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Theory Of Forms Essay

1515 words - 7 pages

a) Explain Plato’s Theory of Forms

Plato’s Theory of Forms is similar to many other beliefs about the world. For instance, Heraclitus’ notion was that we see a world of perception in constant flux of which we have no true knowledge, while Zeno believed that we can see a static unchanging world and it can be grasped through reason. Plato’s theory is strongly based on what is real and what is not. What is real is thought to be perfect, but something cannot be real or perfect if it is transient. He explains that the World of Forms is very different to the World of Shadows. The World of Forms can only be properly understood by philosophers and those who seek knowledge, not by the ignorant or ...view middle of the document...

In there, the patterns or the objects and concepts for the material world exist in a state of unchanging perfection. Therefore, in the cave allegory, it shows that it is the job of the philosopher, the escapee of the cave, to break free from the shackles of the finite world and find reality in the World of Forms. One has to abandon the senses, a posteriori knowledge, to understand this World of Forms and know truth through reason and logic, a priori knowledge.

Forms are perfect versions of things. Forms are universals and things in the physical world are particulars. Particulars are imperfect copies in the physical world. This theory is important for understanding an object’s true nature. For example, a cat is not a dog and not a mouse, but yet it has four legs and a tail like the other two animals have, so how is it that we can distinguish a cat from a dog of a mouse? Plato believed that each animal has a perfect Form, the cat has perfect cat-ness that makes us recognise a cat when we see one. This perfect cat-ness is only found in the World of Forms, this ideal cat is the only real cat and all the other cats are just participating in the Form of the Cat. Plato also stated that we can recognise what a cat is because we have a dim recollection of the Forms as our souls are pre-existent and eternal. Things in the physical world are transient, subject to change, imperfect, visible, distorted reflections which depend on the Forms for their existence. The Forms, on the other hand, are eternal, lasting, perfect, invisible, the Real Thing, and depend on the Form of the Good for existence. Everything within the finite world has a corresponding Form, not just physical objects but everything, even concepts like beauty and justice. It led to the discover of the Form of the Good.

Plato had a hierarchy of Forms and the supreme Form is Good. The Form of the Good illuminates all the other Forms and it can be compared to the sun in the cave allegory as it, too, sustains all other beings. Without the Form of the Good, all the other Forms will perish. There is also a being called the Demiurge and it fashions pre-existent chaotic matter into the Forms, however it is not a creator of the Forms as it only moulds them into how people in the World of the Shadows see them. The Form of the Good can be interpreted in many ways: for theologians the Form of the Good can be God, although it does not necessarily have to be a deity.

To contemplate what we see and realise that it is not real, to try and see the world beyond the empirical information we receive. To seek reason and understanding and to grasp real knowledge and the Form of the Good.

b) How convincing is this theory?

One very convincing argument in favour of Plato’s theory is that it suggest that morality exists independently of human minds. This provides a good answer to the sceptics of Ancient Greece who claimed there were no objective moral truths, and morality is merely a subjective opinion....

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