The Divided Line Analogy, Plato’s Divided Line Analogy

The Divided Line Analogy, Plato’s Divided Line Analogy

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

This view of Plato, which is called the divided line analogy, the split line analogy or the split line theory, is also a reasoning style similar to his cave allegory.

The line symbolizes the different levels of existence and the mental faculties used to understand them. That is, the dividing line is a metaphysical and epistemological ( epistemological) event; reveals the four degrees of reality and the four sensory abilities used to comprehend these degrees.

The four levels of existence are images, objects, mathematical objects, and ideas. The types of cognition used to understand them are imagination, belief, thinking and understanding. We will now give examples for each.

Images and reflections are tools used by artists and poets. An artist making a watercolor painting of the Empire State Building cannot capture the building’s own reality, he puts forth a picture of the object.

He uses his imagination while creating this painting, which has no reality other than the shadows that the prisoners see on the cave wall. The painting he created is one level down and one level lower than the actual brick and steel structure standing in New York City. We recognize that structure through our senses, especially through our sense of sight.

These two levels and the types of cognition required to know them are the field of opinion or opinion.

The field of knowledge is not based on information obtained through the senses. In the realm of knowledge, it is thinking and reasoning that will come in handy to know something. At the thinking level, what the thinker needs to grasp the Empire State Building is mathematical hypotheses. For example, an engineer or an architect will have a different view of a building than an ordinary person.

Intermediate Note: The influence of Pythagoras is clear when Plato talks about the level of mathematical cognition. Like Pythagoras, he believed that the world was mathematical in nature, on a deeper level.

But applied and pure mathematics are not the highest levels of reality either. Plato thought that the highest level of reality was the world of ideas.

(According to Plato, Ideas were the unchanging principles, sources and origins of the world that the senses introduced to us. Ideas were not corporeal and material realities; they were not related to time and space. However, they constituted the basis of the world of senses in time and space. In other words, Plato The ideas of God are what we today call general ideas, concepts, or classes. For example, we see various trees around us. We recognize these trees individually through our sensations and perceptions [perceptions]. But from all of these we also derive a general idea, an overarching concept. This is what we call the concept of “tree” or the type of “tree”. It is a general idea that transcends individual trees and expresses their essence, nature, principle. This is the truth Plato had in mind when he said “idea”.)

Ideas are pure thoughts. Applied to objects such as the Empire State Building, the ideas are a higher level than the object itself, the pure idea of ​​what the skyscraper’s essence is. Only the highest mind and comprehension can grasp reality at this level.

Here, understanding only works on pure ideas, concepts, not objects. At this level, the person who looks at a beautiful tree or realizes a just action is no longer thinking only of that particular thing or event. For understanding is the activity of the philosopher who contemplates the true nature of beauty or justice in himself.

Here, a person does not think about holy or brave or self-controlled people or deeds one by one, but rather the idea and nature of these as concepts.

Split Line Analogy

In this analogy, which aims to reveal the structure of the world or existence in terms of human knowledge or understanding, and thus completes the Cave Analogy, a whole field of existence is shown with a single line.

The construction of the truth is similar to the positivist premise of modern man that “the last one is the best”, in accordance with the premise that “the highest is the most real and the most valuable”, which will gain importance at a very key point, especially in the medieval culture, starting with Plato. must be vertical.

Plato assumes here a line divided in the middle into two equal parts. One of these two equal parts represents the visible world and the other the comprehended world, that is, the world of ideas.

Then he divides each of these two equal parts in the middle again, and thus a line consisting of four equal parts emerges.

When these four parts are considered from the bottom up, the lower two parts represent the changing and dark world of the senses, and the upper two parts the bright world of the intelligible. At the top is the realm of ideas, which provide unchanging certain knowledge (episteme). Below it is the area of ​​numbers and geometric shapes.

While ideas can be known with pure reason (nous), numbers and geometric shapes are grasped with inferential reasoning, that is, with mind (dianoia). The first is dialect