Theory of forms

The theory of Forms or theory of Ideas[1][2][3] is a philosophical theory, concept, or world-view, attributed to Plato, that the physical world is not as real or true as timeless, absolute, unchangeable ideas.[4] According to this theory, ideas in this sense, often capitalized and translated as "Ideas" or "Forms",[5] are the non-physical essences of all things, of which objects and matter in the physical world are merely imitations. Plato speaks of these entities only through the characters (primarily Socrates) of his dialogues who sometimes suggest that these Forms are the only objects of study that can provide knowledge. The theory itself is contested from within Plato's dialogues, and it is a general point of controversy in philosophy. Whether the theory represents Plato's own views is held in doubt by modern scholarship.[6] However, the theory is considered a classical solution to the problem of universals.

The early Greek concept of form precedes attested philosophical usage and is represented by a number of words mainly having to do with vision, sight, and appearance. Plato uses these aspects of sight and appearance from the early Greek concept of the form in his dialogues to explain the Forms and the Good.

Forms

The meaning of the term εἶδος (eidos), "visible form", and related terms μορφή (morphē), "shape",[7] and φαινόμενα (phainomena), "appearances", from φαίνω (phainō), "shine", Indo-European *bʰeh₂- or *bhā-[8] remained stable over the centuries until the beginning of philosophy, when they became equivocal, acquiring additional specialized philosophic meanings. The pre-Socratic philosophers, starting with Thales, noted that appearances change, and began to ask what the thing that changes "really" is. The answer was substance, which stands under the changes and is the actually existing thing being seen. The status of appearances now came into question. What is the form really and how is that related to substance?

The Forms are expounded upon in Plato's dialogues and general speech, in that every object or quality in reality has a form: dogs, human beings, mountains, colors, courage, love, and goodness. Form answers the question, "What is that?" Plato was going a step further and asking what Form itself is. He supposed that the object was essentially or "really" the Form and that the phenomena were mere shadows mimicking the Form; that is, momentary portrayals of the Form under different circumstances. The problem of universals – how can one thing in general be many things in particular – was solved by presuming that Form was a distinct singular thing but caused plural representations of itself in particular objects. For example, in the dialogue Parmenides, Socrates states: "Nor, again, if a person were to show that all is one by partaking of one, and at the same time many by partaking of many, would that be very astonishing. But if he were to show me that the absolute one was many, or the absolute many one, I should be truly amazed."[9]:p129 Matter is considered particular in itself. For Plato, forms, such as beauty, are more real than any objects that imitate them. Though the forms are timeless and unchanging, physical things are in a constant change of existence. Where forms are unqualified perfection, physical things are qualified and conditioned.[10]

These Forms are the essences of various objects: they are that without which a thing would not be the kind of thing it is. For example, there are countless tables in the world but the Form of tableness is at the core; it is the essence of all of them.[11] Plato's Socrates held that the world of Forms is transcendent to our own world (the world of substances) and also is the essential basis of reality. Super-ordinate to matter, Forms are the most pure of all things. Furthermore, he believed that true knowledge/intelligence is the ability to grasp the world of Forms with one's mind.[12]

A Form is aspatial (transcendent to space) and atemporal (transcendent to time). Atemporal means that it does not exist within any time period, rather it provides the formal basis for time. It therefore formally grounds beginning, persisting and ending. It is neither eternal in the sense of existing forever, nor mortal, of limited duration. It exists transcendent to time altogether.[13] Forms are aspatial in that they have no spatial dimensions, and thus no orientation in space, nor do they even (like the point) have a location.[14] They are non-physical, but they are not in the mind. Forms are extra-mental (i.e. real in the strictest sense of the word).[15]

A Form is an objective "blueprint" of perfection.[16] The Forms are perfect and unchanging representations of objects and qualities. For example the Form of beauty or the Form of a triangle. For the form of a triangle say there is a triangle drawn on a blackboard. A triangle is a polygon with 3 sides. The triangle as it is on the blackboard is far from perfect. However, it is only the intelligibility of the Form "triangle" that allows us to know the drawing on the chalkboard is a triangle, and the Form "triangle" is perfect and unchanging. It is exactly the same whenever anyone chooses to consider it; however, time only effects the observer and not of the triangle. It follows that the same attributes would exist for the Form of beauty and for all Forms.

Etymology

The words, εἶδος (eidos) and ἰδέα (idea) come from the Indo-European root *weyd- or *weid- "see" (cognate with Sanskrit vétti). Eidos (though not idea) is already attested in texts of the Homeric era, the earliest Greek literature. This transliteration and the translation tradition of German and Latin lead to the expression "theory of Ideas." The word is however not the English "idea," which is a mental concept only.

The theory of matter and form (today's hylomorphism) started with Plato and possibly germinal in some of the presocratic writings. The forms were considered as being "in" something else, which Plato called nature (physis). The latter seemed as carved "wood", ὕλη (hyle) in Greek, corresponding to materia in Latin, from which the English word "matter" is derived, shaped by receiving (or exchanging) forms.

Terminology

Allegory of the Cave blank
In the Allegory of the Cave, the objects that are seen are not real, according to Plato, but literally mimic the real Forms.

