Plato was a notable philosopher of ancient Greece that has changed the perspectives the world’s population has significantly. In this paper, attention is paid to the essence of Plato’s ideas about forms as something mathematically and morally equal to rationally explain the worth of knowledge. The report provides information about the philosopher’s Theory of Forms and the perspectives it offers. It concludes that Plato’s work is a controversial but notable piece because of its claims.
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Theory of Forms
Despite considerable contributions and important lessons, the work of Plato on the Theory of Forms remains one of his frequently debatable issues, full of disagreements. The philosopher’s theory is based on the idea that the physical world should not be considered the real one, as there is the ultimate reality that exists beyond the environment people live in. No one rejects the fact that Plato’s Theory of Forms is a celebrated work in terms of which a human soul should acquire certain knowledge before it enters a human body (Sedley 4). The analysis and discussion of the theory will be presented below.
First, it is crucial to understand what the philosopher understands as the Forms. To Plato, they are abstract ideals that never change and transcend space and time. As well as the majority of ancient theories and discussions, Plato’s work begins with clear definitions and explanations. A “form” is originated from the Greek “eidos”, meaning an “idea”, and can be explained as something universal, existing “outside of space and time” (Soccio 134).
One of the most well-known statements made by Plato is that everything should have a pure form, and perfection is achieved when people understand how to combine the real objects with abstract ones, those that exist in mind. It is important to obtain knowledge through thoughts, not senses, and the concept of “forms” is one of the most effective means. A variety of forms impresses and includes different “geometrical, mathematical, and logical relationships”, virtues, and sensible properties (Soccio 134). Their recognition can be considered an attempt to introduce something more than just ordinary authoritarian thoughts, and, at his time, Plato needed them to become a better philosopher who would challenge the existing relative norms.
It is vital to add that to Plato, all objects of reality have formed. To him, forms manifest themselves in various objects. For example, the form of beauty can be represented in flowers or women, but no objects that imitate this form are more real than the form itself (Soccio 134). Although being a highly complex and debatable idea, the Theory of Forms has the purpose of explaining how knowledge is possible from the rational perspective. In his ideas, he tries to answer the question of whether everything can be a matter of opinion and how people can identify that knowledge can exist (Soccio 135). Plato’s theory claims that knowledge is eternally true, while an opinion can change.
One of the significant aspects of the theory that should be noted is the argument about the two realms (Soccio 132). Plato claims that there are physical and spiritual realms existing in the world. The first one involves the things belonging to the material world, such as the ones people see and interact with daily. Plato notes that this realm is not perfect and is in a state of constant change. The second one, in turn, is not visible to people, as it exists beyond the physical realm. Plato names the physical realm a shadow compared to the spiritual one; the latter is the real Realm of Forms.
It is crucial to mention that Plato does not strive to prove the existence of Forms; his evidence is based on his intuitive guesses. For instance, the philosopher states that, although perfect circles and lines do not exist, all individuals can imagine what a line or a circle is (Soccio 134). Moreover, even the things that seem identical are not the same. For example, to be identical, two glass beads should contain the same molecules and atoms, which should be placed in the same positions. For Plato, it means that they cannot be perfectly equal, nor can anything in the world.
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In general, the theory of Forms developed by Plato is characterized by several unclear and doubtful aspects that are hard to be understood by a modern reader. Any form may exist out of space and be in different places at the same time. The qualities of purity and spatiality make Plato’s form unique and powerful. It becomes possible to deny relativism and reconsider the relationship between universal knowledge and personal opinions.
Plato’s Theory of Forms is a complex work that presents debatable issues. Its core idea is that the physical world is not the real one because it changes, unlike the spiritual realm, the idea that stays the same. In his theory, the philosopher tries to analyze whether knowledge is possible from the rational view. It is possible to say that the Theory of Forms is a controversial but notable piece discussing the relationships between the physical and non-physical world, as well as the essences things have.
Sedley, David. “An Introduction to Plato’s Theory of Forms.” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, vol. 78, 2016, pp. 3-22.
Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy. 9th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.