The Republic

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The Sun Symbol Icon
The sun, which provides the light in the mouth of the cave in the allegory of the cave, is recognized by the escaped prisoner as the source of the light that allows him to see the objects around him. The sun is like the Form of the Good, which is the source of all other Forms. If you know and understand the Form of the Good, then you will understand all the other forms. The sun, which leads the prisoner out of darkness, is like education, which leads the individual out of ignorance to understanding.

The Sun Quotes in The Republic

The The Republic quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Sun. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Republic published in 2000.
Book 7 Quotes
But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.
Related Characters: Socrates (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Sun
Page Number: 179-180
Explanation and Analysis:

Education, Socrates explains, is essential to develop the sensibilities of the philosopher king. He explains that Truth must be illuminated through education, just as physical objects are lit by the sun.

Despite finding rigor and structure to be necessary in education, Socrates argues that truth will be essentially self-evident when revealed to someone. To substantiate this point, he uses the metaphor of light shining onto physical objects: those objects are entirely obscure at first, but as soon as they are revealed, no question remains of their existence. The phenomenon of light therefore allows Socrates to articulate how something could be both obvious and obscured—and thus corroborates the critical role of education. For while a philosopher king may have a set of naturally just qualities within himself, these characteristics will not be able to manifest without the proper education.

Socrates also implies that there is a normative weight to any truth once it is glimpsed. Put another way, when someone comes into contact with what is “beautiful and right,” he will not be able to deny its efficacy and must conform his behavior to it. Other models of knowledge would argue that truth is more or less appealing based on one’s character or on the way in which one experiences it, but Socrates believes that truth carries an inherent significance that will be felt no matter how it is perceived.


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The Sun Symbol Timeline in The Republic

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Sun appears in The Republic. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 6
Education Theme Icon
Philosopher-King Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon seen, so objects of knowledge must be true. Just as light comes from the sun, so Truth comes from Goodness. Goodness as the source of truth makes it possible for... (full context)
Book 7
Education Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
One day a prisoner escapes. He looks towards the cave's mouth. Initially dazzled by the sun's light, he realizes that the objects he sees in the light are the real versions... (full context)