The irony of the unchained ruler within Plato’s Republic

The allegory of the cave is probably Plato’s most popular allegory and has been taken and retaken by several philosophers, theologians, and historians in the last 2,500-years.
The objetive of the allegory is to understand that all things in the word are simply a reflection of their core idea, which is elsewhere. The allegory goes this way: a group of persons chained from their necks and legs are forced to watch a blank wall. Behind the chained people there is a fire projecting the shadows on the wall of the things others carry. Hence, the chained guys can only see the shadows and believe those shadows conform reality. One of the chained guys is liberated, reaches the surface, walks under the sun and meets such things as trees, flowers, and rocks. By looking at the things under the sun the unchained man meets the pure forms of each object, the true forms, and so he knows now the reality of the things.
In an analogy, we cannot know a pure “tree” but only the trees present in our world. The same happens with more complex ideas such as piety, justice, and honor. You cannot know justice, but you can see it when it is embedded in an object or action. We humans live inside the cave and cannot see the pure forms, only their shadows. Then Socrates asks: do you think this man would like to go back to the cave or live as a serf of a poor peasant in the surface? (516d)
I stop here to reflect. According to Socrates, the right answer is that the unchained man would stay in the upper world and do anything to remain there because he now knows reality and prefers it above the under earth chains and the shadows of knowledge. Plato adds that if the guy dared to go down his former fellow chained-guys would kill him when they listen to his tale about the upper world and the sun and the things he met.
Notwithstanding, I think that the unchained man would prefer to go back to the cave and not choose to live as a serf in the surface. The man would return to the cave and use his knowledge of the true forms to rule the chained people wisely. Why to be a serf of a peasant if he can be the ruler of the blind-chained men and teach them?


Plato explains the perfect state or polis should be a place where everybody does what is expected to do. I’m not going into detail about the three classes proposed by Plato—producers, warriors, and rulers—but I call back what Socrates says about the king philosopher: Only when philosophers reign the state, political power and philosophy will coincide and so the States will face the end of all maladies (473c). So, the king should be a good politician and an outstanding philosopher. As a philosopher, the king must able to reflect on the perfect forms of all things. What do you say? Is it a good idea to have a wise politician as leader? I think it certainly is.
This said I go back to the unchained man staying above. If the king philosopher must be wise, then Socrates assumption on the unchained man staying above as a serf becomes a paradox. It is a paradox because the unchained man met the ideal forms and has the knowledge to be a king philosopher in the underworld. Hence, remaining above and becoming a poor serf as Plato suggests is of no good for his fellow chained friends and neither for him.

What do you say? Should the unchained man stay as a serf of go back down to rule?



Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Google photo

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Google. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Cerrar sesión /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s