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The Plato's Theory of Forms

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The theory of Forms is a concept of being rather than becoming. The Forms are stable, and unchanging. Forms are the essences of things. Philosophers recognize two kinds of proof: inductive (with sensory observations), and deductive (based on reason). Forms are known through reason, not the senses. Forms are concepts or ideas. Plato discusses this theory throughout his dialogues, where the Forms usually represent something with deeper meaning, like knowledge.

Plato sought the inspiration and mentorship from observing a noting the works of Socrates. Socrates became Plato’s mentor and it is said that he initially suggested to Plato the existence and concept of Forms. Plato was an eager student and took note of Socrates’ presentations and lessons, even wrote him into his dialogues. He expressed his knowledge through his written dialogues, such as, Protagoras and Heraclitus.

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He found dialogues to be the best way for others to learn because it has a captivating effect on those who read them. Protagoras in summation explains that all things are correlated to an individuals’ own experience, discernment, and explication. In other words, Plato’s dialogue reads, “Man is the measure of all things.” As for Heraclitus, the dialogue reads that all things are consistently changing, there are similarities in things that are different, and all things are but are not simultaneously. The theory of Forms serves as an answer to both dialogues. According to Plato, Forms are unchanging concepts and ideals that distinguish the worlds of reason to that of the senses. Plato argues that reason and thought surpass sensory observations and information. Considering Protagoras explains that all things are relative to ones’ own experience, one can understand that under the theory of Forms, reason is superior. Unlike Heraclitus, considering the theory of Forms, the Forms themselves are unchanging. The physical object, organism or thing is susceptible to change, but not its essence or Form. The theory of Forms brings like to Plato’s dialogues, along with a deeper understanding and clarity.

Plato argues two levels of reality, that of appearance and reality. Resulting in his conclusion of two separate worlds, that of Forms [being] and the world of Particular Things [becoming]. As mentioned before, Forms are unchanging objects of knowledge and are mostly real. Forms rely on reason and not sensory observations. To Plato Forms are more real than the world of physical objects that are perceptions of one’s own interpretations. This is referred to as the world of being because although the physical properties of an object may change, itself essence and meaning remain constants. Whereas, the world of Particular Things is less real because it relies on physical properties to change. Particular Things rely on sensory observations and perceptions. This is also called the world of becoming because change is represented by becoming.

The Allegory of the Cave is one of Plato’s pieces that explains the impact of having education, knowledge, and the effects of a nature without it. The Allegory of the Cave takes place in a cave where prisoners are held since birth, chained to the caved with their backs to a fire, with only the images of shadows casted on the walls for them to see. Puppet showman would perform on a roadway, creating different images and scenes that casted shadows that the prisoners would interpret and observe. The only thing the prisoners can see within their scope of vision is the cave wall right in front of them. These prisoners live their entire lives in a cave where the darkness is their only conception of life itself. One day one of the prisoners was let loose, the prisoner was astounded by the real objects and their actual shadows. After being accustomed to the shadows in the cave for so long, the prisoner struggled to grasp the idea of actual objects and organisms that made the shapes he’d seen. Clarifying the concept that human perception cannot be used to derive any form of true knowledge. Truth can only come from philosophical reasoning. To these prisoners the shadows have been their reality their whole lives, it is all they derived their information from with sensory observations. When the released prisoner returned to share his findings with his incarcerated inmates, they refused any form of assistance to be released. They refused to gather any new form of knowledge that may alter their perception of reality that they’ve grown to know. Plato uses the Allegory of the Cave to almost express what it must be like as a philosopher, when trying to educate the public or a society. Many are so comfortable in their ignorance that hostility may result toward anyone who challenges their beliefs. When it comes to accepting true forms of knowledge and true reality, it is almost as if one is trying to choose being lights or shadows as the prisoners did. Those who were accustomed and felt comfortable in their ‘known’ refused to learn and experience a new reality. Failing to understand that although the physical properties of a reality has changed, the Forms and overall ‘being’ of that reality is unchangeable.

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