The English word "form" may be used to translate two distinct concepts that concerned Plato—the outward "form" or appearance of something, and "Form" in a new, technical nature, that never

...assumes a form like that of any of the things which enter into her; ... But the forms which enter into and go out of her are the likenesses of real existences modelled after their patterns in a wonderful and inexplicable manner....[17]

The objects that are seen, according to Plato, are not real, but literally mimic the real Forms. In the Allegory of the Cave expressed in Republic, the things that are ordinarily perceived in the world are characterized as shadows of the real things, which are not perceived directly. That which the observer understands when he views the world mimics the archetypes of the many types and properties (that is, of universals) of things observed.

Intelligible realm and separation of the Forms

Plato often invokes, particularly in his dialogues Phaedo, Republic and Phaedrus, poetic language to illustrate the mode in which the Forms are said to exist. Near the end of the Phaedo, for example, Plato describes the world of Forms as a pristine region of the physical universe located above the surface of the Earth (Phd. 109a-111c). In the Phaedrus the Forms are in a "place beyond heaven" (huperouranios topos) (Phdr. 247c ff); and in the Republic the sensible world is contrasted with the intelligible realm (noēton topon) in the famous Allegory of the Cave.

It would be a mistake to take Plato's imagery as positing the intelligible world as a literal physical space apart from this one.[18][19] Plato emphasizes that the Forms are not beings that extend in space (or time), but subsist apart from any physical space whatsoever.[20] Thus we read in the Symposium of the Form of Beauty: "It is not anywhere in another thing, as in an animal, or in earth, or in heaven, or in anything else, but itself by itself with itself," (211b). And in the Timaeus Plato writes: "Since these things are so, we must agree that that which keeps its own form unchangingly, which has not been brought into being and is not destroyed, which neither receives into itself anything else from anywhere else, nor itself enters into anything anywhere, is one thing," (52a, emphasis added).

Ideal state

According to Plato, Socrates postulated a world of ideal Forms, which he admitted were impossible to know. Nevertheless, he formulated a very specific description of that world, which did not match his metaphysical principles. Corresponding to the world of Forms is our world, that of the shadows, an imitation of the real one.[21] Just as shadows exist only because of the light of a fire, our world exists as, "the offspring of the good".[22] Our world is modeled after the patterns of the Forms. The function of humans in our world is therefore to imitate the ideal world as much as possible which, importantly, includes imitating the good, i.e. acting morally.

Plato lays out much of this theory in the "Republic" where, in an attempt to define Justice, he considers many topics including the constitution of the ideal state. While this state, and the Forms, do not exist on earth, because their imitations do, Plato says we are able to form certain well-founded opinions about them, through a theory called recollection.[23]

The republic is a greater imitation of Justice:[24]

Our aim in founding the state was not the disproportional happiness of any one class,[25] but the greatest happiness of the whole; we thought that in a state ordered with a view to the good of the whole we should be most likely to find justice.

The key to not know how such a state might come into existence is the word "founding" (oikidzomen), which is used of colonization. It was customary in such instances to receive a constitution from an elected or appointed lawgiver; however in Athens, lawgivers were appointed to reform the constitution from time to time (for example, Draco, Solon). In speaking of reform, Socrates uses the word "purge" (diakathairountes)[26] in the same sense that Forms exist purged of matter.

The purged society is a regulated one presided over by philosophers educated by the state, who maintain three non-hereditary classes[27] as required: the tradesmen (including merchants and professionals), the guardians (militia and police) and the philosophers (legislators, administrators and the philosopher-king). Class is assigned at the end of education, when the state institutes individuals in their occupation. Socrates expects class to be hereditary but he allows for mobility according to natural ability. The criteria for selection by the academics is ability to perceive forms (the analog of English "intelligence") and martial spirit as well as predisposition or aptitude.

The views of Socrates on the proper order of society are certainly contrary to Athenian values of the time and must have produced a shock effect, intentional or not, accounting for the animosity against him. For example, reproduction is much too important to be left in the hands of untrained individuals: "... the possession of women and the procreation of children ... will ... follow the general principle that friends have all things in common, ...."[28] The family is therefore to be abolished and the children – whatever their parentage – to be raised by the appointed mentors of the state.

Their genetic fitness is to be monitored by the physicians: "... he (Asclepius, a culture hero) did not want to lengthen out good-for-nothing lives, or have weak fathers begetting weaker sons – if a man was not able to live in the ordinary way he had no business to cure him ...."[29] Physicians minister to the healthy rather than cure the sick: "... (Physicians) will minister to better natures, giving health both of soul and of body; but those who are diseased in their bodies they will leave to die, and the corrupt and incurable souls they will put an end to themselves."[30] Nothing at all in Greek medicine so far as can be known supports the airy (in the Athenian view) propositions of Socrates. Yet it is hard to be sure of Socrates' real views considering that there are no works written by Socrates himself. There are two common ideas pertaining to the beliefs and character of Socrates: the first being the Mouthpiece Theory where writers use Socrates in dialogue as a mouthpiece to get their own views across. However, since most of what we know about Socrates comes from plays, most of the Platonic plays are accepted as the more accurate Socrates since Plato was a direct student of Socrates.

