Study Guide

The Republic Wisdom and Knowledge

By Plato

Wisdom and Knowledge

We don't know about you, but we weren't too surprised to find out that Plato's Republic is totally into the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.

In the famous Allegory of the Cave (see our "Symbols" section for more), Socrates describes a vision of human life in which philosophical wisdom is the only way to escape the prison of existence. Wisdom isn't just a nice bonus—it's essential.

You might be surprised to hear, though, that the greatest piece of knowledge Socrates thought he'd ever received was that he didn't actually know anything. Neither Socrates nor Plato was interested in just knowing lots of stuff. Nope, they cared about the kind of knowledge that inspires you to strive always to learn more.

Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

  1. What is the relationship between knowledge and education that Socrates describes? Is there a certain kind of education that is more likely to make you wise?
  2. What does Socrates say is the most important thing to direct your wisdom toward? Or, what's the light at the end of the tunnel in the Allegory of the Cave?
  3. Did Socrates believe that our souls have anything to do with wisdom? If yes, how? Which part of the soul?
  4. Does Socrates believe that all people are equally capable of wisdom? If not, who isn't? Who is? Why?

Chew on This

Socrates isn't actually interested in making people wise; he just gets a kick out of making them feel dumb.

Socrates's version of contemplative "wisdom" will achieve the opposite of making you wise; his wisdom takes you away from the realities of the world instead of preparing you for them.

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