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Ancient Greek Influences on the Philosophy of Religion
Plato's Analogy of the Cave
In the book The Republic an analogy is proposed to serve as an illustration of the human condition.
Every human, is like a prisoner in an underground cave, strapped to a chair, so he can't move and with his
head constrained to look forward at a wall, which acts like a screen. Next to the person, are similar people
strapped down and so forth.
Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between that fire is a road, in front of a wall. Men would carry figures of
men and animals, and the prisoners would only be able to see the shadows which are put to the wall, in front
of them. This is was they believe to be reality.
If one of them was to be let go, and he surfaced to the Earth, the transaction, the journey would be painful.
He would be dazzled at objects he only saw as shadows in the cave. The fire would hurt his eyes. Once he
got to the surface, he would be blinded temporarily, and over time sight would come to him normally.
1. He would find it easy to look at the shadows, then the reflections, and then the objects themselves
2. Then, he would be able to look at the sky at night, the moon and the stars
3. Lastly, he would be able to look directly at the sun
4. He would conclude that the sun controls everything in the visible world
He would begin to feel sorry for his former companions in the cave, as they know nothing of what reality
If he was to return to the cave, his eyes would be blinded by the darkness. His friends would assume the trip
to the surface ruined his sight, and that they shouldn't leave.
The visible realm corresponds to the cave. The fire= the sun. The surface = realm of forms The sun=
the Good which sustains all.
The influences upon Christianity Jesus is presented as one who has come down from a World above ours.
Most New Testament scholars agree that the Fourth Gospel is influenced by Plato.
Plato believes knowledge of reality is innate, and wrong to claim the education consists in putting
knowledge into the mind which was not there before. True education is just turning the mind away from a
World of change, towards the ultimate reality, the good.
Plato concept of the Forms
Argued there is an invisible world too more meaningful world. It can be accessed by the intelligence by
what he calls the Forms ideal versions of things on earth. He was concerned with what is changeable and
what can't be changed in the world.
The PreSocratics had different ideas. Some thought it was air some thought it was water etc...
Plato thought the eternal thing lies at the root of reality, and is not to be found in the visible world.
Everything has a form which is eternal and immutable, it is timeless. For instance the form of a horse. You
probably think that all horses are different but there is something they all have in common, something that
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Of course, some may be old, some may be lame etc... but the `form'
of a horse is eternal. It is spiritual in nature that all things are fashioned after.
He was astonished by the way natural phenomena could be so alike he concluded that it had to be because
there was a limited no. of forms. There must be reality behind the material world he called this reality the
world of forms.…read more
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How many Forms?
How many forms are there? Plato held that such things as mud, dirt and reality implies a greater degree of
goodness, and it's difficult to see how this can be defended.
2. The Third Man argument Argument against the forms
Plato admits an argument against the Forms, later developed by Aristotle.
The extent that a particular thing in the World differs from the Form which is based, there must be a third
form with is accountable for the differences.…read more
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God is eternal no start or end. To say God is eternal is to say that he is outside space and
time. A being which is inside time but lasts forever is not eternal. That would be Sempiternal.
3. PM had to be good. Badness is associated with some sort of lack, and the PM doesn't lack
4. The PM has to be immaterial. The activity of the PM has to be purely intellectual. God only thinks
of himself.…read more