Perhaps the most important principle is that just as the Good must be supreme so must its image, the state, take precedence over individuals in everything. For example, guardians "... will have to be watched at every age in order that we may see whether they preserve their resolution and never, under the influence either of force or enchantment, forget or cast off their sense of duty to the state."[31] This concept of requiring guardians of guardians perhaps suffers from the Third Man weakness (see below): guardians require guardians require guardians, ad infinitum. The ultimate trusty guardian is missing. Socrates does not hesitate to face governmental issues many later governors have found formidable: "Then if anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the state should be the persons, and they ... may be allowed to lie for the public good."[32]

Plato's conception of Forms actually differs from dialogue to dialogue, and in certain respects it is never fully explained, so many aspects of the theory are open to interpretation. Forms are first introduced in the Phaedo, but in that dialogue the concept is simply referred to as something the participants are already familiar with, and the theory itself is not developed. Similarly, in the Republic, Plato relies on the concept of Forms as the basis of many of his arguments but feels no need to argue for the validity of the theory itself or to explain precisely what Forms are. Commentators have been left with the task of explaining what Forms are and how visible objects participate in them, and there has been no shortage of disagreement. Some scholars advance the view that Forms are paradigms, perfect examples on which the imperfect world is modeled. Others interpret Forms as universals, so that the Form of Beauty, for example, is that quality that all beautiful things share. Yet others interpret Forms as "stuffs," the conglomeration of all instances of a quality in the visible world. Under this interpretation, we could say there is a little beauty in one person, a little beauty in another—all the beauty in the world put together is the Form of Beauty. Plato himself was aware of the ambiguities and inconsistencies in his Theory of Forms, as is evident from the incisive criticism he makes of his own theory in the Parmenides.

Evidence of Forms

Plato's main evidence for the existence of Forms is intuitive only and is as follows.

Human perception

We call both the sky and blue jeans by the same color, blue. However, clearly a pair of jeans and the sky are not the same color; moreover, the wavelengths of light reflected by the sky at every location and all the millions of blue jeans in every state of fading constantly change, and yet we somehow have a consensus of the basic form Blueness as it applies to them. Says Plato:[33][34]

But if the very nature of knowledge changes, at the time when the change occurs there will be no knowledge, and, according to this view, there will be no one to know and nothing to be known: but if that which knows and that which is known exist ever, and the beautiful and the good and every other thing also exist, then I do not think that they can resemble a process of flux, as we were just now supposing.

Plato believed that long before our bodies ever existed, our souls existed and inhabited heaven, where they became directly acquainted with the forms themselves. Real knowledge, to him, was knowledge of the forms. But knowledge of the forms cannot be gained through sensory experience because the forms are not in the physical world. Therefore, our real knowledge of the forms must be the memory of our initial acquaintance with the forms in heaven. Therefore, what we seem to learn is in fact just remembering.[35]

Perfection

No one has ever seen a perfect circle, nor a perfectly straight line, yet everyone knows what a circle and a straight line are. Plato utilizes the tool-maker's blueprint as evidence that Forms are real:[36]

... when a man has discovered the instrument which is naturally adapted to each work, he must express this natural form, and not others which he fancies, in the material ....

Perceived circles or lines are not exactly circular or straight, and true circles and lines could never be detected since by definition they are sets of infinitely small points. But if the perfect ones were not real, how could they direct the manufacturer?

Criticisms of Platonic Forms

Self-criticism

Plato was well aware of the limitations of the theory, as he offered his own criticisms of it in his dialogue Parmenides. There Socrates is portrayed as a young philosopher acting as junior counterfoil to aged Parmenides. To a certain extent it is tongue-in-cheek as the older Socrates will have solutions to some of the problems that are made to puzzle the younger.

The dialogue does present a very real difficulty with the Theory of Forms, which Plato most likely only viewed as problems for later thought. These criticisms were later emphasized by Aristotle in rejecting an independently existing world of Forms. It is worth noting that Aristotle was a pupil and then a junior colleague of Plato; it is entirely possible that the presentation of Parmenides "sets up" for Aristotle; that is, they agreed to disagree.

One difficulty lies in the conceptualization of the "participation" of an object in a form (or Form). The young Socrates conceives of his solution to the problem of the universals in another metaphor, which though wonderfully apt, remains to be elucidated:[37]

Nay, but the idea may be like the day which is one and the same in many places at once, and yet continuous with itself; in this way each idea may be one and the same in all at the same time.

But exactly how is a Form like the day in being everywhere at once? The solution calls for a distinct form, in which the particular instances, which are not identical to the form, participate; i.e., the form is shared out somehow like the day to many places. The concept of "participate", represented in Greek by more than one word, is as obscure in Greek as it is in English. Plato hypothesized that distinctness meant existence as an independent being, thus opening himself to the famous third man argument of Parmenides,[38] which proves that forms cannot independently exist and be participated.[39]

If universal and particulars – say man or greatness – all exist and are the same then the Form is not one but is multiple. If they are only like each other then they contain a form that is the same and others that are different. Thus if we presume that the Form and a particular are alike then there must be another, or third Form, man or greatness by possession of which they are alike. An infinite regression would then result; that is, an endless series of third men. The ultimate participant, greatness, rendering the entire series great, is missing. Moreover, any Form is not unitary but is composed of infinite parts, none of which is the proper Form.

