AS Philosophy

The thinking of Plato:

  • Plato: Analogy of the Cave
  • Plato: Concept of Forms & Form of the Good
  • Plato: Demiurge
HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Alanna
  • Created on: 12-12-10 13:36

Plato's Allegory of the cave - OUTLINE

  • Prisoners, chained since childhood deep inside a cave. Their limbs immobilized & heads chained in one direction so their gaze is fixed on a wall.
  • Behind prisoners is a large fire, between the prisoners & the fire is a walkway along which statues of various objects are carried by people.
  • These objects cast shadows on the wall and the prisoners watch them, when the people carrying the statues speak they cause a echo, making the prisoners believe the sound has come from the statue
  • The prisoners engage by naming the shadows, this is the only reality they know, because of this they are conditioned to judge one & other by their skill in naming the shadows
  • Suppose a prisoner is released & compelled to turn towards the entrance, his eyes will be blinded by the sunlight and the shapes will appear less real than the shadows
  • Next he would see the sun, which he will learn to see as the object that presides over all things = enlightenment
  • The enlightened prisoner would not want to return to the cave, but would be compelled to do so, once in the cave he would not be able to identify the shadows making it seem that enlightenment has ruined him
1 of 12

Plato's Allegory of the cave - EXPLANATION

  • The Prisoners: US - the people of the world
  • The Cave: THE WORLD - depicted as a prison, like the world its full of imperfections
  • The Shadow Play: FALSE REALITY - the false reality of the world that attracts people & becomes their focus
  • Fire: FALSE LIGHT - the light that causes reality to become obscured
  • The Journey Out: REALITY - the journy towards the true/real reality, not the reality of the shadows
  • The Sun: GOD - God (sun) & enlightenment (sunlight)
  • Return of the prisoner: ENLIGHTENMENT - part of enlightenment - the duty to enlighten others
  • The prisoner unable to see: RECOGNITION - recognition that the shadow world it not the true world
2 of 12

Plato's Theory of Forms - BASIC

  • Refers to Platos belief that material world is not the real world, only a shadow of it
  • Theory of forms is his solution to the problem of the universals (types/properties wordly objects hold that are common to each object, e.g. red car, red rose, all have property of 'redness' it is this univesal that reflects abstract form in world of forms)
  • Forms are archetypes or abstract representations of properties that we see all around us (universals)
3 of 12

Plato's Theory of Forms - Problems theory tried to

  • The Ethical Problem: How can humans live fufilling, happy life in contingent, changing world where everything they attach to can be taken away?


  • The Problem of Permanence & Change: How can the world appear both permanent & changing? (World we percieve through sense always seems to be changing, world we see through mind seems to be unchanging & permanent) Which is most real & why does it appear both ways?
4 of 12

Plato's Theory of Forms - World of Forms

  • There is a form for every object/quality in reality, 'God' is identical to 'Form of the Good'
  • Forms exist in a 'Platonic Heaven' when peopele become detatched from the material world (death or contemplation) their souls achieve reunion with their forms, souls originate in 'Platonic Heaven' & have recolection of it in life
  • World of Forms (Platonic Heaven) is the true basis of reality, Plato believed true knowledge/intelligence was ability to grasp World of Forms
5 of 12

Plato's Theory of Forms - Forms

  • Form = aspatial (outside world) & atemperal (outside time) - it dose not exist within time, it did not start & there for has no duration in time (will not end)
  • Forms are non-physical, but not in MIND. Forms are extra-mental
  • A form is a 'blueprint' of perfection
    • Forms are perfect themselves as they are unchanging
    • Only way we recognise something is if we have a perception of its form
    • e.g a triangle drawn on a board is far from perfect, it is only the form of the triangle that allows us to recognise the drawing on the board
6 of 12

Plato's Theory of Forms - Evidence

Various forms of evidence are given for Plato's belief in forms:

