Platonism, rendered as a proper noun, is the philosophy of Plato or the name of other philosophical systems considered closely derived from it. In narrower usage, platonism, rendered as a common noun, refers to the philosophy that affirms the existence of abstract objects, which are asserted to "exist" in a "third realm" distinct both from the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism. Lower case "platonists" need not accept any of the doctrines of Plato.
In a narrower sense, the term might indicate the doctrine of Platonic realism. The central concept of Platonism, a distinction essential to the Theory of Forms, is the distinction between the reality which is perceptible but unintelligible, and the reality which is imperceptible but intelligible. The forms are typically described in dialogues such as the Phaedo, Symposium and Republic as transcendent perfect archetypes of which objects in the everyday world are imperfect copies.
In the Republic the highest form is identified as the Form of the Good, the source of all other forms, which could be known by reason. In the Sophist, a later work, the forms being, sameness and difference are listed among the primordial "Great Kinds". In the 3rd century BC, Arcesilaus adopted skepticism, which became a central tenet of the school until 90 BC when Antiochus added Stoic elements, rejected skepticism, and began a period known as Middle Platonism.
In the 3rd century AD, Plotinus added mystical elements, establishing Neoplatonism, in which the summit of existence was the One or the Good, the source of all things; in virtue and meditation the soul had the power to elevate itself to attain union with the One. Platonism had a profound effect on Western thought, and many Platonic notions were adopted by the Christian church which understood Plato's forms as God's thoughts, while Neoplatonism became a major influence on Christian mysticism, in the West through St Augustine, Doctor of the Catholic Church whose Christian writings were heavily influenced by Plotinus' Enneads, and in turn were foundations for the whole of Western Christian thought.
The primary concept is the Theory of Forms. The only true being is founded upon the forms, the eternal, unchangeable, perfect types, of which particular objects of moral and responsible sense are imperfect copies. The multitude of objects of sense, being involved in perpetual change, are thereby deprived of all genuine existence. The number of the forms is defined by the number of universal concepts which can be derived from the particular objects of sense. The following excerpt may be representative of Plato's middle period metaphysics and epistemology:
[Socrates:] "Since the beautiful is opposite of the ugly, they are two."
[Glaucon:] "Of course."
"And since they are two, each is one?"
"I grant that also."
"And the same account is true of the just and unjust, the good and the bad, and all the forms. Each of them is itself one, but because they manifest themselves everywhere in association with actions, bodies, and one another, each of them appears to be many."
"So, I draw this distinction: On one side are those you just now called lovers of sights, lovers of crafts, and practical people; on the other side are those we are now arguing about and whom one would alone call philosophers."
"How do you mean?"
"The lovers of sights and sounds like beautiful sounds, colors, shapes, and everything fashioned out of them, but their thought is unable to see and embrace the nature of the beautiful itself."
"That's for sure."
"In fact, there are very few people who would be able to reach the beautiful itself and see it by itself. Isn't that so?"
"What about someone who believes in beautiful things, but doesn't believe in the beautiful itself and isn't able to follow anyone who could lead him to the knowledge of it? Don't you think he is living in a dream rather than a wakened state? Isn't this dreaming: whether asleep or awake, to think that a likeness is not a likeness but rather the thing itself that it is like?"
"I certainly think that someone who does that is dreaming."
"But someone who, to take the opposite case, believes in the beautiful itself, can see both it and the things that participate in it and doesn't believe that the participants are it or that it itself is the participants--is he living in a dream or is he awake?
"He's very much awake."
(Republic Bk. V, 475e-476d, translation G.M.A Grube)
Book VI of the Republic identifies the highest form as the Form of the Good, the cause of all other Ideas, and that on which the being and knowing of all other Forms is contingent. Conceptions derived from the impressions of sense can never give us the knowledge of true being; i.e. of the forms. It can only be obtained by the soul's activity within itself, apart from the troubles and disturbances of sense; that is to say, by the exercise of reason. Dialectic, as the instrument in this process, leading us to knowledge of the forms, and finally to the highest form of the Good, is the first of sciences. Later Neoplatonism, beginning with Plotinus, identified the Good of the Republic with the so-called transcendent, absolute One of the first hypothesis of the Parmenides (137c-142a).