The young Socrates (some may say the young Plato) did not give up the Theory of Forms over the Third Man but took another tack, that the particulars do not exist as such. Whatever they are, they "mime" the Forms, appearing to be particulars. This is a clear dip into representationalism, that we cannot observe the objects as they are in themselves but only their representations. That view has the weakness that if only the mimes can be observed then the real Forms cannot be known at all and the observer can have no idea of what the representations are supposed to represent or that they are representations.

Socrates' later answer would be that men already know the Forms because they were in the world of Forms before birth. The mimes only recall these Forms to memory.[40] The comedian Aristophanes wrote a play, The Clouds, poking fun of Socrates with his head in the clouds.

Aristotelian criticism

Sanzio 01 Plato Aristotle
The central image from Raphael's The School of Athens (1509-1511), depicting Plato (left) and Aristotle (right). Plato is depicted pointing upwards, in reference to his belief in the higher Forms, while Aristotle disagrees and points downwards to the here-and-now, in reference to his belief in empiricism.

The topic of Aristotle's criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms is a large one and continues to expand. Rather than quote Plato, Aristotle often summarized. Classical commentaries thus recommended Aristotle as an introduction to Plato. As a historian of prior thought, Aristotle was invaluable, however this was secondary to his own dialectic and in some cases he treats purported implications as if Plato had actually mentioned them, or even defended them. In examining Aristotle's criticism of The Forms, it is helpful to understand Aristotle's own hylomorphic forms, by which he intends to salvage much of Plato's theory.

In the summary passage quoted above[41] Plato distinguishes between real and non-real "existing things", where the latter term is used of substance. The figures that the artificer places in the gold are not substance, but gold is. Aristotle stated that, for Plato, all things studied by the sciences have Form and asserted that Plato considered only substance to have Form. Uncharitably, this leads him to something like a contradiction: Forms existing as the objects of science, but not-existing as non-substance. Scottish philosopher W.D. Ross objects to this as a mischaracterization of Plato.[42]

Plato did not claim to know where the line between Form and non-Form is to be drawn. As Cornford points out,[43] those things about which the young Socrates (and Plato) asserted "I have often been puzzled about these things"[44] (in reference to Man, Fire and Water), appear as Forms in later works. However, others do not, such as Hair, Mud, Dirt. Of these, Socrates is made to assert, "it would be too absurd to suppose that they have a Form."

Ross[42] also objects to Aristotle's criticism that Form Otherness accounts for the differences between Forms and purportedly leads to contradictory forms: the Not-tall, the Not-beautiful, etc. That particulars participate in a Form is for Aristotle much too vague to permit analysis. By one way in which he unpacks the concept, the Forms would cease to be of one essence due to any multiple participation. As Ross indicates, Plato didn't make that leap from "A is not B" to "A is Not-B." Otherness would only apply to its own particulars and not to those of other Forms. For example, there is no Form Not-Greek, only particulars of Form Otherness that somehow suppress Form Greek.

Regardless of whether Socrates meant the particulars of Otherness yield Not-Greek, Not-tall, Not-beautiful, etc., the particulars would operate specifically rather than generally, each somehow yielding only one exclusion.

Plato had postulated that we know Forms through a remembrance of the soul's past lives and Aristotle's arguments against this treatment of epistemology are compelling. For Plato, particulars somehow do not exist, and, on the face of it, "that which is non-existent cannot be known".[45] See Metaphysics III 3–4.[46]

Dialogues that discuss Forms

The theory is presented in the following dialogues:[47]

