we have once been deceived.

Meditation II

But how can I know there is not something different from those things that I have just considered, of which one cannot have the slightest doubt? Is there not some God, or some other being by whatever name we call it, who puts these reflections into my mind? That is not necessary, for is it not possible that I am capable of producing them myself? I myself, am I not at least something? But I have already denied that I had senses and body. Yet I hesitate, for what follows from that? Am I so dependent on body and senses that I cannot exist without these? But I was persuaded that there was nothing in all the world, that there was no heaven, no earth, that there were no minds, nor any bodies: was I not then likewise persuaded that I did not exist? Not at all; of a surety I myself did exist since I persuaded myself of something [or merely because I thought of something]. But there is some deceiver or other, very powerful and very cunning, who ever employs his ingenuity in deceiving me. Then without doubt I exist also if he deceives me, and let him deceive me as much as he will, he can never cause me to be nothing so long as I think that I am something. So that after having reflected well and carefully examined all things, we must come to the definite conclusion that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it.

Meditation III

And the longer and the more carefully that I investigate these matters, the more clearly and distinctly do I recognize their truth. But what am I to conclude from it all in the end? It is this, that if the objective reality of any one of my ideas is of such a nature as clearly to make me recognize that it is not in me either formally or eminently, and that consequently I cannot myself be the cause of it, it follows of necessity that I am not alone in the world, but that there is another being which exists, or which is the cause of this idea. On the other hand, had no such an idea existed in me, I should have had no sufficient argument to convince me of the existence of any being beyond myself; for I have made very careful investigation everywhere and up to the present time have been able to find no other ground.

Hence there remains only the idea of God, concerning which we must consider whether it is something which cannot have proceeded from me myself. By the name God I understand a substance that is infinite [eternal, immutable], independent, all-knowing, all-powerful, and by which I myself and everything else, if anything else does exist, have been created. Now all these characteristics are such that the more diligently I attend to them, the less do they appear capable of proceeding from me alone; hence, from what has been already said, we must conclude that God necessarily exists. For although the idea of substance is within me owing to the fact that I am substance, nevertheless I should not have the idea of an infinite substance—since I am finite—if it had not proceeded from some substance which was veritably infinite.

Study Questions:
1.  Why does Descartes believe it is important to doubt his former beliefs?  Besides the senses are there other sources of belief?  Can these be doubted?
2.  Why does it matter if our beliefs are true?  Why should we only assent to believe what is true?
3.  Is Descartes culpable for having believed what is false?
4.  Explain what it means to say "I think therefore I am."  Can we be deceived about everything or are some things necessarily true?
5.  What is a clear and distinct idea?  What is the origin of these ideas?  Compare these ideas to those spoken about by Plato.  When do we know that our ideas apply to being as well as themselves?
6.  What is the idea Descartes has of "God"?
7.  What must be the origin of the idea of God and why?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Reading #33: Aquinas: The Beatific Vision

Thomas Aquinas
Summa Contra Gentiles
Book 3

chapter 37
[1] So, if the ultimate felicity of man does not consist in external things which are called the goods of fortune, nor in the goods of the body, nor in the goods of the soul according to its sensitive part, nor as regards the intellective part according to the activity of the moral virtues, nor according to the intellectual virtues that are concerned with action, that is, art and prudence—we are left with the conclusion that the ultimate felicity of man lies in the contemplation of truth.

[8] However, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to consist in the contemplation which depends on the understanding of principles, for that is very imperfect, being most universal, including the potential cognition of things. Also, it is the beginning, not the end, of human enquiry, coming to us from nature and not because of our search for truth. Nor, indeed, does it lie in the area of the sciences which deal with lower things, because felicity should lie in the working of the intellect in relation to the noblest objects of understanding. So, the conclusion remains that man’s ultimate felicity consists in the contemplation of wisdom, based on the considering of divine matters.

[9] From this, that is also clear by way of induction, which was proved above by rational arguments, namely, that man’s ultimate felicity consists only in the contemplation of God.

chapter 38
[1] It remains to investigate the kind of knowledge in which the ultimate felicity of an intellectual substance consists. For there is a common and confused knowledge of God which is found in practically all men; this is due either to the fact that it is self-evident that God exists, just as other principles of demonstration are—a view held by some people, as we said in Book One [25]—or, what seems indeed to be true, that man can immediately reach some sort of knowledge of God by natural reason. For, when men see that things in nature run according to a definite order, and that ordering does not occur without an orderer, they perceive in most cases that there is some orderer of the things that we sec. But who or what kind of being, or whether there is but one orderer of nature, is not yet grasped immediately in this general consideration, just as, when we see that a man is moved and performs other works, we perceive that there is present in him some cause of these operations which is not present in other things, and we call this cause the soul; yet we do not know at that point what the soul is, whether it is a body, or how it produces these operations which have been mentioned.