  • Ethical argument: Heraclitus = everything is in motion, giving rise to ethical relativism.
    • However by arguing false world in motion & world of forms static, Plato could 'save' moral universals by postulation form of the good.
    • Therefore there must be a world of forms because it is the only thing that gives reason to why we are good  
  • Argument of human perception: both sky & jeans blue, but not the same colour, we must have a basic idea of blueness which we can relate to
    • Has to be a perfect form
  • Argument for Perfection: No one has ever seen a perfect circle, yet we know what one looks like.
    • Plato contends that via reincarnation we can have recolection of perfect forms, if during life you are able to recollect forms & learn to love them then you can escape the cycle of reincarnation
7 of 12

Plato - Key Ideas

Concepts (IDEAS)

  • Refers to forms as concepts or ideas
  • Understands them as being non-physical but understandable through the mind
  • Can have an idea of forms as concepts through contemplation

Phenomena (EVENT)

  • Phenomena can give us further knowledge of Forms & World of Forms
  • Different from concepts because concept exists only as an idea, phenomena occurs as experiential realities
  • They are events which in some way reflect their true forms (tend to be qualiative e.g. forgiveness)

Ideals (IDEAS of perfection)

  • Forms = ideals which we must aspire to, they are perfections & arketypes of imperfect world
  • Ultimate ideal = Form of Good
  • Contemplation can gain fuller awareness of ideals & in the end this will set us free.
8 of 12

Criticisms of Concept of Forms

  • If you need a form of beuty to explain why things are beautiful, then you need another form to explain why beuty itself is beautifl, youll end up with infinate number of Forms
  • If everything has a perfect form, does that mean that things like cancer, weapons & disease also have a perfect forms?
  • There is no scientific proof that forms exist, therefore most people would consider the physical world as ore real than the world of forms
  • No explanation of how things in this world originated from their perfect form, what of things that dont exist now, but will in the future
  • What of things that cause distruction, do they have a perfect form?
9 of 12

Plato - Form of the Good

  • It is the source of all inteligability and of our capacity to know
    • Most important of the Forms
  • Responsible for bringing all other forms into existance
    • Compared to the sun
  • It is tha absaloute measure of goodness that all must be measured against for it to be absoloutly fair/just
  • Humans have a duty to persue form of the Good as without it we cannot know what is ethical or good
    • It is the highest form of knowledge and it is from the Form of the Good that all things gain their usefulness & value
  • Plato supposes that forms have existed for all eternity
    • Forms cannot be percieved by human sense, whatever knowledge we gain from the source is unsatisfactory & uncertain
  • Plato defings the most excellent form in a 'Hierarchy of Forms', this suggests that from goodness comes things such as justice, truth, equality & beauty
    • Plato determines the supreme & dominant principle in the hierarchy is he Form of the Good
10 of 12

Plato - The Demiurge

  • Demiurge = Platos's idea of God who created FROM matter that existed in a state of chaos
    • Not all powerful
    • This God does not create out of nothing
  • Demiurge molded yhr matter & fashoned the universe & enabled it to share his perfection by putting his mind/soul into it
  • He worked from the model of the hierarchy of forms (which exiseted outside of time and space, so were not created), he did not CREATE them.
  • The Demiurge used imperfect materials, therefor creating an imperfet world which will ultimatly disappear as it is contingent
  • If matter imperfect, but Demiurge (GOD) perfect would they not balance each other out? Meaning the world would not be imperfect
  • Matter existed in a state of chaos, do we assume this matter is eternal? In which case it cannot be contingent & dissapeer.
11 of 12

Plato - Beliefs

  • True Knowledge: Knowledge of the world of forms - gained through thinking
    • It enables us to escape the material world
    • Ultimate knowledge = knowledge of Form of the Good
  • The Philosophers task: to enlighten others
    • To gain true knowledge
    • To become philosopher King
  • The Forms:They are perfect, eternal, aspatial, atemporal & extra mental
    • They are archetypes
    • There is 1 for every particular/universal
  • The Relm of True Reality: The World of Forms
    • Platonic Heaven
    • It is where we have come from & where we will return to
    • It is the blue print for the world
  • The World:It is an imperfect prison
    • Molded based on the world of forms
    • Molded by the Demiurge
    • Only escape is death or philosophical thinking
12 of 12


Julia Freytag


this is wonderful <3



thanks :)

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »