For Plato, human experience of “the whole of time” should be conceived as layers, not unlike the geography found in the analogy of the cave. In fact, not only does freedom from the cave require the rejection of the objects presented to them as reality, it demands a retrospective journey toward what lies behind the direction they face. Such movement is akin to the historical inquiry, as one is looking backward to understand what lies ahead. However, one must go the full distance. For example, while encountering the artifacts carried behind the wall would certainly provide insight into what the people of the cave experience, it will only speak to their shadowy reality. For Plato, it is the integration of the originary memory which transforms the past from lifeless, mutilated data into something capable of inspiring wisdom in its participants. Alone, the past is like a corpse, spent and not to be consulted for life. Though a soul is blessedly tied to corporality, it is not defined by it. True truth requires going beyond to the place of origin outside of the cave.
This analogy further illustrates Plato’s interest in the techne of history, one that was just being born around the time of his life. The Greek term historia signifies the gathering of information. If a resident of the cave were to look back at the artefacts, he would be capable of assessing their details and nuances and synthesizing this information of what lies behind them to give an account of what they experience and perhaps how they should live in this reality. However, the reality of their existence cannot be manifest in these details themselves. Rather, the details can only contribute true knowledge when they are enhanced by the full context of the cave and what lies beyond. Otherwise, they produce no more than shadows. In fact, the soul that is to ascend to the ultimate space of history cannot do it by its own efforts but must be transported by some violent force outside of itself. The true narrative of history, therefore, should not be constructed up from the details ascertained from human observation. Rather, these details must be transformed by the life of the full metaphysical reality of the soul’s narrative.
Finally, since aletheia implies a recovery of something lost, we must consider the role of forgetting in human history. I argue that it is precisely this tragic loss of history that not only begins to quest for philosophy in the first place but allows the transformatory experience of the soul in its encounter with the memory. This experience goes beyond the simple re-education of a soul by indoctrinating it about its past but entails this process of recovering of the past to ontologically transform the soul by regrowing its wings to facilitate its salvation of the soul in the realization of an eschatological return. To summarize, understanding of Plato’s philosophy of history requires consideration of its historical content in what he conceives of as the “whole of time” as well as the end or eschatology of a soul’s activity, and then more technical concerns regarding the function of forgetting, remembering, and the proper transmission of historical information.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor