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Plato’s Theory of the Forms

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  • Category: Plato

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The influence that Plato has had throughout the history of philosophy has been significant. Among other things, Plato is known for his exploration metaphysics and the theory of knowledge, many of his ideas influencing the mind frame of Western society. The basis of Plato’s philosophy is his theory of Ideas, or teaching of the Forms. The theory of Forms is essential to Plato’s philosophy, and over years of philosophical study, it has been of great interest to understand what these Forms are supposed to be, in addition the purpose of their existence and how they relate to the modern world today.

The theory of the Forms is found in ‘The Republic’, it is told by though the dialogue of Meno and Euthphro. The theory is not put forward as a single theory that is universally identical but has been created from various sources of Plato’s work. Scholars have managed to create the theory from by analyzing a range of Plato’s work in attempt to make the theory as accurate as possible to what Plato would have wanted it to be. Plato believed in dualism which plays a major role in understanding the theory of the forms , A physical world that we live on today which is unreal.

IN addiction to a spiritual world which is perfect , this is where the forms are. Every object on the world that we live in mimics certain properties that resemble an aspect of the perfect form in the spiritual world. An example could be a triangle; there are many various ways one can construct a triangle, that triangle would contain a part of the perfect form of triangles in the spiritual world. Our senses are able to identify a part of an object that resembles the perfect form. Plato suggests that the world we live in is a world of appearances although the real world is a world of ideas that he calls forms.

Plato suggests that the world we live in is all appearance as everything will eventually ware out and die. For example animals and humans will die eventually, a table will eventual break down and rot to the original substances it was created from. The idea of forms is purely a concept therefore it is unchanging, it doesn’t reproduce or clone itself, it is merely everlasting, thus they exist in another world, away from reality. Although a triangle can be used to as an example to explain the forms, Plato applied the idea of the Forms to concepts, among others, beauty, good and truth.

Plato suggests that Forms are unchanging, timeless and eternal as a consequence there must be forms of objects that no longer exist in our world today such as extinct animals. This then allows for there to be many Forms of objects that have not been created yet on this world to date. Plato’s analogy of the cave enhances our understanding of the forms by various events that go on in the cave. The tied up prisoners are similar to the majority of people in the everyday world, they only see shadows which is what they believe to be reality, and similarly the physical world is an illusion to the real world of the forms.

The prisoners need to be set free, likewise the physical world imprisons one by not allowing them to see the forms. In the analogy the prisoner who has escaped from the cave comes to see the sun, the sun represents the ultimate form of the good; the most perfect form. The analogy also helps us realize that the sun is a source of the other forms, the most important form. Plato summed up that goodness is the highest form of reality.

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