Plato

Summer Pearce
Slide Set by Summer Pearce, updated more than 1 year ago
Summer Pearce
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AS - Level (Year 1) Philosophy (1) Ancient Greek Influences on the Philosophy of Religion) Slide Set on Plato, created by Summer Pearce on 03/18/2016.

Resource summary

Slide 1

    Plato (428 - 347 BC)
    Plato was originally a wrestler in the Isthmian Games, but he failed to qualify for the Olympic Games, and so he needed a new career path. Plato became a pupil of Socrates, but fled Athens in 399 BC when Socrates was executed, to avoid a similar sentence.  He joined the Order of Pythagoreans, which inspired the cosmology that Plato is famous for. He later returned to Athens to establish the Academy, so he could educate younger generations and encourage them to think, so they could become philosophical politicians. Plato believed that knowledge gained through senses (empirically) were mere opinions, but a priori knowledge, that is gained through reasoning, is certain. This belief makes Plato a rationalist.  Plato was an absolutist, in that he believed that there are objective and universal truths that are unchanging in all circumstances. (e.g. beauty, truth, goodness). There are three topics you need to know about for the exam: The Allegory of the Cave The Concept of the Forms (esp. the Form of the Good) The Distinction between the body and soul (AKA dualism)
    Caption: : "Is it better to question the world around you or accept what you know to be true? How do you know that it is true?" - Plato

Slide 2

    The Allegory of the Cave
    The Allegory of the Cave (found in Plato's The Republic) makes a contrast between people who see appearances and mistake them for truth, and those who actually see the truth.  The Allegory has a symbolic meaning; Imagine prisoners in a cave. They are chained to the floor so that they can only see the wall in front of them and the shadows of things passing the mouth of the cave. One man escapes out of the cave. It is a hard journey out of the cave. At first he is dazzled by the 'real' objects which were more real than the shadows he saw in the cave. He then returns to the cave to tell his fellows, but they reject him. Read the Allegory of the Cave.Read more notes on the Allegory.

Slide 3

    The Symbolism
    Cave - the world of sight/appearances Prisoners - The Allegory suggests that people are philosophically ignorant and are like prisoners, who can only see shadows. We all believe that the shadows are real objects and are being stopped from seeing what is true. (In a state of Eikasia, or lowest level of understanding) Objects/statues - imitations of the Forms Objects carried by people - The people represent politicians who lead people but either don't know the truth of the Forms, or don't want people to know. Fire - the sun  Journey out of the cave - journey of the soul upwards into the Realm of the Forms Being dazzled - analogy to the philosopher gradually learning to differentiate between the Forms and imitations The Sun - The Form of the Good. The sun sustains all living things, and similarly, the Good is the source of all the Forms and it sustains them. Goodness appears last of all, and is only seen with effort. 
    The outside world - The Realm of the Forms Prisoner who escapes - someone who is philosophically enlightened. Going back to the cave - The philosopher cannot see clearly on the way back down to the cave, which shows the difficulties of seeing the Forms in the world of appearances. The other prisoners reject the enlightened philosopher and believe he has gone insane since leaving the cave, and so dismiss his knowledge about the outside world/world of forms. Plato claimed that people are imprisoned by their misperception that what our senses reveal to us is the real world. Our perception of the world is distorted by our refusal to pursue the journey to truth through philosophy.  By portraying politicians as either deceitful or ignorant, Plato is suggesting that philosophers would make better leaders. Plato emphasised that philosophers were in pursuit of truth, whereas political leaders sought out their own selfish desires. 

Slide 4

    Assessment of the Allegory of the Cave
    Strengths: Plato is correct in saying that empirical knowledge can be flawed and it makes logical sense to say that the physical world is an imperfect imitation of the Forms The theory not only explains why the world is imperfect, but also why we recognise different Forms within particulars
    Weaknesses: There is an unclear link between the World of Appearances and the Realm of Forms - how are they connected, is there anything in between, etc. Do you have to die to realise the truth of the Forms? If so, how could the prisoner return to the cave? If not, how do you realise the truth? Plato's argument is absolutist, and some people may not accept this (Aristotle didn't) How can you prove that the world outside the cave is real? Just because someone is philosophically enlightened and intelligent, does that necessarily make them perfect for leadership? (stereotype that intelligent people have low common sense and less empathy, telling people the truth all the time is not good for morale) The philosopher may be no more enlightened that the prisoners themselves, and there is no way of proving that either the prisoners or the philosopher are right.

