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Plato's Simile of the Beast
The beast is Plato's demonstration of the relationship between the Sophists and the voting public in a
democracy. The Beast is the voting public and the trainer who studies the beat is the sophist. By training the
animal the tamer can predict the beast's moods, & be able to make it do what he wants via reward &
punishment. Current understanding of rulers is based on the animal tamer & the beast.
Knowledge of the beast comes from Controlled by instinct
empirical evidence and not pure Simple understanding
reason, therefore there is no Large and powerful (like the population)
knowledge of the Forms, and in Plato's Utilitarian? The principle of Utility
view no true knowledge of the beast.
Tries to please animal gives what it
what it wants, not what it needs.
must be able to explain why it needs it.
A proper trainer is a philosopher.
Desires rule - gives society what it Does not know what is good for itself
likes but knows what it likes
The analogy is weak; the care and understanding of an animal is a science (zoology). In comparison,
running a society does not have a set of laws and universal facts which dictate how to rule it. Values
are not objective, but differ from one person to another in society.
Plato may reply that the Forms provide objectivity- good being objective
Highlights Plato's pessimistic view of humankind without much justification. It could be argued this
weakens the analogy. Sometimes humans will choose moral actions simply over what they desire.
Plato could draw attention to the argument from Opposites which attempts to show that a
majority of people are merely "sight lovers"- they have no knowledge of the Forms. This does not
make them bad people, but it does mean, in Plato's view, they are mistaken in their views.
Emphases the natural inequality of human beings. The public are lumped together as the large and
powerful being. This shows a major role of Plato's idea of society, as people are assigned to
positions to which they are naturally or essentially suited. Education could provide people with the
intelligence that is needed, in Plato's view, to rule.
Even if everyone was provided with the proper training to become a ruler, if some subjects do not
have an interest in learning then they will inevitably fail. Motivation provides for memorisation and