1- The Quick Primer
The first section is a quick summary of the main ideas of the current topic, where I try to do quick elevator-pitch-like summary so you at least understand the premise of what I’m going to talk about and give you the mental parameter of what you should be paying attention to. Because most of the time I’ll read textbooks and see a lot of good notes, but I don’t really understand what it is I’m actually reading. So my hope is this primer will help set that context from the beginning.
This is main portion of the post as I go in depth and try to balance layman’s terms with academic investigation. I try to carry a casual, conversational tone, but my hope is to lay that framework so I can take you deeper into thoughts and ideas without completely losing you. So I will try to stating an idea from multiple angles or use forms of contrast to help amplify what it is that I’m talking about.
There has to be an applicable reason for all of this, right? I’m not content with reading something just for its own sake, why should we bother to even learn any of this? So here I’ll lay out at least a couple notes about how this can be carried out into everyday life.
Have you ever listened to a lecture or a sermon, or a TED talk, and kept nodding your head and saying “wow that’s really cool!” Then next day you don’t remember anything about it? Well this review is designed to put you in that scenario of actually recalling what you read and see if the main points actually stick with you. This should help you to see if you understood what you read and to see what parts you needed to go back over (or I need to explain better). But I give my own answers to these questions to not only help you to compare answers, but again this is also for me to test to see how much I actually learned as well!
You probably don’t need to read any of this, but these are just all the highlighted notes I took from various sources that helped me to learn what I wrote about. It’s like the references page in academic essays, but it’s not just the link, but the actual quotes that I’m using to build my thoughts. This can also be helpful for you if I didn’t explain something well enough, since you can scan through these notes to see what other authors said about a given topic and can help you better understand where I failed.
Who is Plato?
Plato was a follower of Socrates in Athens Greece, who came from a wealthy aristocratic family. He is the most credible biographer of Socrates (because Socrates never wrote any of his works down), and wrote 36 philosophical books, with his most notable being “The Republic,” a book describing what a perfect society would look like. Plato also started the first form of structured institution of higher education in what was called “The Academy.”
What is Plato’s big idea?
Plato’s main idea is that there are perfect Forms (or Ideas) that everything in reality are based on. This is an attempt to answer Socrates’ question of what exactly is something, like “courage” in that Plato claims what we call courage is usually just a representative of the perfect form of courage. But Plato takes it even further and says there’s a perfect form of everything, including colors or species. Plato says when we see a Black Labrador Retriever, what we are really seeing is only a representation of the pure form of Blackness and of Dog. There is a whole world that consists of the pure forms of what we experience in our world, but they are infinite and unchanging.
What is The Republic?
The Republic is a book that Plato wrote that is written out like a theatrical play, where his mentor, Socrates, is the main character. In this fictional story, Socrates is at a dinner party with a wealthy merchant, a Sophist, and a couple of Plato’s younger brothers, in which they have a lengthy discussion on what really is “Justice” and is the just life truly worth living. Plato leads the story to expand the idea by not just seeing what a just life looks like, but what would a just society looks like. With that, Socrates imagines what would happen if we could wipe the slate clean and start a whole society from scratch and how could we perfectly construct society and how that then reflects back to an individual to live.
What is The Allegory of the Cave?
If you think The Matrix was cool and innovative, then you’ll be surprised to know that Plato thought of it over 2000 years ago. In The Republic, Plato tries to describe what it looks like to be ignorant even of such a large concept as “reality.” He lays out a hypothetical scenario of what happens if you have people who live their whole lives chained up in a cave and only see shadows against the back wall from a fire, would they not believe that was the extent of reality? How could they even conceive the concept of the sun or traveling or basically much of anything that we call reality? What happens if one person broke out and got to go outside for a bit, then came back to tell the others about what that person had seen, would they not consider that person crazy? With that, how do we know the world as we perceive it today is in fact reality?
Born to a wealthy family in Athens around 428 B.C. Plato started as a devout student of Socrates, but after Socrates’ death, Plato emerged to build upon the questions Socrates left behind to become one of the most foundational philosophers to western thought. Unlike Socrates, who never wrote any of his ideas down, Plato is quite the opposite and penned 36 known books over the course of his adult life that span from being Socrates’ most credible biographer to his masterpiece philosophical work in “The Republic.” Another notable act of Plato was the founding of The Academy which is regarded as the first institution designed for collegiate level learning.