Slide 5

    Plato and The Matrix
    The 1999 film, The Matrix was heavily influenced by the teachings of Plato, as echoes of his theory can be seen throughout various scenes and themes within the film. The Matrix is a computerised programme which fools our senses into believing that what our senses tell us is reality. Morpheus tells Neo that the Matrix is a 'prison for the mind.' This is similar to Plato's claims that the ordinary, unenlightened person is trapped within their own sensory perceptions of reality. Like the people in the Matrix, Plato thought that our minds crave knowledge of the real world, but is forced to experience the  poor imitation of the real world that we experience through our senses. Most people in the Matrix are happy with their ordinary lives. However, some have realised there is more to the world than their senses tell them. Neo, Morpheus and Trinity represent Plato's philosophers, who have chosen to leave the world of lies to pursue the truth. They now return to the Matrix, in the hopes of freeing other people from the lie, which is exactly what the liberated prisoner does when he returns to the cave in Plato's Allegory. Plato recognised that the 'illusory' world of the senses is very attractive and comfortable and that not all people want to leave it. In The Matrix, Cypher betrays his friends so he may be returned to the Matrix as he cannot bear the truth. This is similar to the resistance of the prisoners towards the philosopher's experiences of the outside world. 

Slide 6

    What are Forms?
    Forms are perfect ideas of things, not actual physical objects. They are not created and do not do anything. CUTAPUIS - Properties of FormsCauses of all things - Forms provide explanation of why anything is the way it is and are the source of all things.Ultimately real - not material objects, as all material objects are copies/images of some collection of Forms. Without Forms, there would be no object.Transcendent - not located in time or spaceArchetypes - perfect examples of the quality they exemplifyPure - only possess one qualityUnchangingIntelligible - only known through intellect and reasonSystematically interconnected - Forms make up a system, from the Form of the Good, from general to particular, from objective to subjective
    The World of Particulars contrast with the Forms, as particulars are sensible (only known through empirical senses), always coming out of existence (birth, death, created and destroyed), always in a state of flux (change), material objects and imperfect. Plato argues that we can recognise the Form of a dog, a chair or even beauty itself in various particulars. For example, there are many beautiful things, but they all share the Form of beauty. There are Forms for values like beauty and truth, Forms for living things like dogs, Forms for physical objects, like tables and chairs, and Forms for mathematical concepts like circles and triangles. Plato claimed that the things we see and hear are matters of opinion or belief, but we know the Forms because they are accessed through our mind. Plato put more of an emphasis on Forms such as beauty, truth, justice and the Good, rather than Forms of chairs, cats, dogs and other physical objects.

Slide 7

    How do Forms relate to particulars?
    Plato says that the particulars are imperfect copies or shadows  of the Forms.  The particulars share in, or participate in the Form.  A Form is just what particulars have in common. Plato does have a Form of Forms, but has a good reason for thinking that the chain stops there. Particulars gain their nature either by the imitation of Forms or participation in those Forms. Imitation is where the Forms are a transcendent element, outside of the material world, and particulars are copies of the Form. Participation is where the particulars themselves has something of an eternal Form inside it. The Form of the Good This is the ultimate Form. Through an understanding of the Good, we can understand the value of all things. Any good act we carry out in this world is an imitation of the Good.  Just as the sun in the Allegory of the Cave gives light to the real world, the Form of the Good illuminates and sustains all the other Forms. The Forms are all perfect, so their perfection and goodness is a common trait exemplified by the Form of the Good.
    This is what is responsible for what is right and valuable in everything - it is perfect beauty, justice and goodness. Plato thought that The Form of the Good supplied an absolute goodness that is the higher form of reality. It exists eternally beyond our limited world. The Form of the Good is the reason why all the other Forms are Good. The Good is the ultimate end in itself, as the aim of everything is goodness. The idea of the Good was later understood by Christians as an explanation of God. Hierarchy of the Forms:The Form of the Good^Higher Forms (universal qualities such as beauty)^Lower Forms (concepts and ideals such as beautifulness)^Physical living objects^Physical inanimate objects^Images (pictures of objects)

