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Plato was a standard Greek mathematician, philosopher, a writer of philosophical dialogues, and the founder of the Academy that was based in Athens, and was the first institution of advanced learning in the Western world. Along side his student, Aristotle, and his mentor, Socrates, Plato helped to put down the foundations of Western philosophy, natural philosophy and science. He was initially a student of Socrates, and was so much influenced by his thinking as he was by what he perceived as his teacher's undeserved death.
The sophistication of Plato as a writer is apparent in his Socratic dialogues which are thirty-five dialogues in number and thirteen letters have been attributed to him. His writings have been published in a number of fashions; this has often led to numerous conventions concerning the referencing and the naming of Plato's texts.
Even though there is no doubt that Plato lectured at the Academy that he set up, the academic purpose of his dialogues, if there is any, is not known with conviction. Since Plato's time, the dialogues have been used to lecture in a range of subjects, including mathematics, logic, philosophy, rhetoric, and other subjects that he wrote about.
The term "Platonism" is coined by intellectuals to refer to the logical consequences of denying the actuality of the material world. In a number of dialogues, most particularly the Republic, Socrates overturns the common man's perception about and what is real and what is foreseeable.
The Theory of the Forms
Plato's theory of Forms emphasizes that non-material but substantial abstract ideas or forms and not the material world of change possesses the most fundamental and the highest kind of truth. When it is used in this sense, the word form is frequently in capital. Plato claims that these Forms are the only proper objects of learning that can provide us with genuine knowledge. He also spoke of Forms in formulating his solution to the problem of universals (Gail fine 21)
Socrates's suggestion that reality is not available to those who use their minds is what created differences between him and the common man, and also with common sense. He goes ahead to say that he who perceives with his eyes is blind, and this thought is famously depicted in his allegory of the cave, and more overtly when he is describing the line. The allegory of the cave is a paradoxical comparison where Socrates argues that the unseen world is the most logical and that the visible world is less knowable, and the most incomprehensible.
In the Republic, Socrates states that people who take the world that is lit by the sun to be real and good are living miserably in a den of ignorance and evil. He acknowledges that few people are able to climb out of the cave or den of ignorance, and those who are able to, not only have an awful fight to attain the heights, but as soon as they go back down to help or to visit other people down there, they find themselves objects of ridicule and Scorn.
In general speech as well as in Plato there is a form for all quality or objects in reality: forms of, human beings, dogs, mountains, courage, colors, love, and decency. Form answers the inquiry "what is that?" Plato went a step further by asking what Form itself is. He believed that the object was fundamentally or "really" the Form and that the happenings were mere shadows imitating the Form; that is, short-lived portrayals of the Form in different circumstances. The problem of universals which stated- how can one thing broadly be many things in particular - was answered by assuming that Form was a different singular thing but created multiple representations of itself in certain objects.
A Form is atemporal (outside time) and is also aspatial (outside the world). Atemporal means that the form does not exist within any given period of time. The form did not begin, there is no time duration, and it will not come to an end. It is neither mortal, of limited duration nor eternal in the sense of everlasting. It subsists outside time altogether. They are aspatial in that they do not have spatial size and thus no course in space, nor do they even have a location. They are not physical, but they do not exist in the mind. Forms are extra-mental.
A Form is an intended "blueprint" of perfection. They are ideal themselves because they are never changing.
The ideal state
Plato suggested a world that was of ideal Forms, which he eventually admitted that they were impossible to know. All the same he devised a very specific account of that world, which apparently did not match his metaphysical ideologies. Parallel to the world of Forms is our world, that of the mimics, an altered form of the real one. This world was formed by the Good in accordance with the patterns of the Forms. Man's appropriate service to the Good is collaboration in the realization of the ideal in the world of shadows; that is, in mimicking the Good.
Because of this, Plato wrote Republic, there by detailing the proper replication of the Good, in spite of his admission that Courage, Justice, Temperance, Beauty, etc., cannot be comprehended. Apparently, according to him they can be known to some degree through the duplicates with great complexity and to varying degrees by people with ranging abilities.
The "Intelligible Realm"
Plato often uses, particularly in the Phaedrus, Phaedo and Republic, poetic language in order to demonstrate the method in which the Forms are understood to exist. Towards the end of the Phaedo, for example, he illustrates the world of Forms as an immaculate area of the physical universe that is located over the surface of the Earth (Phd. 109a-111c). In the Phaedrus the Forms are in a "place that is beyond heaven" (Phdr. 247c ff); and in the Republic the reasonable world is differentiated with the intelligible world in the renowned allegory of the cave.
Plato's idealistic views had many communal implications, especially the idea regarding an ideal government or state. However, there is some inconsistency between his later and earlier views. Some of the most illustrious doctrines are contained in the Republic during his middle period, as well as in the Statesman and the Laws. Nevertheless, because Plato wrote dialogues, it is understood that Socrates is regularly speaking for Plato. This hypothesis may not be true in all the cases.
Through the words of Socrates, Plato emphasizes that societies have a three part class structure corresponding to the reason/appetite/spirit configuration of the individual soul. The reason/appetite/spirit stands for different areas of the body. These body parts represent the castes of society.
Criticism of Platoââ‚¬â„¢s ideas
Self criticism-Plato was very well aware of the restrictions of his theory, as he presented his own criticisms of it in his discussion in the Parmenides. Here, Socrates is depicted as a young philosopher who is acting as junior counterfoil to the already aged Parmenides. The dialogue presents a real complexity with the Theory of Forms, which was overcame over later by Aristotle, but it was not without declining the autonomously existing world of Forms. It was debated whether Plato saw these criticisms as irrefutably disproving the Theory of Forms. It is note worthy that Aristotle was a learner and then a junior assistant of Plato; it is exclusively possible that the presentation of Parmenides "sets up" for Aristotle; in other words, they agreed to disagree.
The topic regarding the Aristotelian condemnation of Plato's Theory of Forms is a great one and continues to develop. Aristotle did not just condemn Plato but he also criticized Platonism in general without distinguishing any one. Besides, rather than to quote Plato he decided to summarize him frequently in one-liners not understandable without considerable exegesis and on other times not even then. As historical man of prior contemplation Aristotle often uses the previous arguments as a thwart to present his own ideas. As a result, in presenting the Aristotelian condemnations it is essential to differentiate what Aristotle wrote, what he intended, whether Plato meant that, whether applicable and what is the relationship to Aristotle's notions: a dreadful task extending over centuries of eruditions.
Fine, Gail. On ideas: Aristotleââ‚¬â„¢s criticism of Platoââ‚¬â„¢s theory of forms, NY: Oxford University Press Inc, 1993
Cornford, Francis MacDonald. Plato and Parmenides. New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1957.
Ross, Sir David. Plato's Theory of Ideas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951
Hackforth, R. Platoââ‚¬â„¢s Phaedrus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952