• Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 23-04-13 12:38


  • Mini Biography
  • Socrates (Effect on Plato)
  • Theory of Forms
  • The Form of the Good
  • Plato’s Demiurge
  • The Analogy of the Cave
  • Origins
  • Strengths and Weaknesses
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Mini Biography

  • Plato is regarded by many as the greatest philosopher who ever lived and it has been said all other philosophy is simply ‘footnotes to Plato’
  • The issues he raised still divide thinkers today
  • His writing is clear, interesting and accessible, many think Plato’s work is the finest of all surviving Greek literature
  • Came from an aristocratic Athenian family
  • Plato was still young (early thirties) when Socrates died and it had a profound effect on him
  • Plato began to write as a way of keeping Socrates’ memory alive and defending him
  •  Plato also left Athens for a while on a series of (not altogether successful) visits to other countries
  • When he returned to Greece he found a school called the Academy where he taught both male and female students until he died at 81
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  • Plato admired him enormously and included Socrates’ views in his own writings
  • Other philosophers also mention Socrates in their writing so we can gather a picture of the way he thought
  •  Practice of asking question in order to clarify still used= Socratic method
  • Since Socrates exposed the ignorance of the people he was seen as subversive (undermining authority)
  • He was unpopular but had an enthusiastic following of young people of the city of Athens
  • Socrates was arrested and charged with not believing in the Greek Gods and with corrupting the young
  • According to Plato Socrates was offered a way out of the death penalty but he was determined to stay true to his principles Made it clear it was better to die with integrity than to be false
  • Socrates drank the poisonous hemlock he was given by his executers and died
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Socrates Effect on Plato

  • Plato was present throughout the trial and execution of his beloved teacher
  • He was appalled at Socrates death and was determined to preserve the thoughts and methods in his own writings
  • Plato liked to write his philosophy in the form of dialogues where concepts are discussed between different characters and he often gave the name Socrates to the one with the clearest insight
  • Can be difficult to distinguish Socrates’ thoughts from Plato’s
  • Plato clearly admired Socrates and his original thoughts are probably influenced by him
  • Many scholars believe Plato’s earlier writings reflect the words of Socrates but as he got older it is much his own words
  •  Plato may have put words into Socrates mouth that were actually his own ideas
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World of Forms

  • Things we see around us in the physical world are always in a state of change therefore can never be the objects of completely true knowledge
  • Are other realities we can have certain knowledge in a different ‘world’ which are eternal and unchanging
  • These realities are concepts which are called ‘forms’ or ‘ideas’
  • We gain true knowledge, through our reason
  • The different things we see in the physical world that we learn about through senses are imitations and examples of their ideal form
  • When we see someone doing an act of justice, we recognise it as justice because we know what ‘true justice’ really is, as a concept-
  • We realise that the human example of justice we are witnessing is not perfect because in this ever changing world nothing is but the fact we realise it is not perfect demonstrates we have an inner understanding of what ‘the form of justice’ might be
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World of Forms Continued

  • We recognise all sorts of things for what they are only because of our knowledge of their forms-
  • Eg a physical tree available to our senses is inferior to the form of tree because the physical tree is undergoing a process of change eg  in Autumn
  • Physical material things are given their reality by the forms
  • We have an understanding of the forms from birth, even if we don’t realise it. We just know from intuition what the form is. This intuition about the forms mean we experienced them before birth and therefore have immortal souls and must have lived in the realm of forms
  • Most important forms are those of noble qualities and in particular the form of the good
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Forms VS Particulars

  • Forms:
    • Each form is one (only one idea of beauty etc)
    • Intelligible (only known through intellect)
    • Eternal
    • Unchanging 
    • Non Corporeal
    • Perfect
    • Rely on form of good to be seen
  • Particulars:
    • Particulars are many things (many ideas if beauty)
    •  Sensible (known through senses)
    • Finite
    • Always changing- corruptible
    •  Material objects
    • imperfect
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Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Forms Strengths-
    • Gives people hope there is perfection
    • Alternative to the ever changing world
    • Constant, always there
    • Strong moral foundation (reliant on form of good)
    • Something to strive for/ find
  • Forms Weaknesses:
    • Not definitely there
    • Who can say what is perfect? What is good?
    • Flaws- what about new inventions eg laptop, phone etc
    • No one can relate to perfection/ eternal as nothing is
    • Form for negative things?
    • Logical extreme
    • Not clear- objects? Qualities?
    • Over optimistic- no one is ignorant of good
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The Form of The Good