Platonist ethics is based on the Form of the Good. Virtue is knowledge, the recognition of the supreme form of the good. And, since in this cognition, the three parts of the soul, which are reason, spirit, and appetite, all have their share, we get the three virtues, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation. The bond which unites the other virtues is the virtue of Justice, by which each part of the soul is confined to the performance of its proper function.
Platonism had a profound effect on Western thought. In many interpretations of the Timaeus Platonism, like Aristotelianism, poses an eternal universe, as opposed to the nearby Judaic tradition that the universe had been created in historical time, with its continuous history recorded. Unlike Aristotelianism, Platonism describes idea as prior to matter and identifies the person with the soul. Many Platonic notions secured a permanent place in Christianity.
Platonism was originally expressed in the dialogues of Plato, in which the figure of Socrates is used to expound certain doctrines, that may or may not be similar to the thought of the historical Socrates, Plato's master. Plato delivered his lectures at the Academy, a precinct containing a sacred grove outside the walls of Athens. The school continued there long after Plato's death. There were three periods: the Old, Middle, and New Academy. The chief figures in the Old Academy were Speusippus (Plato's nephew), who succeeded him as the head of the school (until 339 BC), and Xenocrates (until 313 BC). Both of them sought to fuse Pythagorean speculations on number with Plato's theory of forms.
Around 266 BC, Arcesilaus became head of the Academy. This phase, known as the Middle Academy, strongly emphasized Academic skepticism. It was characterized by its attacks on the Stoics and their assertion of the certainty of truth and our knowledge of it. The New Academy began with Carneades in 155 BC, the fourth head in succession from Arcesilaus. It was still largely skeptical, denying the possibility of knowing an absolute truth; both Arcesilaus and Carneades believed that they were maintaining a genuine tenet of Plato.
Around 90 BC, Antiochus of Ascalon rejected skepticism, making way for the period known as Middle Platonism, in which Platonism was fused with certain Peripatetic and many Stoic dogmas. In Middle Platonism, the Platonic Forms were not transcendent but immanent to rational minds, and the physical world was a living, ensouled being, the World-Soul. Pre-eminence in this period belongs to Plutarch. The eclectic nature of Platonism during this time is shown by its incorporation into Pythagoreanism (Numenius of Apamea) and into Jewish philosophy (Philo of Alexandria).
In the third century, Plotinus recast Plato's system, establishing Neoplatonism, in which Middle Platonism was fused with mysticism. At the summit of existence stands the One or the Good, as the source of all things. It generates from itself, as if from the reflection of its own being, reason, the nous, - wherein is contained the infinite store of ideas. The world-soul, the copy of the nous, is generated by and contained in it, as the nous is in the One, and, by informing matter in itself nonexistent, constitutes bodies whose existence is contained in the world-soul. Nature therefore is a whole, endowed with life and soul. Soul, being chained to matter, longs to escape from the bondage of the body and return to its original source. In virtue and philosophical thought it has the power to elevate itself above the reason into a state of ecstasy, where it can behold, or ascend to, that one good primary Being whom reason cannot know. To attain this union with the Good, or God, is the true function of human beings.
Plotinus' disciple, Porphyry, followed by Iamblichus, developed the system in conscious opposition to Christianity. The Platonic Academy was re-established during this period; its most renowned head was Proclus (died 485), a celebrated commentator on Plato's writings. The Academy persisted until Roman emperor Justinian closed it in 529.
Platonism has had some influence on Christianity through Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and the Cappadocian Fathers. St. Augustine was heavily influenced by Platonism as well, which he encountered through the Latin translations of Marius Victorinus of the works of Porphyry and/or Plotinus.
Platonism was considered authoritative in the Middle Ages. Platonism also influenced both Eastern and Western mysticism. Meanwhile, Platonism influenced various philosophers. While Aristotle became more influential than Plato in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas's philosophy was still in certain respects fundamentally Platonic.
With the Renaissance, scholars became more interested in Plato himself. In 16th-, 17th-, and 19th-century England, Plato's ideas influenced many religious thinkers. Orthodox Protestantism in continental Europe, however, distrusts natural reason and has often been critical of Platonism. An issue in the reception of Plato in early modern Europe was how to deal with the same-sex elements of his corpus.
Christoplatonism is a term used to refer to a dualism opined by Plato, which holds spirit is good but matter is evil, which influenced some christian churches, though the Bible's teaching directly contradicts this philosophy and thus it receives constant criticism from many teachers in the Christian Church today. According to the Methodist Church, Christoplatonism directly "contradicts the Biblical record of God calling everything He created good."
