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Research papers on platos theory of forms

If we can place this theory into its historical and cultural context perhaps it will begin to make a little more sense. Plato was born somewhere in 428-427 B. He belonged to a wealthy and aristocratic family. He died some time between 348-347 B. What was obvious to many of the early Greek philosophers was that we live in a world which is not an easy source of true, ie, eternal, unchanging knowledge.

The world is constantly undergoing change. The seasons reflect change.

  • What was obvious to many of the early Greek philosophers was that we live in a world which is not an easy source of true, ie, eternal, unchanging knowledge;
  • Plato suggests that the world we live in is all appearance as everything will eventually ware out and die;
  • The Idea or Form of a triangle and the drawing we come up with is a way of comparing the perfect and imperfect;
  • This would be a description of the Form or Idea of a Triangle.

Nothing is ever permanent: Even the present is deceiving: What looks to be water on the desert horizon is in fact a mirage. Or what I think of as sweet at one time may seem sour the next. Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher, claimed that we can never step into the same river twice.

In his Socratic dialogues Plato argues through Socrates that because the material world is changeable it is also unreliable.

Plato: A Theory of Forms

But Plato also believed that this is not the whole story. Behind this unreliable world of appearances is a world of permanence and reliability. But what is a Platonic Form or Idea? Take for example a perfect triangle, as it might be described by a mathematician. This would be a description of the Form or Idea of a Triangle. Plato says such Forms exist in an abstract state but independent of minds in their own realm. Considering this Idea of a perfect triangle, we might also be tempted to take pencil and paper and draw it.

Our attempts will of course fall short. The Idea or Form of a triangle and the drawing we come up with is a way of comparing the perfect and imperfect. How good our drawing is will depend on our ability to recognise the Form of Triangle.

Although no one has ever seen a perfect triangle, for Plato this is not a problem. If we can conceive the Idea or Form of a perfect triangle in our mind, then the Idea of Triangle must exist. The Forms are not limited to geometry.

  • The seasons reflect change;
  • What looks to be water on the desert horizon is in fact a mirage;
  • What was obvious to many of the early Greek philosophers was that we live in a world which is not an easy source of true, ie, eternal, unchanging knowledge;
  • Every object on the world that we live in mimics certain properties that resemble an aspect of the perfect form in the spiritual world.

According to Plato, for any conceivable thing or property there is a corresponding Form, a perfect example of that thing or property. The list is almost inexhaustible.

One more step

Plato says that true and reliable knowledge rests only with those who can comprehend the true reality behind the world of everyday experience. In order to perceive the world of the Forms, individuals must undergo a difficult education. Someone wanting to do architecture, for example, would be required to recall knowledge of the Forms of Building, House, Brick, Tension, etc. The fact that this person may have absolutely no idea about building design is irrelevant.

Not everyone is suited to be king in the same way as not everyone is suited to mathematics. Conversely, a very high standard in a particular trade suggests knowledge of its Forms.

Plato’s Theory of the Forms Paper

The majority of people cannot be educated about the nature of the Forms because the Forms cannot be discovered through education, only recalled. To explain our relationship to the world of the Forms, in the Republic Plato uses the analogy of people who spend their whole lives living in a cave [see Allegory of the Cave ]. All they ever see are shadows on the walls created by their campfire. Compared with the reality of the world of the Forms, real physical objects and events are analogous to being only shadows.

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Plato also takes the opportunity to use the cave analogy as a political statement. Only the people who have the ability to step out into the sunlight and see recall the true reality the Forms should rule. Clearly Plato was not a fan of Greek democracy. No doubt his aristocratic background and the whims of Athenian politics contributed to his view, especially as the people voted to execute his mentor Socrates.

What can I do to prevent this in the future?

Plato leaves no doubt that only special people are fit to rule. Who are the special people who can recognise the Forms? For Plato the answer is straightforward: Plato goes on to say that it is only when such a person comes to power that the citizens of the state will have the opportunity to step out of the cave and see the light.