Being Socrates’ Biographer and Using Socrates:
Plato had a unique form of writing in philosophy in that he wrote it all in dialogue form. His teachings come from a set of theatrical discussions that are based on both fictional and non-fictional settings to bring about the questions and ideas he has in mind. This makes Plato’s works relatively easy reading in the dense world of philosophical thought since he is able to lay the thoughts out step by step in a conversational tone, unlike most philosophical discourses. One notable feature of these dialogues is that Plato almost never identifies himself in his writings, but rather Plato uses Socrates as the central character of these dialogues.
This feature of using Socrates though brings a lot of headaches for the reader since it is hard to know when Plato is documenting one of Socrates’ ideas and when Plato is just using Socrates as a narrative to express Plato’s own ideas. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry, we all are still confused. Like for example, Plato’s most famous work, “The Republic” is a 10-part play that takes place over a dinner discussion, and during this discussion, the book is written in first person with lines like:
” ‘So our position will be that it’s essential for a man of war to learn how to calculate and count,’ I said.
‘He absolutely has to,’ Glaucon said, ‘if he’s going to know anything at all about deploying troops, or rather, if he’s even going to be a human being.’
‘Now, there’s an idea I have about this subject, and I wonder whether you share it,’ I said.
‘It rather looks as though it’s one of the subjects we’re after, which stimulate a student’s intellect. But it also seems likely that no one makes correct use of its consummate ability to attract one towards reality.’
‘What do you mean, Socrates?’ He asked.
‘I’ll try to clarify my point of view,’ I said. ‘In my mind, I distinguish between things which are and things which are not attractive in the way we’re talking about. I’ll try to get you to appreciate the distinction as well, and then you can tell me whether or not you agree, so that we can be better placed to see how accurate my hunch is.’
‘Yes, do explain.’ He said. (The Republic, 522e-523a)”
So as you can see, it is written in conversational form and while they go into very deep thoughts, it’s easy to trace back where you got lost and get back on track with the discussion. However, even though Socrates is the main character in this dialogue, it is in fact Plato’s thoughts that are being discussed here, not Socrates the man. This isn’t really a recording of one of Socrates’ famous discussions, nor is it even a fictional setting to express on of Socrates’ ideas, but rather this is purely Plato’s ideas and is just imagining how would Socrates talk about Plato’s ideas. It seems like Plato is giving his teacher the ultimate level of respect by making Socrates the mouthpiece of Plato’s own philosophical works, but now we’re left to interpret which books are supposed to be depicting the real man of Socrates and which are depicting the fictional Socrates as an alias for Plato.
Plato’s philosophy of Forms:
While Socrates is fairly easy to summarize because he focused more on questioning rather than making conclusions, Plato is harder to fully encapsulate. The Republic alone touches on many societal issues from laws, to commerce, home life, women’s rights, schooling, politics, healthcare, and land rights. The point is, Plato thought about a lot of stuff, so we need to dive deeper and pull up what were the core features of Plato’s philosophy and see how he applies them.
If we could narrow Plato down to one concept, it is his belief in the world of Forms. To take a step back, we first go and observe Socrates again. What Socrates primarily focused on was knowledge and he felt that in order to have knowledge you have to have fully encompassing knowledge of the subject at hand. He set an incredibly high standard on what qualifies as knowledge and pushed people to extreme scenarios to see if their claim remains true the whole time. What Plato observed is that what Socrates was looking for was a perfect concept of the topic at hand; that when Socrates says he’s looking courage, he’s actually looking for the original concept of courage and all Socrates can find are these cheap copies of the true thing. He started to develop a theory that there was two worlds: one that is made up of pure forms that are the basis of everything, and one that is based on the first world and is governed by our senses. This gets confusing, but he’s saying that there is a world full of blueprints for everything from the concept of courage to horse to the color black. So when we see a black horse, what we are really seeing is a representation of the concept of Horse and the concept of Black, which Horse and Black are immaterial perfect objects in the world of Forms. This concept of forms becomes the foundation for what most of Plato’s teachings are based upon. That we live in a world that is ever changing and imperfect, that reflect a greater reality that is unchanging and eternal.
So to put that all into other words, what Plato envisions is that these Forms are like blueprints that embody the essence of something, and everything we experience is some imperfect application of that form. So there’s a Form blueprint of what is “horse” and when we then see a horse we can identify it as such. But think about it, all horses are not exactly the same. Even in the same breed you can have shorter or taller ones, ones with spots or patterns in their hair, and different personalities. None of these is the purest form of horse, but how then do we see all these variances and still say horse when we see one? In the same way, think about a triangle, we can draw out a triangle, but they are never perfectly triangular. Or what happens Bruce Willis doesn’t stop the asteroid from blowing up earth and no human is left alive, does the concept of triangle still exist? Yes it does, so there must be a perfect Form of triangle that is eternal.
