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Plato Philosophy of Religion
Theory of Forms
The difference between ideas and ideas expressed in reality is a distinction that is crucial for Plato.
The knowledge of what something is precedes you seeing it.
The world we live in (world of appearances) the real world (world of ideas) = Forms
In the material world things will die, what makes something the way it is is the way in it corresponds to the form
Form = idea of what a thing is. There are many types of something but they all conform to the form of what it is.
True forms of things exist in the world of forms (unchanging, a concept, does not imitate, everlasting and
Plato was concerned with concepts of: Beauty, Truth, Justice and Good. (They are concepts that may be applied
to many different things).
Underlying all images is the real form of beauty (examples of beauty) they correspond to a greater or lesser
Forms = unchanging, timeless, eternal. WOA = shadows/images of the forms. Beyond human comprehension.
When we are born we have a dim recollection of the forms = "immortal soul" observed before incarnated into
the body = we have basic understanding of justice/truth etc without teaching.
Philosopher should run society because he is escaping the World of Appearances.
Education = remembering/ recalling the world of the forms. Knowledge in the soul is hidden by the body.
Learning = understanding reality of how things are.
The greatest good is the form of the good. (we can label good in the Woa)
Goodness is the most important thing = analogy of the cave sun = knowledge, form of the good is the source of
other forms. Sight can be achieved through light and the eye to see so the light if the greatest good.
Without knowledge of the form of the good no one sees clearly.
Analogy of the Cave
Famous passage "Plato's republic, Cave = Allegorical. Key Features of analogy:
Prisoners in illusory world. Shadows not reality (situation no different to ours ppl only see illusory world)
Physical world imprisons stopping us seeing the forms.
Statues = images of the forms (imitations copies of the forms) people carrying statues have no ideas of
Republic = criticised philosophers and politicians, lead people without knowing the truth (forms)
Prisoner (set free) taught forms to see clearly. Prisoner dragged into sunlight (actual teaching =
distressing and forces people to change their views)
Prisoner seeing = philosopher distinguishing the forms. Sun = form of the good, sustains living things in the
Prisoner feels it is his duty to educate other. (Platos idea those who see forms, should lead, ruler governs
Prisoner goes below (cannot see clearly = difficulties of seeing forms)
Other prisoners wanted to kill him. Plato = general view philosopher in Greek society, playwright
(Aristophanes) = clouds criticise Socrates. Death of Socrates haunted Plato. Distrustful of politicians
Analogy of cave = issues: who's suitable to rule? The state in which people exist and the questions as why they do
not want to be released from this state.
Criticism of the theory of forms
Ideas of justice/ beauty are not forms, but ideas passed onto others.
Ideas are not independent of the mind rediscovery of knowledge lost (Islamic cultures - rediscovery)
Richard Dawkins ideas passed on "memes" bad ideas spreading like a virus.
Are there really forms of everything? (Form of bed mentioned in republic is this a serious remark?)
Other pages in this set
Here's a taster:
The existence of the world of the forms cannot be proved.
(The third man argument) Aristotle: a copy of a form could be an infinite series of copies = meaningless as
ultimate origin of concepts.…read more