Slide 8

    Are Plato's claims valid?
    Yes: The theory explains why we all recognise the same essential elements in something. The argument helps us to understand the imperfections and evils around us and why they exist. (Perhaps a justification for evil - the world was already imperfect) It encourages us to question in order to learn and not accept things at face value. This gives purpose to things that require thinking, such as philosophy. We can objectively discuss subjective concepts such as beauty and truth and arrive at a better understanding of them, which raises the question of whether they are  Plato argued that the more objective a concept is, the more real it becomes. (e.g. Science vs. opinion) Forms are the most objective things, so we should believe in them. Plato also demonstrated that the concepts of perfect squares and circles exist in geometry, but not in reality, so therefore, our universal understanding of them cannot be empirical. Plato reasoned that we recognise geometrical concepts through our recognition of different Forms. Plato proves relativism to be a self-defeating concept by using deductive reasoning. He argues that if relativism is the belief that nothing is true, then relativism cannot be true. This supports Plato's absolutist view.
    No: Aristotle argued that because Plato needs a Form of the Forms to explain what the Forms have in common, then surely there must be an infinite regress? (Form of the Form of Forms etc.) There is no proof that we recognise the Forms because of our previous existence in the Realm of Forms, or that Forms exist at all. Plato uses logical reasoning to come to the conclusion of the Forms, but has no logical way of proving his theory. Forms could just be ideas in the mind, rather than recollection of the past - surely the supposedly 'a priori' knowledge of the Forms is actually a posteriori if the knowledge comes from memory?  It is not logical to suggest that there is a world we cannot see. Plato uses the Allegory to explain why philosophers were fit for leadership. This could mean that the Allegory, and perhaps the Theory of Forms itself were constructed with this in mind.  The Form of the Good is not one thing - we all have different opinions on what is good, and other qualities such as justice and beauty.  It is unclear how the Forms relate directly to particulars: Is there a Form that unifies all animals, or a different Form for each species? Is there only on pig Form or a Form for all types of pig? If so, is there a Form to differentiate between all the differences between pigs? (is there a Form for short sighted pig and a Form for a long sighted pig?) At what point to Forms stop being universal?

Slide 9

    Aspects of Human Existence
    The Greeks distinguished between different aspects of human existence as follows; SOMA - The body as a whole, its activities, personality and so on NOUS - the thinking mind PNEUMA - the spirit, thought, spirituality and reason PYSCHE - emotions and sensations SARX - flesh and blood, the physical body

Slide 10

    The Soul and the Body
    Many Greek philosophers believed that the soul was trapped in the material world and the body was a prison for the soul. Plato believed that the soul broke free of the body upon death and returned to the Realm of the Forms.  Plato was a dualist, because he believed that the body and soul were two separate entities. The soul is the eternal and unchanging part of us that existed before we were born and  lives on after death. He believed that the soul was what enables us to learn and reason.  According to the Theory of Forms, we recognise the Forms in particulars because our souls have previously been in the Realm of the Forms, although we aren't naturally aware of this. This is called innate knowledge, because we are born being able to recognise the Forms. Plato describes enlightenment as  being the journey of the soul into the Realm of the Forms, in order that the person fully understands the Forms. This spiritual journey is represented by the prisoner's journey out of the cave to the outside world in the Allegory.
    Plato thought that it was the role of philosophers to not be distracted by bodily needs and sensual desires, but instead to separate the workings of the mind from the body and use reason.  After death, Plato believed that philosopher's souls lived on in a state of wisdom. By contrast, those who were more concerned with bodily demands were reborn as lower creatures.  Plato's view of the body and the soul contrasts with the holistic view that the 'self' is comprised of both spiritual and physical elements. The Demiurge Plato believed that the world was crafted by a Creator God, the Demiurge (Greek for craftsman). He believed that the physical world was made from pre-existing matter that was present before creation.  The Demiurge was not omnipotent. 

Slide 11

    Plato's Influence on Religion
    The symbolism in Plato's Allegory of the Cave has been interpreted in various different ways. The liberated prisoner who has experienced the outside world has been said to represent the people who have a religious faith. The Realm of the Forms has also been thought to represent God's intended, perfect world, and the physical world is a poor imitation of God's intent. However, it has also been argued that the liberated prisoner symbolises scientists who know truths about the universe. Equally, the prisoners in the cave who resist the philosopher's teaching represent religious believers who are controlled by their religion and unable to see anything else. The Realm of the Forms could also be interpreted as Plato's perception of Heaven. 
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