Apart from historical Platonism originating from thinkers such as Plato himself, Numenius, Plotinus, Augustine and Proclus, we also encounter the theory of abstract objects in the modern sense.
Platonism is the view that there exist such things as abstract objects — where an abstract object is an object that does not exist in space or time and which is therefore entirely non-physical and non-mental. Platonism in this sense is a contemporary view.
This modern Platonism (sometimes rendered "platonism," with a lower-case p, to distinguish it from the ancient schools) has been endorsed in one way or another at one time or another by numerous philosophers. In late modern philosophy, Platonism was defended by logicist Gottlob Frege. Contemporary analytic philosophers who espoused Platonism in metaphysics include Bertrand Russell, Alonzo Church, Kurt Gödel, W. V. O. Quine, David Kaplan, Saul Kripke, and Edward Zalta. Modern Platonism recognizes a range of objects, including numbers, sets, truth values, properties, types, propositions and meanings (see abstract object theory). Iris Murdoch espoused Platonism in moral philosophy in her 1970 book The Sovereignty of Good.
In contemporary Continental philosophy, Edmund Husserl's arguments against psychologism are believed to derive from a Platonist conception of logic, which he had discovered in the work of his mentor Bernard Bolzano around 1890/91—Husserl explicitly mentioned Bolzano, G. W. Leibniz and Hermann Lotze as inspirations for his position in his Logical Investigations (1900–1). Other prominent contemporary Continental philosophers interested in Platonism in a general sense include Leo Strauss, Simone Weil, and Alain Badiou.
Greek philosophers—who believed that spirit is good but matter is evil—also influenced the church, says Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven (Tyndale, 2004). He coined the term "Christoplatonism" to describe that kind of dualism, which directly contradicts the biblical record of God calling everything he created "good."
Abstract object theory is a branch of metaphysics regarding abstract objects. Originally devised by metaphysicist Edward Zalta in 1999, the theory was an expansion of mathematical Platonism.
Abstract Objects: An Introduction to Axiomatic Metaphysics (1983) is the title of a publication by Edward Zalta that outlines abstract object theory.On Zalta's account, there are two modes of predication: some objects (the ordinary concrete ones around us, like tables and chairs) "exemplify" properties, while others (abstract objects like numbers, and what others would call "non-existent objects", like the round square, and the mountain made entirely of gold) merely "encode" them. While the objects that exemplify properties are discovered through traditional empirical means, a simple set of axioms allows us to know about objects that encode properties. For every set of properties, there is exactly one object that encodes exactly that set of properties and no others. This allows for a formalized ontology.Cambridge Platonists
The Cambridge Platonists were a group of theologians and philosophers at the University of Cambridge in the middle of the 17th century. The leading figures were Ralph Cudworth and Henry More.Commentaries on Plato
Commentaries on Plato refers to the great mass of literature produced, especially in the ancient and medieval world, to explain and clarify the works of Plato. Many Platonist philosophers in the centuries following Plato sought to clarify and summarise his thoughts, but it was during the Roman era, that the Neoplatonists, in particular, wrote many commentaries on individual dialogues of Plato, many of which survive to the present day.Emanationism
Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology or cosmogony of certain religious or philosophical systems. Emanation, from the Latin emanare meaning "to flow from" or "to pour forth or out of", is the mode by which all things are derived from the first reality, or principle. All things are derived from the first reality or perfect God by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first reality or God, and at every step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine. Emanationism is a transcendent principle from which everything is derived, and is opposed to both creationism (wherein the universe is created by a sentient God who is separate from creation) and materialism (which posits no underlying subjective and/or ontological nature behind phenomena being immanent).Hellenistic philosophy
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic period following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.Middle Platonism
Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC – when Antiochus of Ascalon rejected the scepticism of the New Academy – until the development of Neoplatonism under Plotinus in the 3rd century. Middle Platonism absorbed many doctrines from the rival Peripatetic and Stoic schools. The pre-eminent philosopher in this period, Plutarch (c. 45–120), defended the freedom of the will and the immortality of the soul. He sought to show that God, in creating the world, had transformed matter, as the receptacle of evil, into the divine soul of the world, where it continued to operate as the source of all evil. God is a transcendent being, which operates through divine intermediaries, which are the gods and daemons of popular religion. Numenius of Apamea (c. 160) combined Platonism with Neopythagoreanism and other eastern philosophies, in a move which would prefigure the development of Neoplatonism.Moral realism
Moral realism (also ethical realism or moral Platonism) is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world (that is, features independent of subjective opinion), some of which may be true to the extent that they report those features accurately. This makes moral realism a non-nihilist form of ethical cognitivism (which accepts that ethical sentences express propositions and can therefore be evaluated as true or false) with an ontological orientation, standing in opposition to all forms of moral anti-realism and moral skepticism, including ethical subjectivism (which denies that moral propositions refer to objective facts), error theory (which denies that any moral propositions are true); and non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions at all). Within moral realism, the two main subdivisions are ethical naturalism and ethical non-naturalism.
