In “Republic”, Socrates depicts a picture of people who are imprisoned inside a cave. They have been in the cave since childhood and what they know is what has been happening inside the cave only. The people are sitting down facing forward. They cannot look sideways or backwards because they are tied. This prevents them from seeing what is on their sides and what is behind them (Plato & Bloom 160).
Behind the people, there is a fire and behind it, there is a wall. On the top of the wall there are different statues being manipulated by people behind the wall. The people holding the statues are hidden from sight by the wall. Because of the fire, the prisoners are able to see shadows of the statues on the wall in front of them. However, they cannot see the people holding them. To the prisoners, the shadows represent the real things and that’s the reality to them.
A prisoner is unbound and shown the real statues and the fire, instead of the shadows he has been used to. At first, he encounters some pain as his eyes adjust to the light of the fire. He also experiences some confusion on realizing that the shadows were not the real things. He comes to the belief that the fire and the statues are more real than the shadows he was used to. According to him, there are no greater and more real things than this in life.
The prisoner is further forced outside the cave into the real world. The first reaction would be to only look at the shadows because of the enormous light out there (Plato & Bloom 160). He then looks at the reflections, and finally the real things. He realizes that there are more real things than the statues - the trees, people, and flowers among other things. When he fully adjusts to the light, he looks up and realizes that there is the sun, which is the cause of everything that appears. He comes to the realization that this is the real world, from where the statues and shadows emanate.
In the allegory of the cave in “Republic” book VII, I view myself as one who has been brought outside the cave. According to the text, in this stage the person observes the real world with the real things. He sees the real trees, mountains, flowers and concludes that these must be the real things. At this stage, everything is viewed in its actual state and not as statues or shadows of the original.
This allegory is used to emphasize on the need of education and what it does to human beings. Before receiving any education, a person is usually in the lowest level which can be likened to that of the prisoners in the cave. As people acquire education, they start perceiving and understanding things as they are in reality. This in return helps them to shun any unsubstantiated beliefs they may have entertained over time.
Personally, having received education places me on a higher level of understanding and of thinking. Every belief I have, and every claim that I make must be tested against available information to see whether they are worth. In addition to that, having reached this far in terms of knowledge places me on an elevated ground compared to those who have little education. This makes me eligible to pass some of the knowledge I have to them. Just as the man who has come out of the cave should go back to enlighten those who are still in there, I am also obligated to do the same.
Acquiring education is a struggle to free ourselves from the bondage similar to that of the prisoners in the cave. Normally, a journey starts right in the cave. On my part, I am continuing with the journey because the culmination should come when one attains the highest level and becomes a philosopher-king.
The first way of Aquinas is the argument from motion. According to this argument, all things in the universe are said to be in motion. This motion is further defined as the reduction of something from the state of potentiality to the state of actuality (Aquinas 452). It then follows that nothing can be moved unless it has the potential to move. In this sense, it is only things capable of moving that can be moved.
It is further argued that something can only be moved towards that which moves it. This means that in no way can anything move on its own. There must be another thing bigger than it that orchestrates its moving. Accordingly, something can only be moved into a state of actuality by another thing, which is already in that state. It takes one thing in a certain state to move another into a similar state only if itself is in that state. An analogy is given of fire and charcoal. The fire is actually hot and it is said to be in a state of actuality. The charcoal on the other hand is cold, but with a potential of being hot. It is in a state of potentiality. The fire can be used to make the charcoal hot, that is, move it from the state of potentiality to that of actuality.
It also follows that nothing can exist in the two states, at the same time and in the same respect. The fire being actually hot cannot be at the same time potentially hot. Similarly, the charcoal being actually cold cannot at the same time be potentially cold. However, the fire can be potentially cold while the charcoal can be potentially hot. It can be understood that whatever moves must be moved by another thing, that is, nothing can move itself. The one that moves it also needs to be moved by another thing and that by another one. However, this cannot go on infinitely, as in that case there would be no first mover, and as such no other mover, given that something only moves in as much as it is moved. In this case, it is necessary to have a first mover, which is moved by no other. This mover is understood to be God.
The second Aquinas way is the argument of efficient causes. In life, everything is seen to have an efficient cause. This is what results to its occurrence. Nothing comes from nothing. Similarly, nothing comes from itself. This means that everything must have a cause that precedes it. This cause must be different from the effect, as this would otherwise imply that something is the cause of itself.
