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Plato's Analogy of the Cave

The prisoners - experience of reality is images of images of real objects. Evidence of their senses tells them its reality. Their language reflects this experience. State of mind 'eikasia' - describes this lowest level of understanding - not questioning, like everyday people now.

The shadows - imperfect copies of the Forms, we mistake as real through our senses. Made by others  carrying statues - politicians leading but not actually understanding.

The Cave  - emphasises the people being 'trapped' in their bodies - sensuary limitations.

The outside world - The Realm of the Forms,seen after reasoning to understand reality.

The sun - the Form of the Good, or God, what everything tries to become closer too. No empirical proof, but a priori understanding. Every Form is from the Form of the Good.

The journey outside the cave - the journey of reasoning to understand the Realm of the Forms and actual reality. Puzzling - misses previous ignorance - understanding of necessity of Form of the Good - unimportance of previous skills and opinions - mocked when returning with lessened ability to see the shadows. Killed if tries to set others free.

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Realm of the Forms

Forms = true knowledge and understanding.

Form of the Good - goodness is the most important Form, such as the Sun in the Analogy. Makes things knowable and is the source of the rest of the Forms. Enables us to understand and assess things, as without the knowledge of the Form of the Good, one does not see clearly as sight requires both light and an accurate eye.

The Forms - eternal, unchanging, exist in the Realm of the Forms. These are 'perfect' concepts of things such as a circle, or justice - in the world of the senses any 'circle' or act of 'justice' is an imperfect imitation of the Form. This is how we recognise objects and concepts in this world. Our world is constantly changing (Heraclitus's river) and the translation of the 'Form' to the material world results in the copy losing its perfection.

Realm of the Forms - accessible only by using reason, immaterial, immortal and unchanging.

Understanding concept of Forms without having experienced them = immortal soul.

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Criticisms of Plato

1) Existence of the Forms is not necessarily the obvious conclusion of logical reasoning, and not the only conclusion. No convincing argument. Concepts may exist but independent existence is not necessarily true similar to language not having independent reality beyond the world and concepts to which it refers. Plato = 'self-evident existence', not to us - can agree on concepts of 'circle' or 'equality' but the Form of Mud, Disease or Train Ticket?

2) Very vague explanation that does not cover all angles - eg Form of Animal or Form of every Species? Form of Male Tamworth pig and Female Tamworth pig? Female Short-Sighted Pregnant Tamworth pig? Forms no longer universal but degenerate to little meaning/use.

3) Plato's view that sense experience is not valuable? We need it for our survival, and being told bodily survival is unimportant goes against instincts, knowledge of physical world necessary to help others. And if this world and survival really is unimportant, than Plato's concerns about politics and ethics do not fit with the idea of the body as an 'encumbrance' - physical world unimportant and illusory, surely quality of life/leadership does not matter?

4) Form of the Good? How do we know what goodness is? Why can equals come to different conclusions about right/wrong? We can all point to the 'sun', not the 'Good'?

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Questions on Plato to Consider

a) Explain Plato's use of the metaphor of shadows in his Allegory of the Cave?

b) On what grouns might Plato's understanding of human reason be criticised?

a) Explain what Plato meant by 'Forms'?

b) 'Plato's theory of Forms is of little use in understanding the physical world'. Discuss.

a) Explain Playo's concept of 'Forms' and the particular importance of the Form of the Good.

b) 'Plato's concept of Forms is simply a theory with no basis in fact'. Discuss.

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