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AS philosophy unit 1
Plato and philosophy of religion
Plato's theory of forms
For Plato there are two worlds; the eternal world and the material world. The eternal world
possesses the object of knowledge and is more real than the material world which possesses
the object of opinion.
State of flux...
The material world when it is in a constant state of flux and therefore it is impossible to know
the truth of reality - "You cannot step into the same river twice".
The realm of ideals
Perfect forms exist in the realm of ideals or forms, which possess the object of knowledge.
Sense perceptions of material objects are simply objects of opinion, subject to constant
change. Knowledge is innate, a recollection of the perfect forms.
"Her eyes are too close together" we can recognize that she falls short of beauty and thus
understand the concept of beauty, yet we have not ever experienced a perfect example of
We have concepts of the perfect forms thus our souls must have known them before we
were born (innate, `a priori' knowledge) evidence that we have immortal souls.
A circle is a 2D figure made up of an infinite series of points all the same distance from the
centre. No one has ever seen the perfect form of a circle but instead imperfect copies,
reasonable approximations of the true form. A perfect circle could not be seen or drawn
even if one used the most sophisticated computer equipment. This is because, in its perfect
form, the infinite numbers of points which make up the circumference don't take up any
space as they exist in logic rather than physical form. Yet although the perfect circle can
never be seen, people can define a circle from their soul's recollection of the true form from
the realm of ideas.
Forms give physical objects what reality they have because of their resemblance. The
shadows in the Allegory of the Cave only had any kind of existence because of their
resemblance to their corresponding physical objects.
Goodness is the most important form. Like the sun in the Allegory of the Cave, Good
illuminates all the other forms. Justice for example is an aspect of Goodness.
The analogy of the cave
The analogy of the cave is one of the most famous passages in Platos republic. It is one of the three
similes that Plato uses to illustrate his theory of forms. The cave is often said to be allegorical,
meaning that different elements of the story are symbolic of the situation in which people find
themselves. Plato used the story to illustrate his theory of forms, although philosophers debate how
to interpret it.
Knowledge and opinion
For Plato, knowledge gained through the senses (empirical experience) is no more than
opinion. Knowledge gained through philosophical reasoning is certain.
The allegory of the cave makes a contrast between people who see only appearances and
mistake them for the truth, and those who really do see the truth.
Some prisoners are trapped in a cave, away from a "real life." The prisoners are chained and
only able to look straight ahead at a wall in front of them, whilst there is a fire behind them.
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Between them and the fire is a kind of track with a parapet in front of it, rather like the stage
of a puppet show.
People can carry a variety of artificial objects made from wood and stone along the track
making them move and sometimes giving them voices like the puppeteers of a puppet
Shadows of the puppets are cast up on the wall in front of the prisoners caused by the fire.…read more
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The other prisoners laugh at him and say his journey into
the light was a waste of time because it spoiled his ability to see clearly. They threaten to kill
anyone who attempts to set them free they are afraid of philosophical enlightenment.
Plato's analogy of the cave
Imagine people chained up in a cave, far underground.…read more
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Ideas are not independent of the mind in which they are preserved
Appearances (this world)
Reality (the forms)
Characteristics of the forms
Archetype for things that physically exist
Form of the good
Source of the other forms
Forms could just be ideas in the mind
Unclear link between forms and the world of appearances
No proof that the world of forms exists
The third man argument
Tied up prisoners- people trapped…read more