[3] In fact, the operation of the man enjoying felicity must be without defect. But this knowledge admits of a mixture of many errors. Some people have believed that there is no other orderer of worldly things than the celestial bodies, and so they said that the celestial bodies are gods. Other people pushed it farther, to the very elements and the things generated from them, thinking that motion and the natural functions which these elements have are not present in them as the effect of some other orderer, but that other things are ordered by them. Still other people, believing that human acts are not subject to any ordering, other than human, have said that men who order others are gods. And so, this knowledge of God is not enough for felicity.

[4] Again, felicity is the end of human acts. But human acts are not ordered to the aforementioned knowledge, as to an end. Rather, it is found in all men, almost at once, from their beginning. So, felicity does not consist in this knowledge of God.

[5] Besides, no man seems to be blameworthy because of the fact that he lacks felicity; in point of fact, those who lack it, but are tending toward it, are given praise. But the fact that a person lacks the aforesaid knowledge of God makes him appear very blameworthy. Indeed, a man’s dullness is chiefly indicated by this: he fails to perceive such evident signs of God, just as a person is judged to be dull who, while observing a man, does not grasp the fact that he has a soul. That is why it is said in the Psalms ( 13:1, 52:1): “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God.” So, this is not the knowledge of God which suffices for felicity.

chapter 47
[9] Although this mirror, which is the human mind, reflects the likeness of God in a closer way than lower creatures do, the knowledge of God which can be taken in by the human mind does not go beyond the type of knowledge that is derived from sensible things, since even the soul itself knows what it is itself as a result of understanding the natures of sensible things, as we have said. Hence, throughout this life God can be known in no higher way than that whereby a cause is known through its effect.

chapter 48
[1] If, then, ultimate human felicity does not consist in the knowledge of God, whereby He is known in general by all, or most, men, by a sort of confused appraisal, and again, if it does not consist in the knowledge of God which is known by way of demonstration in the speculative sciences, nor in the cognition of God whereby He is known through faith, as has been shown in the foregoing; and if it is not possible in this life to reach a higher knowledge of God so as to know Him through His essence, or even in such a way that, when the other separate substances are known, God might be known through the knowledge of them, as if from a closer vantage point, as we showed; and if it is necessary to identify ultimate felicity with some sort of knowledge of God, as we proved above; then it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to come in this life.

[16] And so, man’s ultimate felicity will lie in the knowledge of God that the human mind has after this life, according to the way in which separate substances know Him. For which reason our Lord promises us “a reward in heaven” and says that the saints “shall be as the angels... who always see God in heaven,” as it is said (Matt 5:12; 22:30; 18:10).

chapter 51
[5] This immediate vision of God is promised us in Scripture: “We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). It is wrong to understand this in a corporeal way, picturing in our imagination a bodily face of the Divinity, since we have shown that God is incorporeal. Nor is it even possible for us to see God with our bodily face, for the power of corporeal vision, which is associated with our face, can only apply to corporeal things. Thus, then, shall we see God face to face, in the sense that we shall see Him without a medium, as is true when we see a man face to face.

Study Questions:
1. What are the different ways of knowing God?  Why are some of these mixed with error?  If the error was removed are these properly the highest knowledge of God or is this only achieved through contemplation in the next life?
2.  What is the highest good?  What is felicity and how is it attained?  Why must it be connected to knowledge of what is lasting?
3.  Aquinas quotes Jesus as saying that there is a treasure in heaven, and Paul as saying we will see face to face. In their context, what else might these be about rather than the beatific vision?
4.  Contrast the direct vision of God (which is called contemplation or immediate knowledge) with the knowledge of God through the works of God (creation and providence, mediate knowledge).
5.  In what way is Aquinas an empiricist?  In what way does he continue the assumptions of Greek dualism?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Reading #32: Augustine: Only God is Eternal

The Confessions

"and I should sooner doubt that I live than that Truth is not, which 
is clearly seen, being understood by those things which are made."