Many philosophers claim that moral realism may be dated back at least to Plato as a philosophical doctrine,
and that it is a fully defensible form of moral doctrine. A survey from 2009 involving 3,226 respondents found that 56% of philosophers accept or lean towards moral realism (28%: anti-realism; 16%: other). Some notable examples of robust moral realists include David Brink, John McDowell, Peter Railton, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Michael Smith, Terence Cuneo, Russ Shafer-Landau, G. E. Moore, John Finnis, Richard Boyd, Nicholas Sturgeon, Thomas Nagel and Derek Parfit. Norman Geras has argued that Karl Marx was a moral realist. Moral realism has been studied in the various philosophical and practical applications.Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism is a term used to designate a strand of Platonic philosophy that emerged in the third century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as it encapsulates a chain of thinkers which began with Ammonious Saccas and his student Plotinus (c. 204/5 – 270 AD) and which stretches to the sixth century AD. Even though Neoplatonism primarily circumscribes the thinkers who are now labeled Neoplatonists and not their ideas, there are some ideas that are common to Neoplatonic systems, for example, the monistic idea that all of reality can be derived from a single principle, "the One".
After Plotinus there were three distinct periods in the history of Neoplatonism: the work of his student Porphyry; that of Iamblichus and his school in Syria; and the period in the fifth and sixth centuries, when the Academies in Alexandria and Athens flourished.Neoplatonism had an enduring influence on the subsequent history of philosophy. In the Middle Ages, Neoplatonic ideas were studied and discussed by Muslim, Christian, and Jewish thinkers. In the Islamic cultural sphere, Neoplatonic texts were available in Arabic translations, and notable thinkers such as al-Farabi, Solomon ibn Gabirol (Avicebron), Avicenna, and Moses Maimonides incorporated neoplatonic elements into their own thinking. Latin translations of late ancient neoplatonic texts were first available in the Christian West in the ninth century, and became influential from the twelfth century onward. Thomas Aquinas had direct access to works by Proclus, Simplicius and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and he knew about other Neoplatonists, such as Plotinus and Porphyry, through secondhand sources. The mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260 – c. 1328) was also influenced by Neoplatonism, propagating a contemplative way of life which points to the Godhead beyond the nameable God.
Neoplatonism also had a strong influence on the Perennial philosophy of the Italian Renaissance thinkers Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, and continues through nineteenth-century Universalism and modern-day spirituality and nondualism.Neoplatonism and Christianity
Neoplatonism was a major influence on Christian theology throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the West. This was due to St. Augustine of Hippo, who was influenced by the early Neoplatonists Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as the works of the Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, who was influenced by later Neoplatonists, such as Proclus and Damascius.Neoplatonism and Gnosticism
Gnosticism refers to a collection of religious groups originating in Jewish religiosity in Alexandria in the first few centuries CE. Neoplatonism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century, based on the teachings of Plato and some of his early followers. While Gnosticism was influenced by Middle Platonism, neo-Platonists from the third century onward rejected Gnosticism.Philosopher king
According to Plato, a philosopher king is a ruler who possesses both a love of knowledge, as well as intelligence, reliability, and a willingness to live a simple life. Such are the rulers of his utopian city Kallipolis. For such a community to ever come into being, "philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize" (The Republic, 5.473d).Philosophy of mathematics
The philosophy of mathematics is the branch of philosophy that studies the assumptions, foundations, and implications of mathematics, and purports to provide a viewpoint of the nature and methodology of mathematics, and to understand the place of mathematics in people's lives. The logical and structural nature of mathematics itself makes this study both broad and unique among its philosophical counterparts.Plato
Plato (; PLAY-toe Greek: Πλάτων Plátōn, pronounced [plá.tɔːn] PLOT-own in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece and the founder of the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. The so-called Neoplatonism of philosophers like Plotinus and Porphyry influenced Saint Augustine and thus Christianity.
