Philosophy of Religion - Plato

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  • Created by: JM
  • Created on: 06-05-13 17:23



Plato lived between 428 BC and 348 BC in Athens, Greece and was born into a wealthy family.

Plato was a student of Socrates 

Plato was the teacher of Aristotle

Socrates was Plato's biggest influence:

(Socrates irritated people and was arrested and charged with "corrupting the minds of the youth"- he was sentenced to death)

When Socrates died Plato took it upon himself to voice Socrates views and to become his 'mouthpiece'

Platos books are written in the form of dialogue between Socrates and others.

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Plato Continued

Plato is a dualist

Dualists believe that Human beings are made up of two materials:

  • The corporial substance (bodily substance)
  • The non-corporial substance (the soul)

(Materialist believe we do not have a soul and are just made of bodily substances)

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Analogy of the Cave

Allegory Meaning

  • Cave- The World of appearances
  • Prisoners- Us
  • Shadows- what we accept as being the real thing, as it's the only thing we've known
  • Chains/Shackles- Ignorance
  • People/Animals/objects passing the wall/puppeteers - Leaders of the world sharing false information with us as they themselves don't know the truth
  • Freed Prisoner -Philosophers- people who question the ongoings of the world
  • Sun- Form of the Good/ Ultimate Knowledge
  • Struggle/Reluctance to leave cave - Not being able to accept that there could be something else
  • Denying the Freed Prisoners ideas (The prisoners threaten to kill anyone who tries to free themselves or others) - Not wanting to accept what the truth is.
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Analogy of the Cave 2

Plato describes the prisoners as being in an "Eikasia" state of mind ( Eikasa derives from Eikon, meaning an image or likeness) which he believes to be the lowest level of understanding, as they just believe what is in front of them.

Plato explains a series of events in which one prisoner is set free. He can stand up and turn around – finds movement painful at first, and is too dazzled by the light form the fire to see anything properly.

The escapee or former prisoner feels sorry for others in cave, goes down to tell them. His ability to see the shadows on the wall has deteriorated since his sight has been adjusted to the sunlight of the outside world. 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.

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Theory of the 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.He believed that in the world of appearances we are unable to see truth as it is in a constant state of flux and therefore it is impossible to know the truth of reality which was developed around the quote by Heraclitus: “You cannot step into the same river twice”. This meaning that because the world is constantly changing the truth is unable to stay here.

  • There is the world of sense and experience "the empirical world"
  • There is a world outside of space and time where everything is permanent and ideal: called the realm of the forms.
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Theory of the Forms 2

A Form is an archetype for everything that physically exists and exist in another reality. They are beyond human comprehension thus we can only see particulars in this world which are reflections of Forms. So for example, when we see a chair we are only seeing a reflection of a chair. The only reason that we can recognise these particulars is that we have an immortal soul that once knew the Forms but once it entered our body it entered a state of amnesia whereby it forgot all Forms. Now because our body’s are constantly changing we are unable to find truth as the truth is unchanging. Our souls came from the world of forms which is how we know what perfection is as our souls can remember this.

  • i.e. we can know what things are e.g a dog because our soul can remember (a dim recollection) the ideal form from the World of the Forms  from the other world. The form is not a shape it is the essence of an object.
  • therefore there are no new ideas or inventions because they have all originated from the world of the forms however when you put them into practice they are never really as good as you thought. (objects in the world of the forms are perfect form, the one in the world of appearances are just shadows)
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Theory of the Forms 3

Furthermore, Plato did not believe that we learn new things but instead he believed that we have a learning process whereby we recall our memory of Forms so in fact we are always trying to reach our goal which is to go to the world of Forms to find Truth. Philosophers are the only ones who are able to see truth in this world as they see past what they see here.Therefore Plato stated that they should be the rulers of society.

  • Plato believed there was a form for everything: although he believed there was ahierarchy of forms whereby Good is the highest form: 
    • THE GOOD
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The 2 Worlds

Material World

  • Transitory- always changing
  • relative (to the individual)
  • sensory (empirical)
  • Imperfect
  • Impermanent (Can you step into the same river twice? (Heraclitus))

World of the Forms

  • Unchanging
  • Permanent
  • Immeasurable
  • Perfect
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  • Two Worlds
    • Appearances
    • Reality (the forms)
  • Charcteristics of the forms
    • Unchanging
    • Permanent
    • Immeasurable
    • Perfect
    • Archetype for all things that physically exist
    • immortal
  • Form of the Good
    • Highest Form
    • Source of the other Forms
  • Criticisms
    • Forms could just be ideas in the mind
    • Unclear link betwen Forms and the World of Appearances
    • No proof that the world of Forms exists
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  • Plato believed that we do not know what good is yet we use it to label things.
  • Light and sight illustrate the importance of the form of the Good, to see clearly we require both light and sight.
  • Knowledge of the Good is the highest knowledge there is
  • Good is what allow us to see justice truth and beauty
  • People who question truth=philosophers
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