Analogy of the divided line  

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The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus (detail), a 1486 painting by Sandro Botticelli

Plato, in his dialogue The Republic Book 6 (509D–513E), has Socrates explain the literary device of a divided line to teach basic philosophical ideas about the four levels of existence (especially the intelligible world and the visible world) and the corresponding ways we come to knowledge about what exists, or come to mere opinions about what exists.

The analogy of the divided line immediately follows another Platonic metaphor, that of the sun, and is in turn followed by the famous Allegory of the Cave.

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