  • Illuminates the other forms and gives them their value
  • The different forms are related to one another and arranged in a hierarchy.Most important of all forms is the form of the good
  • Goodness is something we have never seen perfectly exemplified in this physical world but we have all seen all seen actions we recognise to be ‘good’ We recognise their goodness because of our intuition of the form of the good
  • True knowledge is the knowledge of goodness
  • A philosopher is someone who recognises the nature of true goodness
  • The real philosopher will want to put that wisdom into practice and by setting example, this is why, Plato believed., countries should be run by philosopher kings
  • People do bad because they are ignorant of the form (eg lie because ignorant of the form of honesty) if they became more philosophical and looked for the form of good they would make better moral decisions
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Cave Analogy- Origins

  • The relation between the physical world and the real world
  • The way in which the physical concerns can blind people to what is really important
  • The ignorance of humanity when people do not engage in philosophy
  • The potential for true knowledge that philosophy brings
  • That there is another world which we cannot see from the position we are in, yet we can reach and will give us enlightenment
  • The initial difficulties of grappling with philosophy
  • Hostility people feel when faced with philosophical ideas that challenge previously held beliefs
  • The injustice of Socrates death
  • Philosophers should Rule
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The Cave Analogy- Story

  • The story begins by setting the scene:
    • Group f prisoners chained to the back of the cave- been there since birth so know no different
    • People walking behind them with puppets which project shadows, due to the fire behind them
    • There is an opening at the back of the cave
  • Plato then goes on to tell the story:
    • A prisoner escapes from the cave
    • He is at first dazzled by the sun but continues anyway
    • He see’s the outside world, lit up by the sun
    • The prisoner returns to tell the others who do not believe him
    • He has to be quiet if he does not want to be killed
    • The escaped prisoner finds it hard to now see the shadows
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Cave Analogy- Explanation

  • Cave- World of appearances
  • Prisoners- Ordinary people (deceived) empty of philosophy/ Gain knowledge only through their senses
  • Escaped philosopher- Socrates
  • Journey- Philosophers discovery of true knowledge through the mind to world of forms
  • Outside world- Real world/World of forms
  • Chains- Soul trapped by senses
  • Sun- Form of good (illuminating forms, what they are dependant on)
  • Return Journey- Enlightened philosopher
  • Shadows- illusion by the senses. Seem real and are logical. Senses can’t access reality
  • Fire- Government
  • Overall- Only philosophers should rule as they are enlightened and not deceived
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Cave Analogy- Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Cave Analogy Strengths-
    • Plato gets his message across
    • Good, subtle references- could not be punished for it (all implicit)
    • Visual imagery is relatable
    • Successful use of metaphors
    • No gender so can relate to all
    • Many layers/ meanings
    • Universal message
    • Help people to develop/ strive for something
  • Cave Analogy Weaknesses-
    • Logical flaws (why have the urge now to escape)?
    • Physical flaws (same chains since infants)?
    • Assumption people would want to/ would look for knowledge
    • Plato is elicit (believes only philosophers should rule)
    • Prescriptive (should happen), telling people what to do- just like the government he opposed
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  • Plato believed the world was created by a God he called Demiurge
  • The demiurge made the world out of material that was already there (ex deo)
  • Demiurge comes from the Greek word for a craftsman or workman
  • The demiurge is good and desires the best for humanity
  • The demiurge is limited by his materials and so the final result is as good as he can manage: it was never going to be perfect because it is physical and therefore changeable
  • Not ‘goodness itself’ nor ‘the source of al goodness’
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