The Four Stages of the Occurrence of Truth

We shall now treat the allegory of the cave in Plato's Πολιτεία (Book VII, 514 a-517 a), understanding it as a clue to the essence of unhiddenness (ἀλήθεια). We divide the text into four sections (A-D), corresponding to the four stages of the occurrence as depicted in the allegory.

We proceed with the interpretation by clarifying each stage in turn, at the same time recognizing that the individual stages are not the essential matter, which is rather the transitions from one stage to another, that is, the whole path consisting of these transitions. When the first stage has been discussed, therefore, we cannot put it aside as something over and done with, but we must draw it into the transition and thus take it over into all the succeeding transitions. We do not understand the first stage at all until we grasp it from the second, and, strictly speaking, from the final stage.

Plato introduces the allegory by having Socrates enter into conversation with Glaucon and recount it to him. We could easily follow the common practice and briefly summarize the content of the allegory, likewise attaching a short explanation, without, however, being touched by anything essential, and without following up the clue to the decisive question. This usual hackneyed way of proceeding would not assist us at all. If we wish to avoid this the first thing we must do is to give ourselves totally over to the text. Only in this way are we perhaps also moved by the power of Plato's presentation - which in understanding philosophy is not at all incidental, not at all an aesthetic addition.

At each point I give the Greek text first,1 then the translation, which can only be an aid.

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