71–81, 85–86: The discovery (or "recollection") of knowledge as latent in the soul, pointing forward to the theory of Forms
389–390: The archetype as used by craftsmen
439–440: The problem of knowing the Forms.
210–211: The archetype of Beauty.
73–80: The theory of recollection restated as knowledge of the Forms in soul before birth in the body.
109–111: The myth of the afterlife.
100c: The theory of absolute beauty
  • Book III
402–403: Education the pursuit of the Forms.
  • Book V
472–483: Philosophy the love of the Forms. The philosopher-king must rule.
  • Books VI–VII
500–517: Philosopher-guardians as students of the Beautiful and Just implement archetypical order.
Metaphor of the Sun: The sun is to sight as Good is to understanding.
Allegory of the Cave: The struggle to understand forms like men in cave guessing at shadows in firelight.
  • Books IX–X
589–599: The ideal state and its citizens. Extensive treatise covering citizenship, government and society with suggestions for laws imitating the Good, the True, the Just, etc.
248–250: Reincarnation according to knowledge of the true
265–266: The unity problem in thought and nature.
129–135: Participatory solution of unity problem. Things partake of archetypal like and unlike, one and many, etc. The nature of the participation (Third man argument). Forms not actually in the thing. The problem of their unknowability.
184–186: Universals understood by mind and not perceived by senses.
246–248: True essence a Form. Effective solution to participation problem.
251–259: The problem with being as a Form; if it is participatory then non-being must exist and be being.
27–52: The design of the universe, including numbers and physics. Some of its patterns. Definition of matter.
14-18: Unity problem: one and many, parts and whole.
342–345: The epistemology of Forms. The Seventh Letter is possibly spurious.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Modern English textbooks and translations prefer "theory of Form" to "theory of Ideas", but the latter has a long and respect tradition starting with Cicero and continuing in German philosophy until present, and some English philosophers prefer this in English too. See W. D. Ross, Plato's Theory of Ideas (1951).
  2. ^ The name of this aspect of Plato's thought is not modern and has not been extracted from certain dialogues by modern scholars. However, it is attributed to Plato without any direct textual evidence that Plato himself holds the views of the speakers of the dialogues. The term was used at least as early as Diogenes Laërtius, who called it (Plato's) "Theory of Ideas:" Πλάτων ἐν τῇ περὶ τῶν ἰδεῶν ὑπολήψει..., "Plato". Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Book III. p. Paragraph 15.
  3. ^ Plato uses many different words for what is traditionally called form in English translations and idea in German and Latin translations (Cicero). These include idéa, morphē, eîdos, and parádeigma, but also génos, phýsis, and ousía. He also uses expressions such as to x auto, "the x itself" or kath' auto "in itself". See Christian Schäfer: Idee/Form/Gestalt/Wesen, in Platon-Lexikon, Darmstadt 2007, p. 157.
  4. ^ Forms (usually given a capital F) were properties or essences of things, treated as non-material abstract, but substantial, entities. They were eternal, changeless, supremely real, and independent of ordinary objects that had their being and properties by 'participating' in them.
  5. ^ "Chapter 28: Form" of The Great Ideas: A Synopticon of Great Books of the Western World (Vol. II). Encyclopædia Britannica (1952), p. 526–542. This source states that Form or Idea get capitalized according to this convention when they refer "to that which is separate from the characteristics of material things and from the ideas in our mind."
  6. ^ Watt, Stephen (1997). "Plato: Republic". London: Wordsworth Editions: xiv–xvi. ISBN 1-85326-483-0. |contribution= ignored (help)
  7. ^ Possibly cognate with Sanskrit bráhman. See Thieme (1952): Bráhman, ZDMG, vol. 102, p. 128."ZDMG online"..
  8. ^ "*bhā-". American Heritage Dictionary: Fourth Edition: Appendix I. 2000.
  9. ^ Parmenides.
  10. ^ Kidder, D. S. and Oppenheim, N. D. (2006), The Intellectual Devotional, p27, Borders Group, Inc, Ann Arbor, ISBN 978-1-60961-205-4.
  11. ^ Cratylus 389: "For neither does every smith, although he may be making the same instrument for the same purpose, make them all of the same iron. The form must be the same, but the material may vary ...."
  12. ^ For example, Theaetetus 185d–e: "...the mind in itself is its own instrument for contemplating the common terms that apply to everything." "Common terms" here refers to existence, non-existence, likeness, unlikeness, sameness, difference, unity and number.
  13. ^ The creation of the universe is the creation of time: "For there were no days and nights and months and years ... but when he (God) constructed the heaven he created them also." — Timaeus, paragraph 37. For the creation God used "the pattern of the unchangeable," which is "that which is eternal." — paragraph 29. Therefore "eternal" – to aïdion, "the everlasting" – as applied to Form means atemporal.
  14. ^ Space answers to matter, the place-holder of form: "... and there is a third nature (besides Form and form), which is space (chōros), and is eternal (aei "always", certainly not atemporal), and admits not of destruction and provides a home for all created things ... we say of all existence that it must of necessity be in some place and occupy space ...." — Timaeus, paragraph 52. Some readers will have long since remembered that in Aristotle time and space are accidental forms. Plato does not make this distinction and concerns himself mainly with essential form. In Plato, if time and space were admitted to be form, time would be atemporal and space aspatial.
  15. ^ These terms produced with the English prefix a- are not ancient. For the usage refer to "a- (2)". Online Etymology Dictionary. They are however customary terms of modern metaphysics; for example, see Beck, Martha C. (1999). Plato's Self-Corrective Development of the Concepts of Soul, Form and Immortality in Three Arguments of the Phaedo. Edwin Mellon Press. p. 148. ISBN 0-7734-7950-3. and see Hawley, Dr. Katherine (2001). How Things Persist. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Chapter 1. ISBN 0-19-924913-X.
  16. ^ For example, Timaeus 28: "The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect ...."
  17. ^ Plato's Republic
  18. ^ "No sensible man would insist that these things are as I have described them..." (Phd. 114d).
  19. ^ "there is no Platonic 'elsewhere', similar to the Christian 'elsewhere'." (Iris Murdoch, "Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals" (London, Chatto & Windus 1992) 399).
  20. ^ Plato's Middle Period Metaphysics and Epistemology
  21. ^ Cf. the Analogy of the Cave, Rep. 514a–520a.
  22. ^ Republic, 508b trans. Grube
  23. ^ cf. Phaedo, Meno, Phaedrus
  24. ^ Paragraph 420.
  25. ^ The word is ethnos, "people". For the full range of meanings consult the American Heritage Dictionary online under ethnic.
  26. ^ Paragraph 399e line 5.
  27. ^ "Types" (genē) rather than the English economic classes or the favored populations of the real Greek cities.
  28. ^ Paragraph 424.
  29. ^ Paragraph 407.
  30. ^ Paragraph 410.
  31. ^ Paragraph 412.
  32. ^ Paragraph 389.
  33. ^ Cratylus, paragraph 440.
  34. ^ Aristotle in Metaphysics Α987a.29–b.14 and Μ1078b9–32 says that Plato devised the Forms to answer a weakness in the doctrine of Heraclitus, who held that nothing exists, but everything is in a state of flow. If nothing exists then nothing can be known. It is possible that Plato took the Socratic search for definitions and extrapolated it into a distinct metaphysical theory. Little is known of the historical Socrates' own views, but the theory of Forms is likely a Platonic innovation.
  35. ^ Kidder, D. S. and Oppenheim, N. D, (2006), The Intellectual Devotional, p27, Borders Group, Inc, Ann Arbor. ISBN 978-1-60961-205-4
  36. ^ Cratylus, paragraph 389.
  37. ^ Parmenides 131.
  38. ^ The name is from Aristotle, who says in Metaphysics A.IX.990b.15: "(The argument) they call the third man." A summary of the argument and the quote from Aristotle can be found in the venerable Grote, George (1880). "Aristotle: Second Edition with Additions". London: John Murray: 559–60 note b. |contribution= ignored (help) (downloadable Google Books). Grote points out that Aristotle lifted this argument from the Parmenides of Plato; certainly, his words indicate the argument was already well-known under that name.
  39. ^ Analysis of the argument has been going on for quite a number of centuries now and some analyses are complex, technical and perhaps tedious for the general reader. Those who are interested in the more technical analyses can find more of a presentation in Hales, Steven D. (1991). "The Recurring Problem of the Third Man" (PDF). Auslegung. 17 (1): 67–80. and Durham, Michael (1997). "Two Men and the Third Man" (PDF). The Dualist: Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy (Stanford University). 4.
  40. ^ Plato to a large extent identifies what today is called insight with recollection: "whenever on seeing one thing you conceived another whether like or unlike, there must surely have been an act of recollection?" — Phaedo, paragraph 229. Thus geometric reasoning on the part of persons who know no geometry is not insight but is recollection. He does recognize insight: "... with a sudden flash there shines forth understanding about every problem ..." (with regard to "the course of scrutiny") — The Seventh Letter 344b. Unfortunately the hidden world can in no way be verified in this world and its otherworldness can only be a matter of speculation. Plato was aware of the problem: "How real existence is to be studied or discovered is, I suspect, beyond you and me." — Cratylus, paragraph 439.
  41. ^ Paragraph 50 a–c, Jowett translation.
  42. ^ a b Ross, Chapter XI, initial.
  43. ^ Pages 82–83.
  44. ^ Parmenides, paragraph 130c.
  45. ^ Posterior Analytics 71b.25.
  46. ^ Book III Chapters 3–4, paragraphs 999a ff.
  47. ^ See "Chapter 28: Form" of The Great Ideas: A Synopticon of Great Books of the Western World (Vol. II). Encyclopædia Britannica (1952), pp. 536–541.

