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Key words:

  • Cave analogy
  • World of Particulars
  • World of Forms
  • Enlightenment
  • Dualist
  • A priori
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Cave Analogy:

  • Group of prisoners have been chained to a wall their entire lives
  • Only see a series of shadows of people talking, moving around and carrying objects cast by the light from a fire - they believe this is reality
  • One prisoner escapes
  • Experiences pain and confusion at the brightness of the sinlight and the reality he experiences - comes to accept reality as it is
  • Goes back to tell other prisoners but struggles to see in the darkness of the cave after the light of the outside world - causes other prisoners to mock him
  • He no longer cares about the shadows as he understands how the world really is - this turns the other prisoners against him
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Cave Analogy Explanation:

  • Cave - the visible, physical world around us. Appears more real than the World of Forms
  • Prisoners - 'ordinary people' who are decieved and ignorant of what is real
  • Shadows - illusions created by our senses which cannot access reality
  • Journey of the Prisoner - journey of the philosopher who is dazzled by the light (knowledge).
  • Chains - the inability to free oneself from the illusions of the senses
  • Sun - the Form of the Good (highest Form)
  • Return of the Escaped Prisoner - the enlightened philosopher interacting with other people
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Cave Analogy Strengths:

  • Challenges what we believe
  • Illustrates the difficulties philosophers and those with opposing views have to face
  • Has various layers of meaning that link to the Theory of Forms
  • Descriptive imagery
  • Helps develop others' ideas
  • Relevant
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Cave Analogy Weaknesses:

  • Logical issues - why are people holding puppets up? who keeps the fire burning? why does only one prisoner escape?
  • Plato assumes that everyone is given the same knowledge
  • Elitist
  • Gender bias
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The Forms:

  • conceptual
  • objective
  • eternal
  • non-physical
  • perfect
  • rational
  • transcendant
  • reality
  • intelligible
  • illuminated [by the Form of the Good]
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The Particulars (copies of the Forms in our world)

  • corruptible
  • subjective
  • finite
  • material
  • imperfect
  • appearances [of the Forms]
  • opinions [formed by our unreliable senses]
  • sensible
  • physical
  • changing
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Theory of Forms Strengths:

  • Based within reason
  • Moral foundations
  • Hopeful for a perfect world that can be reached by the soul
  • Relatable - our world is imperfect
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Theory of Forms Weaknesses:

  • Doubtful and pessimistic - aren't we good enough?
  • Unchanging nature of the WoF isn't relatable - where is humanity's place in such a world?
  • How does the WoF account for new inventions and developments?
  • What does perfection and goodness actually mean?
  • Theory created in protest of a government that suppressed and punished alternative thinking, yet Plato is pushing his views on and claiming those who disagree are ignorant and unenlightened
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