Plato's Republic entails the "spectacle of truth" (475 d-e), and the role of the image of the festival in Plato's work. Firstly, the spectacle of truth entails that the concept of truth itself is a kind of festival, and the ultimate goal for which a philosopher should strive. The "spectacle" is then what the philosopher presents to the world as the product of thought and logic.
The Role of the Philosopher
Plato asserts that the philosopher, as guardian of the truth and of the state should act as a "king." This, according to Plato, means that the philosopher takes part both in thought and in life itself. This philosopher is " ... The true lover of wisdom, who enters into the special duties of life, yet keeps such a grasp upon life as a whole that he gives everything its right place." (Boyd, 111-112).
"Real" philosophers then are to achieve a balance between theory and practice. According to Plato, however, the true philosophers are few in number, and often reputation rather than the love of wisdom leads to philosophers posing rather than being lovers of truth (Boyd, 112). In this way then truth as spectacle can be applied to philosophers who love truth only for its potential to bring about spectacle and reputation. In this way, although these people begin with the perfectly sincere wish to be true to their inner wisdom and philosophy, the promise of spectacle too often overrides to wish to adhere to wisdom.
While this fundamental corruption of philosophers was frequently blamed on the Sophists during Plato's time, Plato himself disagrees. Instead, Plato blames the seductive influence of public opinion. In this way, public opinion seduces the young philosopher into either agreeing with those around him, or succumbing to a petty sense of persecution (Boyd, 113). Both of these extremes signify an unthinking submission to the lure of spectacle without an underlying element of truth to base it upon.
The elements of science and opinion are furthermore distinguished in order to prove this point. Again, the love of true wisdom is contrasted with the love of spectacular elements that are often the result of such wisdom. Sight-seeing and art are among the frivolous spectacles that are enjoyed by the person not sufficiently mature to appreciate the draw of true wisdom.
According to Plato, it is only those who escape the snares of wishing to be seen rather than thinking for themselves, that might be called true philosophers, or philosophers as kings. By this is meant persons who, for the soundness of their thinking processes, are ideal for electing as rulers of the ideal state (Boyd, 113).
The true philosopher is thus not a lover of spectacle alone, or even a lover of philosophy for the sake of being seen. Furthermore, ordinary people are said by Plato to be adherents to what can be perceived by the senses alone. As such, spectacle overrules the wish to learn more about what is experienced through the senses. More even than false philosophers, these persons are ruled by the spectacular, or opinion, rather than science, or the reason behind the spectacle.
Indeed, the true ruler, or the true philosopher as ruler, is one who loves wisdom for its own sake. In this, Plato mentions a variety of directions that act as the object of adoration for persons. Things such as the love of honor or youth then entails the love of the whole issue rather than just part of it. Loving these things also cause adherents to search for them wherever they can be found, instead of just in legitimate locations. Plato, using Socrates as speaker, advocates the same devotion for wisdom.
The job of the philosopher is then to create a spectacle that is not only balanced with, but also created by truth, or wisdom. Plato uses beauty to illustrate this point (Plato, 474-480). Science is knowledge of all things, including beauty. Opinions are held by those who adhere to spectacle, while science unlocks the spectacle in terms of knowledge. This is the work of the true philosopher, and also in Plato's opinion, why the true philosopher is the ideal guardian, or ruler, of the ideal State.
The philosopher, as adherents to truth and science, are those who reflect upon arbitrary terms such as "beautiful" and "just." This then gives a standard of these terms, rather than arbitrary opinions without deeper reflection or study. The arbitrary idea of beauty is thus qualified by scientific study (Plato, 476). The idea of "festival" then can be said to be the perfect balance that is achieved when spectacle and philosophy meet in the mind of the philosopher. The phenomenal world itself becomes the festival of philosophy, and philosophers are the kings to provide this to others.
The point that Plato is trying to make by means of Socrates' words is then that true philosophers focus their search on a single idea of each phenomenon being studied. Beauty for example is somewhat scattered in the realm of opinion and belief, whereas philosophers tend to focus this in a single ideal. The objects of sensation then are eternalized in the objects of knowledge. Flowers for example are objects of sensation, whereas the beauty within flowers is an issue of knowledge. The one represents the other, and knowledge of for example beauty is internalized by studying objects of beauty such as flowers and art (Rosenthal, 129).
The role of the philosopher then is to show how the objects and truths of these issues interact. Being persons of deep thought that are yet also integrated within the realities of society, philosophers are shown by Plato to be promoters of the festival created by the balance between opinion and science. Thus, the spectacle as experienced by ordinary persons that do not necessarily enter into deeper reasoning, is used as a springboard by philosophers in order to promote the good of the ideal state.
The Dichotomy: truth and spectacle
The philosophy as promoted by Plato fundamentally includes the study and knowledge of "Forms," as seen above (Rosenthal, 176). The forms themselves are objects of spectacle, while the knowledge behind them is the wisdom that Plato mentions. The knowledge of forms furthermore encourages the study of knowledge itself, thus revealing yet another layer of the ultimate truth that is the aim of philosophy (Boyd, 139).
The aim of the debate in Plato's work is ultimately to find the truth behind the concept of "Justice." Each person in the dialogue then offers his own version of the meaning. This is what inspires Socrates to distinguish between opinion and science. Obviously, each hastily offered "truth" is without much substance. According to Socrates, the role of established rules and theories is to save people from the effort of thinking. Thus again, offering opinions without thinking about them, shows these offerings to be no more than just opinion, devoid of carefully considered truth. For Socrates then, the most important part of the concept of truth is not necessarily to be the only one holding the truth, but to use human intelligence to arrive at this truth. A fundamental part of this intelligence is to take responsibility for decisions.
Socrates holds that life cannot be reduced to a number of theories, rules and regulations. Life is more flexible than that, and a true philosopher is supposed to see the underlying truth of this. Because human nature is complicated, human truth follows suit. Justice, therefore, like beauty, cannot be used as an arbitrary term and be expected to pose for ultimate truth. Instead, the term needs to be investigated and defined before it can come to its proper right in the philosophy of the ideal state. Thus, the role of truth is to expand human consciousness into investigating the underlying meanings of words often used in an arbitrary sense. The role of the philosopher is to show ways in which this can be accomplished (Boyd, 54).
According to Socrates then, exceptions are important components of rules, as they show the imperfection of the latter. The truth is thus built not only on the world as explained by rules, but also by exceptions and underlying principles for obeying these rules (Plato, 332c). According to Socrates then, truth includes many different layers of the spectacle that can be seen, or the opinion that can be held without underlying thought.
By thinking of the term "justice" in a critical way, Socrates shows that it may mean different things for different philosophies. A tyranny, aristocracy, and democracy (Plato, 338c) for example would entail different concepts of the term. Each system also serves its own interest rather than those of others, and thus the concept becomes arbitrary rather than truthful.
This is the same as the contradiction found between the spectacle and the underlying science represented by the spectacle, as seen above. So also the fundamental definition of justice lies within the basic adherence to and interpretation of the principles related to it. Justice, like many other potentially…