Plato Essay on his theory of ‘Forms’
a) One of the truly great philosophers of all time was Plato, a native Athenian born in 427 B.C. who died in 347 B.C. As a student of Socrates he adopted many of his teacher’s beliefs though he certainly had a great mind all of his own. His early works reflected much admiration for Socrates and since Socrates never wrote any of his own works, Plato’s early dialogues are most representative of Socrates’ philosophical beliefs. The format of most Platonic works is called the “dialectic”, and was undisputedly mastered by Plato. His middle dialogues use Socrates as a character advocating Plato’s own thoughts, and in his later dialogues Plato is quite ...view middle of the document...
This argument is based on the cyclical flux by means of which every quality comes into being from its own opposite. Hot comes from cold and cold from hot: that is, hot things are just cold things that have warmed up, and cold things are just hot things that have cooled off. Similarly, people who are awake are just people who were asleep but then woke up, while people who are asleep are just people who were awake but then dozed off.
But then, Plato argues death must come from life and life from death. That is, people who are dead are just people who were alive but then experienced the transition we call dying, and people who are alive are just people who were among the dead but then experienced the transition we call being born. This suggests a perpetual recycling of human souls from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead and back.
If this is an accurate image of reality, it would certainly follow that my soul will continue to exist after the death of my body. But it also supposes that my soul existed before the birth of my body as well.
The second argument is the argument from Knowledge. Plato believed that everything around us is in a constant state of flux. Therefore how can we have true knowledge of things that are constantly changing? We can only have opinions concerning things, that are in the world of senses (empirical knowledge). We are only able to have true knowledge of things that can be understood with our reason. Reason can be said to eternal and universal because it only expresses eternal and universal things. For example: everyone has their own idea of the best genre of music but everyone can say for certainty that 2+2 is 4; this is due to reason, and this reason is an innate recognition in all of us.
An important concept to bear in mind when considering Plato's metaphysical dualism is his "theory of Forms". According to this view, each thing that exists on earth (the realm of Becoming [horeton]) - or even as an object of language - has a corresponding "Form" (Eidos) or perfect idea in ‘the realm of Being’ (noeton). So, in the example used by Plato, a simple thing such as a bed would be linked to the perfect idea of a bed that exists independently (which all other beds share). The same thing would also apply to such things as colours, moral values or types of animal. For instance, the thing that all the different shades of red have in common is that they all correspond in some way to the Form, or perfect idea, of "red". Another point worth considering is that due to the fact that everything in the ‘realm of Becoming’ is in constant flux it can not be perfect; this realm is based on beliefs (pistis) and opinions which in turn help to create an illusionary world (eikasia).
For Plato, the soul - or mind - obtained knowledge through recollection of Forms. By doing this the soul was simply returning to the state of knowledge which it had before birth. The Forms that Plato describes are invisible, divine,...