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The Divided Line

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Peter Blumsom

Joined: 09 Mar 2007
Posts: 1167
Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:10 am    Post subject: The Divided Line Reply with quote

Dear Peter,

Best wishes from this Forum to yourself and your Plato Group. What better way of passing one's time can there be than studying Republic?

Sorry for the delay but I have finally managed to get my graphic settled on the page albeit a bit wobbly (I'll attend to that!). You’ll notice that apart from mapping out four levels of being on the right hand side the Line also gives their equivalent states of knowledge on the left. Also on top visions the subjects are the Forms (eidoi). It is usually taken that dianoia's Forms are the mathematical objects. More can be said of this if you require. The proportions shown beneath the model indicate the overall proportionality infused within the structure of the paradigm. The numbers are merely examples. Many people claim (without foundation, as far as I can see) that this proportion is in the golden ratio. It can actually be any proportion.

The lowest state, eikasia is that level of perception that has images, reflections and shadows as its objects. You see a cat reflected in a mirror or in a stream or as a shadow and although you recognise it you also know it is not a real cat. However the issue arises when you begin to think that these reflections are real. Then eikasia becomes a state of illusion (phantasma), as portrayed by the prisoners enchained in The Cave Allegory that follows this passage on The Divided Line.

The level above this is pistis and this is where you perceive the ‘real’ physical objects which are not illusions like, say, a mirage or Sankara’s snake overlaying a piece of rope. The objects of both these levels belong to the visible realm (to horaton) as relating to the analogy of the sun and the Good, (which immediately precedes The Divided Line in the text), where all things are grasped by the sense of sight in the physical light of the sun. And the equivalent level of perception for the whole visible realm is that of opinion – doxa. This may seem strange to us but Plato did not consider that images and the physical objects that generated them worthy of true True knowledge. Knowledge belongs to the mind, though it doesn’t exclude the information of the senses. Opinion alone, however, can obscure such knowledge.

The Greek word pistis ordinarily means ‘trust’ and its true that we trust our opinions and whether they are well founded or not we tend to build our lives around them. One of Socrates main aims is that we should test these opinions and see if they are true, and eventually that we should rise above them. This can only be done by moving into the next two levels, which collectively are called to noeton - the Intelligible realm. There are two kinds of perception involved in this realm, the lower being dianoia and the higher, noesis. It is only at these levels that understanding can take place., for this is where knowledge is perceived by the knower, which is, for dianoia, in the individual mind and for noesis, in divine mind.

Dianoia is discursive thinking. This, in its usual state, is not capable of true understanding, but when it comes under the discipline of philosophy it is capable of bringing the mind into the realm of true reason or noesis. This is unlike the knowledge of dinoia, which mainly busies itself with ‘knowledge of’ things. Noesis manifests itself in insight into and intuition of things eternal. Only from this level is it possible for the Forms – the eternal principles of things - to become known, and, most profoundly, the Good itself (agathos).

When I finally get the diagram up I will be able to talk more of this overall paradigm of Being and Knowledge. It needs to be comprehended for it underlies all that Plato teaches. I hope this is of some help. Feel free to ask about anything that I have not made clear, or might have got wrong.


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Peter Worman

Joined: 04 Jul 2007
Posts: 25
Location: Durban, South Africa

PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Peter

Thanks for your considered response.

Our group will be looking at this next term and I will revert with observations/ questions once we have had a chance to discuss. In the meantime I will do some private study in preparation and so many thanks for the study aid which will be a basis for further study.

As with everything that Socrates presents there's always much more than meets the eye.

Lots of love and sincere regards from us all here in Durban

Peter Worman
School of Philosophy
South Africa
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