Plato and the forms

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  • Created on: 05-07-18 11:29
PLATO- Theory of the forms
So, what is this theory and who was Plato?
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Background information on Plato: Philosopher, Plato lived in ancient greece and lived from 427 to 347 BC. He was a pupil under Socrates, who was a well known philosopher. Socrates questioned the way Athens was ran; however, he died because of this.
Plato was heavily influenced by others such as Socrates, Pythagorus and Heraclitus. Plato was interested in finding something certain in an ever changing world. This was in some ways his obsession. This is where we find the forms.
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Plato's forms: what is a form? This is the perfect or idea version of something. It exists as the real version of things. The existence of these froms takes place in the realm of the forms: a place thought of by Plato.
What is the realm of the forms? Plato believed in two realms: the realm of the forms where forms exist and the realm of appearences, where we exist. Everything in the realm of appearences is a shadow of a form, a shadow of reality in Plato's eyes.
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Hierachy of the forms: The realm of the forms is superior to the realm of appearances. Forms also have a hierachy, with the form of the good above all, then higher forms (such as beauty and truth) and then individual forms (objects).
The simile of the divide line: Here Plato essentially explains that there is a divide line that seperates forms and things in the realm of appearances. In the forms section there are higher forms and individual forms.
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In the appearances section there are physical object knowable by the sun and senses. There is also images of physical objects. Plato likens this to the realm of appearances being having images of the realm of the forms.
From this Plato restricts 'knowledge' simply to the awareness of forms and claims 'ignorance' is the awareness of things that do not exist. Plato seems to be confusing states of awareness with objects of awareness.
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If I say something doesn't exist in my study at this moment in time, I would call this my awareness of 'knowledge', yet Plato would refer to this as ignorance as I am speaking of something that doesn't exist. Is Plato's argument convincing here?
The simile of the cave is Plato's most well known and in depth simile to explain his theory. In this simile Plato speaks of a scene where three men are tied up in a cave and have lived there their whole existence. They are permantly facing a wall.
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This wall shows only shadows of things that pass the entrance when there is light. One day a single man escapes. He daringly leaves the cave and sees the outside world and the real versions of things, not just their shadows as in the cave.
This man runs back and tells the others , who are still in the cave of what he had seen and expereinced. When the others are told this they react violently and dismiss everything said by the escapee: they mock him and may even kill the escaped man.
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Some say that Plato's simile is a reference to Socrates and hi fate. Plato would say that the escaped man has 'knowledge', whereas the trapped men have 'ignorance'.
In the simile of the cave the cave is representative of the realm of appearances and the outside world is the realm of the forms. The shadows seen by the men in the cave are the shadows of the forms (in the outside) as in the realm of appearances.
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When the man escapes the cave he sees the outside world, the real versions of things: forms. When he comes back to speak to others they treat him as though he is mad and react very badly. This is a true representation of how philosophers are treated.
Objection: Plato assumes that for something to be pure it must be eternal. If whiteness is a quality, we can recognise that it does not become more eternal with the more white it gets. Something can be perfectly white, but exist for a short time.
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Objection: If forms are so essential for true understanding, why don't we study them? It seems strange that if they're are so essential to clear thought that politicians and others wouldn't study them.
Objection: Forms have no practical value. In matters of health, there is no 'perfect health'. The perfect health of a 70 year old will be different to that of a 20 year old as peoples natural level of health decreases with age.
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Doctors will seek only what is healthy for each individual and knowledge of abstract 'health' will not benefit diagnosis or prescription.
Objection: According to Platonists, some things have no form. An example is that there is no form of number, there is only oneness and twoness, etc.
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If there is a form for each number then there must be an infinity of posssible forms.
Objection: One objection many would suggest is a technical objection. Plato provides no evidence or justification for his theory. He says only that there are things in the realm of appearances and their perfect counterparts in the realm of the forms.
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Objection: Empiricists would argue against the idea that everything is knowable by a priori knowledge. Empiricists believe everything is in fact knowable by sense expereince (a posteriori knowledge).
Objection: Similar to the technical issue is that Plato uses no scientific way of thinking. He not only provides no knowledge, but also does not take a scientific approach. His theory of the forms is literally made up in his mind.
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The only logic behind Plato's theory is that there is no certainty in this world (realm) and so it must exist somewhere else. A scientific approach would consist of looking at what we have, not assuming the existence of what we don't have.
Plato seems to practice his own definition of 'ignorance' in his theory. He may argue that forms do exist and so he has 'knowledge' not ignorance, but many would be hesitant to believe this without evidence.
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Objection: Simply because there isn't certainty in the world, this doesn't mean that it is somewhere else, this cannot be assumed. What we know as reality is what we have, we must accept this. Philosophers aren't necessarily superior in knowledge.
Strength: The simile of the cave has some strength in that the simile of the cave was designed to make people think and this is certainly something it does. It forces people to at least think about the idea of the forms as suggested by Plato.
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Strength: Plato's simile of the cave has some form of truth to it, there are times in which philosophers are treated very badly; people react badly to new ideas that could change what they believed to be true. It is in human nature to want certainty.
Strength: With the theory of the forms we think about perfection and whether it exists here. Due to this consider the evils in our reality and see them in contrast to forms. Things that seem idyllic may be a reflection of forms.
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Strength: Similar to the previous strength, we see the imperfection in the world, which we conclude must be elsewhere. If we understand the concept of it, it could exist. could be in another realm? Christian theorists accept the world as imperfect.
Strength: Plato teaches us to learn and not simply accept things as they are, he also shows us that there are purposes to subjects.
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Sum up: Plato believed there to be two realms: the realm of appearances and the realm of the forms. We live in the realm of appearances, whereas reality is in the realm of the forms where forms exist. There is a hierarchy of forms with the good at
the top, then the higher forms and then individual (lower forms). Plato used the simile of the divide line to explain that 'knowledge' is awareness of forms and 'ignorance' is awareness of that which doesn't exist. The simile of the cave was used to
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explain this 'knowledge and ignorance' as well as his theory of the forms. Many object to this theory, while others (mostly Platonists) believe this theory is strong.
THE END- PLATO- Theory of the forms
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Card 2

Front

Plato was heavily influenced by others such as Socrates, Pythagorus and Heraclitus. Plato was interested in finding something certain in an ever changing world. This was in some ways his obsession. This is where we find the forms.

Back

Background information on Plato: Philosopher, Plato lived in ancient greece and lived from 427 to 347 BC. He was a pupil under Socrates, who was a well known philosopher. Socrates questioned the way Athens was ran; however, he died because of this.

Card 3

Front

What is the realm of the forms? Plato believed in two realms: the realm of the forms where forms exist and the realm of appearences, where we exist. Everything in the realm of appearences is a shadow of a form, a shadow of reality in Plato's eyes.

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

The simile of the divide line: Here Plato essentially explains that there is a divide line that seperates forms and things in the realm of appearances. In the forms section there are higher forms and individual forms.

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

From this Plato restricts 'knowledge' simply to the awareness of forms and claims 'ignorance' is the awareness of things that do not exist. Plato seems to be confusing states of awareness with objects of awareness.

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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