Plato: the concept of the Forms and the Analogy of the Cave.

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  • Plato
    • Introduction
      • Influenced by Socrates who said that to have true knowledge is to know what is right is to do what is right.
      • Our senses cannot be trusted because the world is always changing. This is show in the dialogue in 'Meno'.
      • We do not learn new things but remember them, as knowledge is innate.
    • Dualistic Views
      • Believed that the body and soul are seperate, but linked in some way.
      • The soul has always existed.
      • Two types of beings: spiritual (souls) and material (chairs, houses)
        • Each types of being has its own realm. The realm of reality that is constantly changing and the realm of appearances
          • Realm of reality:           World of the Souls            Beyond the senses          True knowledge     Eternal and unchanging
          • Realm of appearances: Our world       Visible world  Imperfect phenomena    World of sense            World of opinions         Decaying and changing
    • Concept of Forms
      • When we refer to a 'dog' we are referring to a particular quality or essence that it has - in the world of the Forms there exists an ideal dog and the dogs that we see every day, which will eventually grow old and die, are merely poor reflections of the ideal dog which is eternal and unchanging.
      • In our world we have an idea of what beauty is and this is because we have an innate knowledge of true beauty of the Form of beauty. For instance in flowers.
      • It is our soul that knows the Forms before we were born because they are immortal and eternal.
      • The Forms are innerconnected and arranged in a heirarchy. The most important if the Form of the Good. It illuminates and is the source of the other Forms.
        • Form of the Good is the greatest thing we have to learn and knowledge of the Form of the Good is an end in itself and gives meaning and purpose to life.
    • Analogy of the Cave
      • Imagine a large, dark cave connected to the outside world by a long passage. In the cae is a row of prisoners. The prisoners are chained up with their backs to the enterance and are unable to move. Behind them is a bright fire and people move backwards and forwards all day carrying things so that their shadows are projected on the wall and their voices echo around. The shadows and voices become the prisoners reality as its all they percieve. Then one of the rpisoners is released. Outside the cave, the sunlight blinds him and he is confused, but eventually he comes to understand the world outside the cave, illuminated by the sun. Returning to the cave, he is again blinded, this time by the darkness. The prisoners do not understand when he speaks about his experiences as they only know the shadows and the echoes. They may even kill him for bringing confusing into their safe world.
      • Symbolism of the Analogy of the Cave.    Cave- visible world in which we live, world of appearences. Released prinsoner- philosophers. Prisoners- rest of humanity.      Shadows and Echoes- what we percieve as our reality, empirical knowledge; mere copies of the Forms.  Outside the cave- true reality, the unchangng, eternal world of teh Forms.
  • Criticisms:       Forms could just be an idea presevered in people's minds. Dawkins has refered to the passing on of ideas like this as 'memes'.    Are there really Forms of everything? Plato is not really interested in the Forms of material obkects, but in the Forms of conecpts, such as beauty and truth. Is there a Form for bad things like disease and suffering?        The existence of any other world apart from the world of appearances cannot be proved.             Plato never clearly explains the link between Forms and the world of appearances, for example, what is the link between the Forms of justice and instances of justice in the world?


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