     And being thence admonished to return to myself, I entered even
into my inward self, Thou being my Guide: and able I was, for Thou
wert become my Helper. And I entered and beheld with the eye of my
soul (such as it was), above the same eye of my soul, above my mind,
the Light Unchangeable. Not this ordinary light, which all flesh may
look upon, nor as it were a greater of the same kind, as though the
brightness of this should be manifold brighter, and with its greatness
take up all space. Not such was this light, but other, yea, far other
from these. Nor was it above my soul, as oil is above water, nor yet
as heaven above earth: but above to my soul, because It made me; and
I below It, because I was made by It. He that knows the Truth, knows
what that Light is; and he that knows It, knows eternity. Love knoweth
it. O Truth Who art Eternity! and Love Who art Truth! and Eternity
Who art Love! Thou art my God, to Thee do I sigh night and day. Thee
when I first knew, Thou liftedst me up, that I might see there was
what I might see, and that I was not yet such as to see. And Thou
didst beat back the weakness of my sight, streaming forth Thy beams
of light upon me most strongly, and I trembled with love and awe:
and I perceived myself to be far off from Thee, in the region of unlikeness,
as if I heard this Thy voice from on high: "I am the food of grown
men, grow, and thou shalt feed upon Me; nor shalt thou convert Me,
like the food of thy flesh into thee, but thou shalt be converted
into Me." And I learned, that Thou for iniquity chastenest man, and
Thou madest my soul to consume away like a spider. And I said, "Is
Truth therefore nothing because it is not diffused through space finite
or infinite?" And Thou criedst to me from afar: "Yet verily, I AM
that I AM." And I heard, as the heart heareth, nor had I room to doubt,
and I should sooner doubt that I live than that Truth is not, which
is clearly seen, being understood by those things which are made.

And I beheld the other things below Thee, and I perceived that they
neither altogether are, nor altogether are not, for they are, since
they are from Thee, but are not, because they are not what Thou art.
For that truly is which remains unchangeably. It is good then for
me to hold fast unto God; for if I remain not in Him, I cannot in
myself; but He remaining in Himself, reneweth all things. And Thou
art the Lord my God, since Thou standest not in need of my goodness.
     And it was manifested unto me, that those things be good which
yet are corrupted; which neither were they sovereignly good, nor unless
they were good could he corrupted: for if sovereignly good, they were
incorruptible, if not good at all, there were nothing in them to be
corrupted. For corruption injures, but unless it diminished goodness,
it could not injure. Either then corruption injures not, which cannot
be; or which is most certain, all which is corrupted is deprived of
good. But if they he deprived of all good, they shall cease to be.
For if they shall be, and can now no longer he corrupted, they shall
be better than before, because they shall abide incorruptibly. And
what more monstrous than to affirm things to become better by losing
all their good? Therefore, if they shall be deprived of all good,
they shall no longer be. So long therefore as they are, they are good:
therefore whatsoever is, is good. That evil then which I sought, whence
it is, is not any substance: for were it a substance, it should be
good. For either it should be an incorruptible substance, and so a
chief good: or a corruptible substance; which unless it were good,
could not be corrupted. I perceived therefore, and it was manifested
to me that Thou madest all things good, nor is there any substance
at all, which Thou madest not; and for that Thou madest not all things
equal, therefore are all things; because each is good, and altogether
very good, because our God made all things very good.
     And to Thee is nothing whatsoever evil: yea, not only to Thee,
but also to Thy creation as a whole, because there is nothing without,
which may break in, and corrupt that order which Thou hast appointed
it. But in the parts thereof some things, because unharmonising with
other some, are accounted evil: whereas those very things harmonise
with others, and are good; and in themselves are good. And all these
things which harmonise not together, do yet with the inferior part,
which we call Earth, having its own cloudy and windy sky harmonising
with it. Far be it then that I should say, "These things should not
be": for should I see nought but these, I should indeed long for the
better; but still must even for these alone praise Thee; for that
Thou art to be praised, do show from the earth, dragons, and all deeps,
fire, hail, snow, ice, and stormy wind, which fulfil Thy word; mountains,
and all hills, fruitful trees, and all cedars; beasts, and all cattle,
creeping things, and flying fowls; kings of the earth, and all people,
princes, and all judges of the earth; young men and maidens, old men
and young, praise Thy Name. But when, from heaven, these praise Thee,
praise Thee, our God, in the heights all Thy angels, all Thy hosts,
sun and moon, all the stars and light, the Heaven of heavens, and
the waters that be above the heavens, praise Thy Name; I did not now
long for things better, because I conceived of all: and with a sounder
judgment I apprehended that the things above were better than these
below, but altogether better than those above by themselves.
     There is no soundness in them, whom aught of Thy creation displeaseth:
as neither in me, when much which Thou hast made, displeased me. And
because my soul durst not be displeased at my God, it would fain not
account that Thine, which displeased it. Hence it had gone into the
opinion of two substances, and had no rest, but talked idly. And returning
thence, it had made to itself a God, through infinite measures of
all space; and thought it to be Thee, and placed it in its heart;
and had again become the temple of its own idol, to Thee abominable.
But after Thou hadst soothed my head, unknown to me, and closed mine
eyes that they should not behold vanity, I ceased somewhat of my former
self, and my frenzy was lulled to sleep; and I awoke in Thee, and
saw Thee infinite, but in another way, and this sight was not derived
from the flesh.
     And I looked back on other things; and I saw that they owed their
being to Thee; and were all bounded in Thee: but in a different way;
not as being in space; but because Thou containest all things in Thine
hand in Thy Truth; and all things are true so far as they nor is there
any falsehood, unless when that is thought to be, which is not. And
I saw that all things did harmonise, not with their places only, but
with their seasons. And that Thou, who only art Eternal, didst not
begin to work after innumerable spaces of times spent; for that all
spaces of times, both which have passed, and which shall pass, neither
go nor come, but through Thee, working and abiding.
     But he that no otherwise understands In the Beginning He made,
than if it were said, At first He made, can only truly understand
heaven and earth of the matter of heaven and earth, that is, of the
universal intelligible and corporeal creation. For if he would understand
thereby the universe, as already formed, it may be rightly demanded
of him, "If God made this first, what made He afterwards?" and after
the universe, he will find nothing; whereupon must he against his
will hear another question; "How did God make this first, if nothing
after?" But when he says, God made matter first formless, then formed,
there is no absurdity, if he be but qualified to discern, what precedes
by eternity, what by time, what by choice, and what in original. By
eternity, as God is before all things

