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Socrates 469-399 BC . Plato 427-347 B.C. Aristotle 384-322 B.C. . I. The Allegory of the Cave. 1. We might all be in our own caves. 2. If we were inside a cave, we would believe what we see (the shadows) as the reality. 3. It is painful to be enlightened.

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427-347 B.C.


384-322 B.C.

1. We might all be in our own caves.

2. If we were inside a cave, we would believe what we see (the shadows) as the reality.

3. It is painful to be enlightened.

4. Once enlightened, (a) he will pity those in the den. (b) he will be unwilling to descend to human affairs, but instead try to help others to see the light, the true reality.

5. But those in the cave would think that he lost his eyes, and would even put him to death.

6. The capacity of learning exists in the soul already. One just needs to turn the soul toward true knowledge.

7. The innate virtue of wisdom needs to be converted toward the reality, and rendered useful and profitable, otherwise it will be useless or even hurtful.

8. The uneducated are not fit to be ministers of State.

Are we this boy?

Or the slaves of

Plato’s cave?

  • What are our

“glasses”? Or our


Frances Bacon


English philosopher

the four idols of francis bacon the new instrument of knowledge
The Four Idolsof Francis Bacon&The New Instrument of Knowledge
  • In the Novum Organum (the new instrumentality for the acquisition of knowledge) Francis Bacon classified the intellectual fallacies of his time under four headings which he called idols. He distinguished them as idols of the Tribe, idols of the Cave, idols of the Marketplace and idols of the Theater.
  • An idol is an image, in this case held in the mind, which receives veneration but is without substance in itself. Bacon did not regard idols as symbols, but rather as fixations.  
  • Bacon used the theater with its curtain and its properties as a symbol of the world stage.
idols of the tribe
Idols of the Tribe
  • Deceptive beliefs inherent in the mind of man, and therefore belonging to the whole of the human race. They are abstractions in error arising from common tendencies to exaggeration, distortion, and disproportion. Thus men gazing at the stars perceive the order of the world, but are not content merely to contemplate or record that which is seen. They extend their opinions, investing the starry heavens with innumerable imaginary qualities. In a short time these imaginings gain dignity and are mingled with the facts until the compounds become inseparable. This may explain Bacon's epitaph which is said to be a summary of his whole method. It reads, "Let all compounds be dissolved."
idols of the cave
Idols of the Cave
  • Those which arise within the mind of the individual. This mind is symbolically a cavern. The thoughts of the individual roam about in this dark cave and are variously modified by temperament, education, habit, environment, and accident. Thus an individual who dedicates his mind to some particular branch of learning becomes possessed by his own peculiar interest, and interprets all other learning according to the colors of his own devotion. The chemist sees chemistry in all things, and the courtier ever present at the rituals of the court unduly emphasizes the significance of kings and princes.
idols of the marketplace
Idols of the Marketplace
  • Errors arising from the false significance bestowed upon words, and in this classification Bacon anticipated the modern science of semantics. According to him it is the popular belief that men form their thoughts into words in order to communicate their opinions to others, but often words arise as substitutes for thoughts and men think they have won an argument because they have out talked their opponents. The constant impact of words variously used without attention to their true meaning only in turn condition the understanding and breed fallacies. Words often betray their own purpose, obscuring the very thoughts they are designed to express.
idols of the theater
Idols of the Theater
  • Those which are due to sophistry and false learning. These idols are built up in the field of theology, philosophy, and science, and because they are defended by learned groups are accepted without question by the masses. When false philosophies have been cultivated and have attained a wide sphere of dominion in the world of the intellect they are no longer questioned. False superstructures are raised on false foundations, and in the end systems barren of merit parade their grandeur on the stage of the world.
ii platonic form
II. Platonic Form

1. Nothing in the sensible world is “real”. They are imperfect imitations of the forms. Forms “tie” things together and make them what they are.

2. The forms are behind the many manifestations. Hence for Plato, lists of examples cannot serve as substitute for a definition.

Forms – “rules of using a term” (p. 31) or the higher reality (meaning-object)?

3. Real definition (that captures the form) and nominal definition (what the word represents for ordinary people). (pp. 31-32)

4. Chinese thinkers – how the word is used socially and historically, Plato – what is the essence (meaning, form) of a thing.


III. The Divided Line


Reason Forms (ideas) Objects of thought

Intelligible world

Understanding Mathematical World of being

realities Permanent

Beliefs Objects of sense Sensible world

World of becoming

Image-making Images

Less real