The impossibility of a ‘Philosopher King’

In Plato Republic, he explains his famous cave analogy; which describes a process of education on particular individuals that will ultimately lead to them becoming ‘philosopher kings’ if they succeed. These philosopher kings are stated to have seen the sun at the end of the cave metaphor (they know and understand the real truth), and have the obligation to go back to the cave and lead the rest of the people in the best way possible. Thus, the cave analogy provides a metaphor in which it is possible to create philosopher kings who would best lead the city they have hypothesised (Kallipolis), because he would know the form of the good (the real truth). Therefore, the king would be deemed as omniscient and capable of leading the city they have formed in the best possible way.

This argument that Plato brings forward in his analogy is critically flawed in the sense that it is impossible to teach something to someone that you yourself don’t know. Socrates explains several times himself that they will never be able to reach the real truth through discussion: “You would no longer see an image of what we are describing, but the truth itself as it seems to me, at least” (Plato, 228). Through this statement it is shown that Socrates himself doesn’t know the full truth himself; hence, his assumption that he can teach people to know the real truth through a certain method of teaching that takes years and years of education is utterly ridiculous, and the sacrifices these people will have to make in order to attempt to become a philosopher king is much to great on its own.

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