Bibliography

  • Alican, Necip Fikri (2012). Rethinking Plato: A Cartesian Quest for the Real Plato. Amsterdam and New York: Editions Rodopi B.V. ISBN 978-90-420-3537-9.
  • Alican, Necip Fikri; Thesleff, Holger (2013). "Rethinking Plato's Forms". Arctos: Acta Philologica Fennica. 47: 11–47. ISSN 0570-734X.
  • Alican, Necip Fikri (2014). "Rethought Forms: How Do They Work?". Arctos: Acta Philologica Fennica. 48: 25–55. ISSN 0570-734X.
  • Cornford, Francis MacDonald (1957). Plato and Parmenides. New York: The Liberal Arts Press.
  • Dancy, Russell (2004). Plato's Introduction of Forms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521037-18-1.
  • Fine, Gail (1993). On Ideas: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-198235-49-1. OCLC 191827006. Reviewed by Gerson, Lloyd P (1993). "Gail Fine, On Ideas. Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms". Bryn Mawr Classical Review 04.05.25. Bryn Mawr Classical Review.
  • Fine, Gail (2003). Plato on Knowledge and Forms: Selected Essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-199245-59-8.
  • Patterson, Richard (1985). Image and Reality in Plato's Metaphysics. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-915145-72-0.
  • Rodziewicz, Artur (2012). IDEA AND FORM. ΙΔΕΑ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΔΟΣ. On the Foundations of the Philosophy of Plato and the Presocratics (IDEA I FORMA. ΙΔΕΑ ΚΑΙ ΕΙΔΟΣ. O fundamentach filozofii Platona i presokratyków). Wroclaw: WUWR.
  • Ross, William David (1951). Plato's Theory of Ideas. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-837186-35-1.
  • Thesleff, Holger (2009). Platonic Patterns: A Collection of Studies by Holger Thesleff. Las Vegas: Parmenides Publishing. ISBN 978-1-930972-29-2.
  • Welton, William A., editor (2002). Plato's Forms: Varieties of Interpretation. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7391-0514-6.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

External links

Allegory of the Cave

The Allegory of the Cave, or Plato's Cave, was presented by the Greek philosopher Plato in his work Republic (514a–520a) to compare "the effect of education (παιδεία) and the lack of it on our nature". It is written as a dialogue between Plato's brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates, narrated by the latter. The allegory is presented after the analogy of the sun (508b–509c) and the analogy of the divided line (509d–511e). All three are characterized in relation to dialectic at the end of Books VII and VIII (531d–534e).

Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners' reality. Socrates explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not reality at all, for he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the manufactured reality that is the shadows seen by the prisoners. The inmates of this place do not even desire to leave their prison, for they know no better life. The prisoners manage to break their bonds one day, and discover that their reality was not what they thought it was. They discovered the sun, which Plato uses as an analogy for the fire that man cannot see behind. Like the fire that cast light on the walls of the cave, the human condition is forever bound to the impressions that are received through the senses. Even if these interpretations (or, in Kantian terminology, intuitions) are an absurd misrepresentation of reality, we cannot somehow break free from the bonds of our human condition—we cannot free ourselves from phenomenal state just as the prisoners could not free themselves from their chains. If, however, we were to miraculously escape our bondage, we would find a world that we could not understand—the sun is incomprehensible for someone who has never seen it. In other words, we would encounter another "realm", a place incomprehensible because, theoretically, it is the source of a higher reality than the one we have always known; it is the realm of pure Form, pure fact.Socrates remarks that this allegory can be paired with previous writings, namely the analogy of the sun and the analogy of the divided line.

Cratylus (dialogue)

Cratylus (; Ancient Greek: Κρατύλος, Kratylos) is the name of a dialogue by Plato. Most modern scholars agree that it was written mostly during Plato's so-called middle period. In the dialogue, Socrates is asked by two men, Cratylus and Hermogenes, to tell them whether names are "conventional" or "natural", that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an intrinsic relation to the things they signify.

The individual Cratylus was the first intellectual influence on Plato (Sedley). Aristotle states that Cratylus influenced Plato by introducing to him the teachings of Heraclitus, according to MW. Riley.

Eidos

Eidos may refer to

Eidos a Greek term meaning "form" "essence", "type" or "species". See Plato's theory of Forms and Aristotle's theory of universals

Eidos Interactive, a former name of British video game publisher Square Enix Europe

Eidos Hungary, a defunct Hungarian development studio formerly of Eidos Interactive

Eidos Montréal, an active Canadian development studio of Square Enix Europe

Eidos Shanghai, an active Chinese development studio of Square Enix Europe

EidosMedia, an Italian software house

Eidos, an Italian menswear brand owned by Isaia.

Form of the Good

Plato describes the "Form of the Good", or more literally "the idea of the good" (ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα), in his dialogue the Republic (508e2–3), speaking through the character of Socrates. Plato introduces several forms in his works, but identifies the Form of the Good as the superlative. This form is the one that allows a philosopher-in-training to advance to a philosopher-king. It cannot be clearly seen or explained, but once it is recognized, it is the form that allows one to realize all the other forms.

Hierarchical epistemology

Hierarchical epistemology is a theory of knowledge which posits that beings have different access to reality depending on their ontological rank.

List of epistemologists

This is a list of epistemologists, that is, people who theorize about the nature of knowledge, belief formation and the nature of justification.

On Ideas

On Ideas (Greek: Περὶ Ἰδεῶν, Peri Ideōn) is a philosophical work which deals with the problem of universals with regards to Plato's Theory of Forms. The work is supposedly by Aristotle, but there is not universal agreement on this point. It only survives now as fragments in quotations by Alexander of Aphrodisias in his commentary of Aristotle's Metaphysics.

Parmenides (dialogue)

Parmenides (Greek: Παρμενίδης) is one of the dialogues of Plato. It is widely considered to be one of the more, if not the most, challenging and enigmatic of Plato's dialogues.

The Parmenides purports to be an account of a meeting between the two great philosophers of the Eleatic school, Parmenides and Zeno of Elea, and a young Socrates. The occasion of the meeting was the reading by Zeno of his treatise defending Parmenidean monism against those partisans of plurality who asserted that Parmenides' supposition that there is a one gives rise to intolerable absurdities and contradictions.

Plato

Plato (; PLAY-toe Greek: Πλάτων Plátōn, pronounced [plá.tɔːn] PLAH-tone in Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and 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. 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. 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 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.

Plato's unwritten doctrines

Plato's so-called unwritten doctrines are metaphysical theories ascribed to him by his students and other ancient philosophers but not clearly formulated in his writings. In recent research, they are sometimes known as Plato's 'principle theory' (German: Prinzipienlehre) because they involve two fundamental principles from which the rest of the system derives. Plato is thought to have orally expounded these doctrines to Aristotle and the other students in the Academy and they were afterwards transmitted to later generations.

