Plato and Aristotle

Plato – Inspirations

Plato was inspired by...


  • "True knowledge comes from knowing that you know nothing"
  • What is "the good"
  • Socrates was executed for his beliefs and understanding on reality


  • Pythagoras believed in immorality, religion, mysticism, and the objectivity of mathematics.
  • Maths existed abstractly
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Cave allegory picture


The symbolic meaning of the allegory of the cave:


Human beings trapped in the temporal world.

SHADOWS: The experiences we recieve in this temporal world (illusion).

SUN: Form of the good- the highest form, gives life to all other forms.

FREE PRISONER: Philosopher king- enlightenment

OUTSIDE WORLD: world of the forms

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The sun

Visible World – The Sun Source of growth and light which gives: nVisibility to the objects of sense and nThe power of seeing to the eye nThe faculty of sight Intelligible world of the forms – The Good Source of reality and truth which gives: nIntelligibility to objects of thought and nThe power of knowing to the mind nThe faculty of knowledge nPlotonius (3rd C) associated the EFG with God!

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The forms

Ephemeral Vs Eternal We live in an ephemeral (spacio temporal) world Our world changes and decays.
Copies and Forms Everything we experience (doxa) is a decaying copy of an ideal form existing outside of time and space. We encounter MANY copies through experience. They are all copies of ONE Form we can recognise through reason.
Recognition We never learn new things when we identify the forms. We recognisewhat we already know from a previous existence. We remember beauty when we see it in the visible world. The physical world is an illusion … there is no spoon!

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  • The Forms are perfect

The Forms are unchanging The Forms exist eternally The Forms are abstract The Forms can be encountered when we are in the eternal world between ephemeral lives The Forms are reflected in the ephemeral world The Essential Form of the Good illuminates the Forms The Essential Form of the Good manifests the Forms in the eternal world. The Essential Form of the Good enables us to recognise the Forms (justice etc) in the ephemeral world Plato never fully explained what Forms existed, he was focussing on the Forms of ideals like justice and beauty.

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Criticisms of Plato

Relation – Aristotle questioned the causal relationship between Plato’s Forms an d things we encounter. Dualism – Aristotle rejected dualism (body and soul) which Plato needs for the Forms to exist. Third Man – Aristotle argued that if man had a Form, that Form has a Form back to infinity. This makes no sense.
Absolute Morality – If there are Forms of justice etc, is there absolute morality? Plausibility – Is it realistic to assume that we all know all the Forms already? Memes – Dawkins argued that ideas we have of justice etc are just memes that survive.

Infinite Forms – Plato never fully explains what there are Forms for, deodorant cans? One legged pirates etc?

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Aristotle form and matter

Form Aristotle believed that the Form of a thing was not an abstract entity but rather that which is common to all examples of things. nThese things are all legged platforms you can sit on, so they are the Form of Chair. nThe wax stamp can be defined as: Wax [MATTER] and Coat of Arms [FORM]
Matter and Form All substances are composed of matter and form: nWhat the thing is made of: carbon, hydrogen etc. nWhat the thing is made to be: rock, human, planet etc.

Aristotle would argue that the Form of a human is the soul.

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Four causes

Four Causes All things have four causes:

  • Material Cause – Matter: What it is made of.
  • Formal Cause – Essence: What it made to be.
  • Efficient Cause – Agent: What caused it to be.
  • Final Cause – Purpose: What it is meant to accomplish
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