In the same manner, nothing can also exist prior to itself. Another different thing must exist for it to result into that thing. Nothing in the world is known to be the effective cause of itself. This is just a simple impossibility. When analyzing the efficient causes we do not have to go all the way to infinity. This is because if the efficient causes follow an order, then the first cause will be the cause of the intermediate, and the intermediate be the cause of the ultimate cause. The intermediate cause may be single or several, but must result into an ultimate cause.
If you take away the cause, this will mean taking away the effect. If there is no first cause, this means that there will be no intermediate cause and thus no ultimate cause. No matter how many intermediate causes there are, or how far the ultimate cause is from the first cause, there must be an efficient cause. This follows that there must be something that everybody agrees to be the first cause. It is this first efficient cause that is referred to as God. In the universe, everything originates from God, and it is because of God that everything is the way it is today.
The third Aquinas way is the argument from possibility and necessity. In nature, there are things that are possible to be and not to be. This means that these things come into being and go out of being. They can be referred to as contingent beings. These things are normally generated, and as such, they are possible to exist at one point and not at another one. It is possible that such things will exist at one point but not at another time. However, it is impossible to assume that they will be in existence at all times.
Given that everything has a possibility of not being, then there must have been a time when there was nothing in existence. This is backed by the fact that something, which does not exist, will only be caused to exist by something already in existence. Going by this, if there was one time when nothing was existing, then it would have been difficult for anything else to start existing. Consequently, if nothing would begin to exist, then even today there would be nothing in existence. This realization is absurd because we actually have things in existence today.
This argument goes ahead to postulate that even if not all things are possible, there must be others which exist as a matter of necessity. This means that such things must be in existence whether there are conditions favorable for them or not. Similarly, every necessary thing may have its necessity being caused by another thing or not. We cannot however go on to infinity with the necessary things, which have their necessity being caused by something else.
Just like in the case of efficient causes, we cannot have anything deriving its necessity from itself. We can however have a being that causes necessity to other things. (Aquinas 453) This is what people refer to as God.
The fourth Aquinas way comes from the gradation found in things. Things are normally graded according to how good, true and noble they are. Similarly, they are also arranged as to how bad or worse they are. This applies the aspect of relative beings, that is, nothing in itself can be said to be good or bad, true or not among others. How something is more or less of another one, which is the maximum (Aquinas 453). Something may be “more” or “less” similar to another thing, which is deemed to be the ultimate or the maximum. What matters here is the degree to which something resembles the other which is said to be the maximum.
For instance, something may be said to be hotter or colder depending on how nearly it resembles that which is the hottest. There must be something that ranks on the top to allow any comparison. This will form the basis of reference in that particular aspect. That is why we have things which are the truest, best or noblest. This is backed by the fact that things, which are greatest in truth, are also greatest in being.
It follows that in any genus, there must be the maximum, which is the cause of all things in that genus. This is similar to the analogy that fire being the maximum of all heats, is the source of all hot things. In the same way, for all beings there must be something, which is the cause of their being. This must be the maximum of all goodness and perfection. It is this being that we call God.
The fifth Aquinas way comes from the argument from design. It is also said to come from the governance of the world. It dwells on the view that there are things which lack intelligence but work towards a certain goal. Natural bodies are taken as the best example. It is very evident that they have no intelligence. However, from the way they act and operate, it is clear that there is a force guiding them. The fact that they work towards a certain end can be proven by observing that they are always or in most of the time acting in the same way. This is aimed towards achieving the same best results every time.
The way these bodies operate cannot be taken for granted and it cannot be assumed that they act the way they do out of chance. Their operations seem to be perfectly designed towards achieving a certain goal. It is very clear to many that anything which lacks intelligence cannot move towards a certain goal. Another thing that has intelligence and knowledge must direct it.
An analogy is given about how the arrow works. In itself it lacks intelligence and knowledge but it is able to reach its target. It must be shot towards that specific target by the archer. For this reason, an intelligent being must exist to control the operations of the natural bodies. The external force ensures that they work towards achieving a specific pre-defined end. This being, which controls them, is what we call God.
Plato & Bloom, Allan. The Republic of Plato. New York: Basic Books, 1991. Print.
Bloom, Allan. The Republic of Plato: Transl. with Notes and an Interpretative Essay by Allan
Bloom. New York: Basic books, 1991. Print.
Gracyk, Theodore. St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Theologicae. Retrieved 19 Sep 2012
Kenny, Anthony. Five Ways St Thomas Aquinas. Boston: Routledge, 2008. Print.