Background to the study

Plato’s divided line is a vertical line, divided unequally with the largest segment on top. These two segments represent the intelligible realm (at the top) and the visible realm (at the bottom). The two segments are divided again into subsections which represent proportions between images and originals; the lower subsections of each segment represent some involvement with images, whereas the upper subsections of each segment represent direct cognitive contact with the originals of each realm. Boyle, Anthony J.(1973)

A significant feature of Plato’s philosophy, which has its place in the representations of the line, is that the originals of the visible world are, in reality, nothing but images of the intelligible originals, the Forms.

Accordingly, the divided line features these objects as both the originals of the visible world and as the images of the intelligible world. The way that Plato makes his construction requires the middle subsections to be equal, and one might take this equality to be a significant feature of Plato’s image, especially given the appearance of Plato’s ‘participants’ as the objects at the two pertinent subsections of the line.

But Plato never explicitly calls our attention to this equality, and if we do attend to it we are led to problems in our understanding of the relative merits of the two subsections and to conflicts with what Plato does explicitly say about them. If I am right, there is a great deal we can learn from Plato’s simile, and there have been a great number of mistakes scholars have made in trying to tell us exactly what it means. But there also seems to be one problem in his image that cannot be made to go away. Given the incredible richness and substance of this very complex image, one will be tempted to think that Plato might have purposefully woven this subtle flaw into the intricate fabric of his own image, because he wished to avoid the sin of perfection. According to his own philosophy, images can never be perfect, and Plato’s divided line is, after all, only an image. Plato’s line is certainly good enough to be a model of the excellence we can expect in the products of a philosophical craftsman. Perhaps it is also just bad enough to remind us, by contrast, of a perfection no image can equal.

Statement of the Problem

Like every other discipline, Philosophy is not devoid of problems. These philosophical problems are not issues that can be solved once and for all. The fundamental problems of philosophy are perennial problems. They are basically problems of conceptualization which cannot be solved in a dogmatic manner as in religion. One of these problems is the problem of knowledge. The issue of knowledge is really a thought-provoking one and it has been reflected upon and discussed through the ages and it still persists to our own day. Plato in his Metaphor of Divided Line discussedthis problem of knowledge in a metaphysical view. He presents it as a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon.  However, this work is an attempt to give from my perspective, a critical critique of Plato’s Divided Line;

Objectives of the Study.

The main objective of this study is to investigate the Concept of the Divided Line in Plato’s Epistemology: A Critique.

The study were guided by the following specific objectives;

  1. To make a critical exposition in Platos’s divided line
  2. To demonstrate the levels of knowledge in the concepts of Platos’s divided line

Scope of the Scope

This study is limited on the Concept of the Divided Line in Plato’s Epistemology from a critique viewpoint.

Significance of the Study

The significance of this research stems from the fact that not only does the work give a substantive and uncomplicated treatment of The Concept of the Divided Line in Plato’s Epistemology, but also, more importantly; it provides an application of the relevant themes and perspectives of platos theories.

The study will equally add to the existing body of knowledge on the subject matter. Students undergoing research work similar to the present study who may wish to use this work as a reference material or a spring board for their own work will find this work really useful.


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