Plato: the concept of the Forms

From the OCR syllabus "Candidates should understand what Plato meant by 'Forms' and be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the relation between concepts and phenomena;
  • the concept of 'ideals'
  • the relation between the Form of the Good and the other Forms

Candidates should be able to discuss critically the validity of the above points."

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  • Created by: Laura
  • Created on: 01-06-09 17:26

Plato's Forms

Forms = A priori like math we're born with a recollection of Forms.

The form of the Good is the highest Form

  • The value of things are measured against the form of the good
  • Anything is a pale imitation of the Form of the Good

Material objects are subject to change and decay they're contingent

The Forms exist in a state of unchanging perfection


Forms are also known as ideals.

Noumena= The unseen, metaphysical, truth
Phenomena= Sense experience, empirical evidence

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Quote

Heraclitus

"It is not possible to step into the same river twice."

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Example of the Forms

  • Example 1. Cats.

We recognise something due to it's characteristics.
All animals described as 'cat' have something of the Form of Cat.
Plato claimed in the world of Forms there is an Ideal Cat created by God.
Material cats are born and die, they change.
The Ideal Cat is eternal.

  • Example 2. Perfect circle

A perfect circle exists in logic.
There is a perfect circle in the world of the Forms.
Any circle we can create is not perfect.

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Strengths of Plato's Forms

STRENGTHS

  • Explains why we all recognise the same essential qualities such as beauty, goodness, and justice.
  • Allows for imperfections in the world around us.
  • Encourages us to question in order to learn and not accept things at face value.
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Weaknesses of Plato's Forms

WEAKNESSES

  • There must be Forms of bad things
    • Augustine would argue imperfections do not exist they are a 'privation'. E.g. Blindness does not exist it is simply a lack of sight.
  • Existence of the Form is not necessarily the obvious conclusion of logical reasoning.
  • Is there a Form of 'Animal' or is there a Form for every species?
    • If this is the cave the Forms stop being 'Universals'
  • How are we to know what Goodness is?
  • There is no evidence the Forms exist (A criticism from Aristotle)
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Weaknesses of Plato's Forms continued.

WEAKNESSES

  • There is no logical reason why there has to be a perfect Form. It could exist only in our minds.
  • We are radically separated from the world of Forms
    • How do we gain knowledge of them?
    • Without examples we have no concept of Forms
  • If you can have a form of a form of a form of a form it goes into infinite regression
  • Plato's Forms are not relevant to everyday life.
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