Plato was the innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. Plato also appears to have been the founder of Western political philosophy. His most famous contribution bears his name, Platonism (also ambiguously called either Platonic realism or Platonic idealism), the doctrine of the Forms known by pure reason to provide a realist solution to the problem of universals. He is also the namesake of Platonic love and the Platonic solids.
His own most decisive philosophical influences are usually thought to have been along with Socrates, the pre-Socratics Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides, although few of his predecessors' works remain extant and much of what we know about these figures today derives from Plato himself. Unlike the work of nearly all of his contemporaries, Plato's entire oeuvre is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years. Although their popularity has fluctuated over the years, the works of Plato have never been without readers since the time they were written.Platonic idealism
Platonic idealism usually refers to Plato's theory of forms or doctrine of ideas.Platonic realism
Platonic realism is a philosophical term usually used to refer to the idea of realism regarding the existence of universals or abstract objects after the Greek philosopher Plato. As universals were considered by Plato to be ideal forms, this stance is ambiguously also called Platonic idealism. This should not be confused with idealism as presented by philosophers such as George Berkeley: as Platonic abstractions are not spatial, temporal, or mental, they are not compatible with the later idealism's emphasis on mental existence. Plato's Forms include numbers and geometrical figures, making them a theory of mathematical realism; they also include the Form of the Good, making them in addition a theory of ethical realism.
Plato expounded his own articulation of realism regarding the existence of universals in his dialogue The Republic and elsewhere, notably in the Phaedo, the Phaedrus, the Meno and the Parmenides.Platonism in the Renaissance
Platonism, especially in its Neoplatonist form, underwent a revival in the Renaissance, as part of a general revival of interest in Classical antiquity. Interest in Platonism was especially strong in Florence under the Medici.Sage (philosophy)
A sage (Ancient Greek: σοφός, sophos), in classical philosophy, is someone who has attained the wisdom which a philosopher seeks. The first to make this distinction is Plato, through the character of Socrates, within the Symposium. While analyzing the concept of love, Socrates concludes Love is that which lacks the object it seeks. Therefore, the philosopher (Ancient Greek: φιλόσοφος, meaning lover of wisdom) does not have the wisdom sought, while the sage, on the other hand, does not love or seek wisdom, for it is already possessed. Socrates then examines the two categories of persons who do not partake in philosophy:
Gods and sages, because they are wise;
Senseless people, because they think they are wise.The position of the philosopher is between these two groups. The philosopher is not wise, but possesses the self-awareness of lacking wisdom, and thus pursues it.
Alternatively, the sage is one who lives "according to an ideal which transcends the everyday." Plato is also the first to develop this notion of the sage in various works. Within The Republic, Plato indicates that when a friend of a sage dies, the sage "will not think that for a good man... death is a terrible thing." In the Theaetetus, Plato defines the sage as one who becomes "righteous and holy and wise."The term has also been used interchangeably with a 'good person' (Ancient Greek: ἀγαθός, agathos), and a 'virtuous person' (Ancient Greek: σπουδαῖος, spoudaios).Socratic dialogue
Socratic dialogue (Ancient Greek: Σωκρατικὸς λόγος) is a genre of literary prose developed in Greece at the turn of the fourth century BC. It is preserved in the works of Plato and Xenophon. The discussion of moral and philosophical problems between two or more characters in a dialogue is an illustration of one version of the Socratic method. The dialogues are either dramatic or narrative and Socrates is often the main participant.Substantial form
A theory of substantial forms asserts that forms (or ideas) organize matter and make it intelligible. Substantial forms are the source of properties, order, unity, identity, and information about objects.
The concept of substantial forms dominates ancient Greek philosophy and medieval philosophy, but has fallen out of favour in modern philosophy.
The idea of substantial forms has been abandoned for a mechanical, or "bottom-up" theory of organization. However, such mechanistic treatments have been criticized for the same reasons atomism has received criticism, viz., for merely denying the existence of certain kinds of substantial forms in favor of others (here, that of atoms, which are then thought to be arranged into things possessing accidental forms) and not denying substantial forms as such, an impossible move.
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