Evaluating Plato's Ideas


Strengths of Plato's Ideas

- The theory of the Forms explains how we can recognise very distinct thaings as all belonging to the same catergory ( eg baby, landscape, painting are all 'beautiful' )

- The physical world we live in is in a constant process of change (growth, decay etc) Yet we have ideas of eternal truths (murder is wrong, 2+2 =4)

- We seem to have innate knowledge. Modern science is confirming what philosophers have long said: we are bron with at least some idea of number, shape, language etc. The world of the froms explains how this is possible.

- We instantly recognise very different trees as all being examples of 'a tree'. We have universal ideas of things --> Forms

- In this world we only ever see imperfect acts of justice or goodness. But we know and understand what people mean when they talk about 'justice' etc. Our ideas come from the forms.

- Plato's ideas can explain why our world is not perfect, why it contains evil and suffering. This is because it is the impercte copy of the forms.

- Mathematical and logical concepts do exist independently of particular objects

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Criticism - No argument given

Plato simply asserts that there are two realms, one of ideas (forms) and one of matter (physical world).

He claims that this is self evident but many question and criticise for not having any proof.

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Criticism - Too many Forms

There are forms for every common property- but what about forms that have not been invented?

Having a form for everything seems excessive.

It is unclear whether there are only forms ffor universal qualities or for every object.

Does every finger have a form or is it just a hand form?

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Criticism - Bad Forms

Are there forms for undesirable things such as cancer?

It seems perverse to think that ugliness and the bad need to have a form in the same way that beauty and goodness do.

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Criticism - How can we know the Forms?

It remains unclear how we can have knowledge of the forms.

We exist in a world of change and flux but the realm of the forms is eternal, unchanging and unmoving.

Plato talks of phenomona 'participating' in the forms or 'imitating' the forms but doesn't explain how this works.

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Criticism - The physical world is more real

If the physical worls is not as real as the world of the forms why does it feel more real?

Scientists argue that the physical world is real, some would argue that it is the only reality.

Some say it is nonsense to study any other world.

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Criticism - Aristotle's Third Man Argument

Aristotle put foward a well known criticism of the forms.

Suppose that man is a copy of the form of the man.

We recognise men because they resemble the form of man.

But how do we recognise the form of man?

Surely there would have to be another form of that form...

This is the problem of INFINITE REGRESS

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Criticism - It is elitist

Plato claims that only people who study philosophy can know the Good.

This might suggest that only intelligent people and those who study philosophy are capable of doing good.

This seems silly as intelligent people can be immoral and academic people can be moral.

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Response to no argument given

Plato gives two arguments for the world of the forms.

One is KNOWLEDGE --> numbers etc, we must have known these from a previous life.

Second is OPPOSITES --> everything has an opposite fro example good/bad, there is a physical world so there must be an immaterial world.

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Response to too many Forms

Plato wasn't very clear, however there was a universal form of JUSTICE and BEAUTY

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Response to Bad Forms

Ugliness and Cancer are the absence of Good therefore they can't be be an ideal --> they are probations

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Response to How can we know the Froms?

Know them through REASON and MATHS

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Response to The physical world is more real

The physical world might feel more real but modern science has shown how easily our senses are decieved.

What feels solid to me is actually billions of atoms.

We are intrested in finding out the truth, what is really real not what we might naively feel is real.

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Response to Aristotle's Third Man Argument

Perhaps the idea of infinite regress is actually an argument in favor of the forms.

Its clear that we have consistent and universal ideas of what a 'circle' is

These ideas must have come from somewhere, there must be an original template these are the forms.

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Response to It is elitist

Through education and a better understanding of the Good, people have come to have a global awareness that includes a concern for all people, the animals and the environment.

Platos not an elitist just realistic.

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