Plato

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  • Plato
    • Plato's Approach
      • The task of philosophy is to seek the ultimate truth that is not to be found in this everyday world
        • The world is constantly moving, constantly changing.
          • Plato argued that things in motion are either moving toward perfection or away from it. The Universe is imperfect as it is always changing.
            • The Forms (where truth is found) are perfect as they are outside time and space and never change.
    • Analogy of the Cave
      • The Cave:
        • The cave represents the world of shadows. Plato believed that we live in the shadows brought on by time and space and our task as human beings is to see beyond the shadows.The bound men in the cave only see the shadows and assume that they are the real things. Our ordinary experience is no more than shadows.The cave represents the delusion of supposed reality, the blindness of misunderstanding.
      • The Objects:
        • The animals and flowers that the man sees outside the cave represent the ideal form of things – the perfect flower, the perfect horse.Human beings can discover the truth through the use of reason. The man sees true reality –the realm of Ideas.The man now has knowledge of the world of forms and must return to the cave and educate the chained.
      • The Sun:
        • The sun stands for the Form of Good – which is the highest of all forms. The light blinds the man and he cannot look at it but is aware of its effect on everything.In the same way, Plato believed that the Form of Good was invisible but all living things were a manifestation of this form.Just as the sun provides light so we can see a living things clearly, so good provides light so that the soul can perceive intellectual forms.
      • There is a cave. At the bottom of the cave are some prisoners. The prisoners are kept chained up facing the wall and are never allowed to turn and see what is behind them. Then one day one of the prisoners is released.
        • At first he is blinded by the brilliant light and so he covers his eyes. He then realises that behind all the prisoners is a fire and between the prisoners and the fire is a path. The path is used by the jailors. He notices that as the jailors walk along the path, the objects they carry cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners.
          • He had never seen real objects before so this all came as a bit ofa surprise. He had always thought that the shadow she saw were real. They were his reality. He could see how he and the other prisoners had been fooled.He now realised that the ‘real’ world had been hidden from him.
            • He had never seen real objects before so this all came as a bit ofa surprise. He had always thought that the shadow she saw were real. They were his reality. He could see how he and the other prisoners had been fooled.He now realised that the ‘real’ world had been hidden from him.
              • He stumbles. He bumps into things. The other prisoners reckon that his journey has made him blind. When he tries to tell them the truth they don’t listen, they tell him to shut up so that they can watch their ‘shadows’ in peace.
                • He is persistent. He doesn’t give up quite so easily. After a while they really begin to get angry with him, shouting at him, throwing rocks at him. In the end they kill him.
    • The Forms
      • Plato believed that behind every concept or objectin the visible world there is an unseen reality,which he calls it’s FORM.
        • These Forms exist in their own right in the world of the Forms. They are the source of all knowledge and what the philosopher seeks when searching for the truth.
          • Plato said that the reason we can recognise and classify things in the visible world is because we have a prior understanding of them from the world of forms. It’s as if we have some kind of amnesia of the forms.
            • Why am I a chair?“ Why, because I participate in the Form of Chairness. I am a chair because I share in chairness with all other chairs. You know I am a chair because you have a priori (as opposed to a posteriori) knowledge of the Form of Chairness
      • The Form of the Good
        • There is a Hierarchy of Forms.
        • The supreme Form is the Form of Good.In The Republic Plato says that of all the Forms, the Form of Good is the one from which we have most to learn.
        • Just as the eye needs the light of the sun to see things (visible realm), so the mind needs the Form of Good to enlighten it (intelligiblerealm).
        • The Form of Good makes possible the existence of all other Forms and most particularly of all the physical things in this world and the ‘light’ by which we know
      • Concept of the Forms / Ideals
        • What you see and think is real, because you canexperience it, is only a reflection of a highertruth.
        • Ideas are more real than things.Plato developed a vision of two worlds: a world of unchanging ideas and a world of changing physical objects.
        • For example, a particular tree, with a branch ort wo missing, possibly alive, possibly dead, and with the initials of two lovers carved into its bark, is distinct from the abstract form of Tree-ness.
          • A Tree is the ideal that each of us holds that allows us to identify the imperfect reflections of trees all around us.
    • Divided Line
      • This explains the philosopher’s journey from illusion of the senses to knowledge of the Ideals.If we applied it to the analogy of the cave it would read like this:
        • A. The shadows on the back of the cave wall represent the illusion of truth or reality. The person accepts sensory perception as reality without question or the use of his reason. These illusions belong to the visible realm.
          • B. The carven images that are projected onto the back wall of the cave by the fire represent physical things in the physical world. The person is beginning to use his reason to make sense of the physical reality.
      • C. The vision of real trees and real clouds outside the cave represent the intelligible realm. Reason gives the person access to the intelligible realm. The person is using mathematical reasoning to visualise basic concepts.
      • D. The vision of the sun represents the Form of Good. The person now possesses the highest knowledge of the highest Form. This knowledge gives the person the intelligence to approach the Forms directly. The philosopher comes to complete and full knowledge of the Forms; the philosopher proceeds to the first principle, which we may take to be the Form of Good.

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