The credibility of the sources that ascribe these doctrines to Plato is controversial. They indicate that Plato believed certain parts of his teachings were not suitable for open publication. Since these doctrines could not be explained in writing in a way that would be accessible to general readers, their dissemination would lead to misunderstandings. Plato therefore supposedly limited himself to teaching the unwritten doctrines to his more advanced students in the Academy. The surviving evidence for the content of the unwritten doctrines is thought to derive from this oral teaching.

In the middle of the twentieth century, historians of philosophy initiated a wide-ranging project aiming at systematically reconstructing the foundations of the unwritten doctrines. The group of researchers who led this investigation, which became well-known among classicists and historians, came to be called the 'Tübingen School' (in German: Tübinger Platonschule), because some of its leading members were based at the University of Tübingen in southern Germany. On the other hand, numerous scholars had serious reservations about the project or even condemned it altogether. Many critics thought the evidence and sources used in the Tübingen reconstruction were insufficient. Others even contested the existence of the unwritten doctrines or at least doubted their systematic character and considered them mere tentative proposals. The intense and sometimes polemical disputes between the advocates and critics of the Tübingen School were conducted on both sides with great energy. Advocates suggested it amounted to a 'paradigm shift' in Plato studies.

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

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.

Republic (Plato)

The Republic (Greek: Πολιτεία, Politeia; Latin: Res Publica) is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning justice (δικαιοσύνη), the order and character of the just city-state, and the just man. It is Plato's best-known work, and has proven to be one of the world's most influential works of philosophy and political theory, both intellectually and historically.In the dialogue, Socrates discusses with various Athenians and foreigners about the meaning of justice and whether the just man is happier than the unjust man. They consider the natures of existing regimes and then propose a series of different, hypothetical cities in comparison, culminating in Kallipolis (Καλλίπολις), a city-state ruled by a philosopher king. They also discuss the theory of forms, the immortality of the soul, and the role of the philosopher and of poetry in society. The dialogue's setting seems to be during the Peloponnesian War.

Seventh Letter

The Seventh Letter of Plato is an epistle that tradition has ascribed to Plato. It is by far the longest of the epistles of Plato and gives an autobiographical account of his activities in Sicily as part of the intrigues between Dion and Dionysius of Syracuse for the tyranny of Syracuse. It also contains an extended philosophical interlude concerning the possibility of writing true philosophical works and the theory of forms. Assuming that the letter is authentic, it was written after Dion was assassinated by Calippus in 353 BC and before the latter was in turn overthrown a year later.

Sophist (dialogue)

The Sophist (Greek: Σοφιστής; Latin: Sophista) is a Platonic dialogue from the philosopher's late period, most likely written in 360 BC. Its main theme is to identify what a sophist is and how a sophist differs from a philosopher and statesman. Because each seems distinguished by a particular form of knowledge, the dialogue continues some of the lines of inquiry pursued in the epistemological dialogue, Theaetetus, which is said to have taken place the day before. Because the Sophist treats these matters, it is often taken to shed light on Plato's Theory of Forms and is compared with the Parmenides, which criticized what is often taken to be the theory of forms.

Like its sequel, the Statesman, the dialogue is unusual in that Socrates is present but plays only a minor role. Instead, the Eleatic Stranger takes the lead in the discussion. The fact that Socrates is present but silent makes it difficult to attribute the views put forward by the Eleatic Stranger to Plato, beyond the difficulty inherent in taking any character to be an author's "mouthpiece."

Speusippus

Speusippus (; Greek: Σπεύσιππος; c. 408 – 339/8 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher. Speusippus was Plato's nephew by his sister Potone. After Plato's death, c.348 BC, Speusippus inherited the Academy, near age 60, and remained its head for the next eight years. However, following a stroke, he passed the chair to Xenocrates. Although the successor to Plato in the Academy, Speusippus frequently diverged from Plato's teachings. He rejected Plato's Theory of Forms, and whereas Plato had identified the Good with the ultimate principle, Speusippus maintained that the Good was merely secondary. He also argued that it is impossible to have satisfactory knowledge of any thing without knowing all the differences by which it is separated from everything else.

The standard edition of the surviving fragments and testimonies is Leonardo Tarán's Speusippus of Athens: A Critical Study with a Collection of the Related Texts and Commentary (1982).

Third man argument

The third man argument (commonly referred to as TMA; Greek: τρίτος ἄνθρωπος), first appears in Plato's dialogue Parmenides. (132a–b) Parmenides (speaking to Socrates) uses the example of μέγεθος (mégethos; "greatness") in a philosophical criticism of the theory of Forms. The theory of forms is formulated based on the speeches of characters across various dialogues by Plato, although it is often attributed to Plato himself. The argument was furthered by Aristotle (Metaphysics 990b17–1079a13, 1039a2; Sophistic Refutations 178b36 ff.) who, rather than using the example of "greatness" (μέγεθος), used the example of a man (hence the name of the argument) to explain this objection to the theory, which he attributes to Plato; Aristotle posits that if a man is a man because he partakes in the form of man, then a third form would be required to explain how man and the form of man are both man, and so on, ad infinitum.

Transcendentals

The transcendentals (Latin: transcendentalia) are the properties of being that correspond to three aspects of the human field of interest and are their ideals; science (truth), the arts (beauty) and religion (goodness). Philosophical disciplines that study them are logic, aesthetics and ethics.

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