Study Questions:

1.  Can you find in this passage an argument showing that only God is eternal (without beginning)?
2.  Can you find an argument that God is distinct from the creation?
3.  Can you find an argument that time began with creation?
4.  What is the distinction in substance between God and the creation?
5.  For Augustine, why is the knowledge of God important?  In what sense does he not know himself unless he knows God?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Reading #31: Paradise Lost: Satan to Beelzebub

Study Questions:
1.  How does Satan find hope?
2.  Does Satan believe that beings have natures (can the mind make reality)?
3.  How does Satan understand the will, freedom, and reason?
4.  How does Satan understand the nature of God?
5.  To what does Satan attribute his loss?

Th' infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stird up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv'd [ 35 ]
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heav'n, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equal'd the most High, [ 40 ]
If he oppos'd; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais'd impious War in Heav'n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie [ 45 ]
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.


All is not lost; the unconquerable Will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what is else not to be overcome?
That Glory never shall his wrath or might [ 110 ]
Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace
With suppliant knee, and deifie his power,
Who from the terrour of this Arm so late
Doubted his Empire, that were low indeed,
That were an ignominy and shame beneath [ 115 ]
This downfall; since by Fate the strength of Gods
And this Empyreal substance cannot fail,
Since through experience of this great event
In Arms not worse, in foresight much advanc't,
We may with more successful hope resolve [ 120 ]
To wage by force or guile eternal Warr
Irreconcileable, to our grand Foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th' excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heav'n.


Fall'n Cherube, to be weak is miserable
Doing or Suffering: but of this be sure,
To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight, [ 160 ]
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil; [ 165 ]
Which oft times may succeed, so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from thir destind aim.


Seest thou yon dreary Plain, forlorn and wilde, [ 180 ]
The seat of desolation, voyd of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves,
There rest, if any rest can harbour there, [ 185 ]
And reassembling our afflicted Powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our Enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire Calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from Hope, [ 190 ]
If not what resolution from despare.


Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he [ 245 ]
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail [ 250 ]
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n. [ 255 ]
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: [ 260 ]
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reading #30: Cicero: On Moral Ends

selections from On Moral Ends:

By claiming that the senses alone decide that pleasure is good and pain evil, Epicurus grants more authority to the senses than the law allows us when we sit in judgement on law-suits. We can only judge what falls within our jurisdiction. Judges tend when announcing their verdict to add the phrase, “if it is within my jurisdiction” –an empty phrase, since cases that are outside their jurisdiction are not brought within it by this utterance. What are the senses competent to judge? Sweetness and bitterness, smoothness and roughness, proximity and distance, rest and motion, squareness and roundness.  Hence a fair verdict can only be delivered by reason, assisted in the first place by knowledge of things human and divine, which is rightly called wisdom, and in the second place by the virtues, which reason puts in charge of every domain, whereas you want them to be a servant ministering to pleasure. After consulting these advisors, reason shall deliver its first decision: there is no place for pleasure either to claim sole occupancy of the throne of the supreme good that we are investigating, or even to sit side by side with morality.  The same verdict will be delivered on freedom from pain.


We must investigate where that supreme good that we want to discover is to be found. Pleasure has been eliminated from the inquiry, and pretty much the same objections hold against those who maintained that the ultimate good was freedom from pain. Indeed no good should be declared supreme if it is lacking in virtue, since nothing can be superior to that.

Ignorance of the supreme good, however, is necessarily equivalent to ignorance of how to plan one’s life. And this may take one so far off course that one loses sight of any haven to provide shelter. Once, however, we understand the highest ends, once we know what the ultimate good and evil is, then we have a path through life, a model of all our duties,  to which each of our actions can thereby be referred.

In fact it is at precisely this point of inquiry into the supreme good that philosophical controversy rages. The origin of the whole dispute about the highest goods and evils, and the question of what among them is ultimate and final, is to be found by asking what the basic natural attachments are.

So it turns out that there is a difference of opinion over the first principles of nature corresponding exactly to the dispute over the highest goods and evils.
Study Questions:
1.  In what way do first principles about the nature of things lead to disagreements about the highest good?
2.  What is the consequence of ignorance about the highest good?
3.  Why can't the senses tell us what is the highest good?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reading #29: Plato: The Cave

The Republic
Book 7 (selections)

Socrates - GLAUCON 

And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets. 

I see. 
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent. 

You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners. 
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave? 

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads? 

And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows? 

Yes, he said. 
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them? 

Very true. 
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow? 

No question, he replied. 
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images. 

That is certain. 
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow it' the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you mayfurther imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him? 

Far truer. 
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him? 

True, he now 
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he 's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities. 

Not all in a moment, he said. 
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day? 

Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is. 

He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold? 

Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him. 

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them? 

Certainly, he would. 
And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer, 

Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner? 

Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner. 

Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness? 

To be sure, he said. 
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death. 

No question, he said. 
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed. 

I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you. 
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted. 

Yes, very natural. 
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of justice, and is endeavouring to meet the conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice? 

Anything but surprising, he replied. 
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter light, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den. 

That, he said, is a very just distinction. 
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes. 

They undoubtedly say this, he replied. 
Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good. 

Study Questions:
1.  What is the allegory of the cave?  Explain its structure, the senses, mistakes about the senses, interpretation of the senses, direct perception of reality, the use of reason, being and becoming.
2.  What conclusions does the person draw about the sun?  Can these be expanded upon, can more conclusions be drawn?
3.  Why is the idea of the good arrived at last and with great effort?
4.  What is the distinction between the upper and lower worlds?  Does the upper world have any important relation to the lower world or can the lower world be abandoned?  How does this contrast with "creation is revelation"?
5.  In what way is the good the source of all things beautiful and the immediate source of reason?
6.  What is the beatific vision?  What is the contemplation of the good?  Does this continue the kind of empiricism found in the cave and shadows? 
7.  What are the two kinds of bewilderment of the eyes, and how does each person think of the other?  Contrast this with different kinds of death.
8.  How is education and movement of the soul toward the good, away from the world of becoming and toward being?
9.  Are pain and suffering in this world a hindrance to the beatific vision.
10.  Did the world of becoming have a beginning?
11.  What is the significance of starting with the condition of the knower and mistakes/shadows rather than starting with creation?
12.  Is the person in the cave involved in culpable ignorance?