My philosophy professor at Green River Community College would contest this two-worlds concept and say that he doesn’t think that there is truly another dimension that is full of these forms, but rather my professor would rather use the other term used for Plato’s Forms and call them “ideas.” For instance, we can talk about a brown horse and everyone knows what we are talking about, but there doesn’t even need to be a physical brown horse present to be a reflection of a universal idea.
Knowledge vs. Belief
Now that we got Forms, we can look at a few more concepts of Plato’s ideas.
Plato also continues Socrates’ work on knowledge in how Socrates defines knowledge from the contrast to what others proclaim to have when asked about knowledge. What Plato determines is that Forms represent the “knowledge” that Socrates was seeking, and those who claimed to have knowledge were actually describing “belief.” The difference is that knowledge is true and unchanging, while belief could be right but it is always subject to change and to be wrong. An example is if you have an acquaintance named John who you claim is married to someone named Kate. Later you find out you got some facts mixed up and you find out John isn’t even married. Do you say that you used to know that John was married and now you know that John isn’t? No, you would say you used to believe that John was married and after John mentions about being single and the confirmation from a friend that he has never been married, you now know that John is not married.
To have knowledge of something, you have to find the underlying principle that confirms it or find its Form in order to have knowledge of it. Otherwise you’re just having an opinion. If you know something, then you understand why it is so. So when someone who is clever with words and tries to trick you (like a Sophist, or more currently, someone with a politically-biased meme), you will not be overcome by persuasion. Here’s a quick comparison:
Opinion vs. Knowledge:
Is changeable — Endures or stays put
May be true or false — Is always true
Is not backed up by reasons — Is backed up by reasons
Is the result of persuasion — Is the result of instruction
Plato’s most famous work is The Republic, which is a fictional dinner party that Socrates is in where the topic turns to justice and what is the true definition of justice. The first to suggest a definition is Cephalus, an older businessman, who suggests it’s telling the truth and paying one’s debts. Socrates tears that down by using a hypothetical scenario that what we today would use is the “if a Nazi came to your door and asked if you are hiding Jews, do you tell the truth?” Next Cephalus’ son, Polemarcus suggests a more individualistic approach and suggests it’s to do good to one’s friends and harm to enemies. Socrates then tears this down as well by highlighting that being limited to friend or foe means there’s no way to clarify the character of who is friend or foe and your friend may be bad and can harm your other friends and thus you harmed your friends along with others. A Sophist named Thrasymachus loses his temper and angrily states that justice is only the actions of the stronger. Thrasymachus has a very pessimistic attitude and feels like Socrates is just going to play cheap word tricks on him, but Socrates leads him to the conclusion that this is incorrect too by seeing that rulers can end up making bad laws that end up coming back to causing harm to the ruler, and not only that, the ruler does saturate in power but is empowered by their subjects. No ruler is able to purely dominate since the function of to rule is to rule effectively. Socrates refers to physicians are only as good as the value they provide to their clients, so a ruler is only as good as the enhancement of those that he rules and not by the force he can demand.
As Socrates and Thrasymachus go back and forth, Thrasymachus ends up abandoning his position and starts arguing that in fact injustice must be better than justice, because his focus shifts in the argument not on justice itself but on goodness. Because going back to Socrates’ logical connection that a virtuous life is a good life and knowledge helps you live virtuously. Thus if Justice is a virtue, then it must be good. Thrasymachus is trying break Socrates’ connection to Justice being good by dividing internal state and external state by claiming you can be internally happy and externally immoral. But Thrasymachus cannot make progress and so he gets up and storms out. One of Plato’s brothers, Glaucon, joins the discussion picks up where Thrasymachus left off and asks Socrates about Justice’s role in goodness.
- Glaucon begins the challenge by distinguishing between three kinds of “goods”:
“goods” which are desired not because of their consequences but for their own sake, such as joy and harmless pleasures;
- “goods” which are desired for their own sake and for their consequences, such as knowledge, sight, and health; and
- “goods” which are desired for their consequences but not for their own sake, such as physical training, treatment for sickness, and various ways of making money.
Glaucon and Socrates agree that the second kind of “goods” is the best kind and that justice belongs to that kind. Glaucon claims, however, that the Thrasymachean view, and indeed the common-sense view, is that justice belongs to the third kind of “goods.” Glaucon challenges Socrates to show that justice belongs, not to this third kind, but to the second kind of ‘goods.’
Glaucon wonders what happens if someone appears to be Just but in fact is not Just; is justice really just about reputation and not about some form of character? Glaucon tells a tale that will have some familiar points in fantasy stories, and it is called “The Ring of Gyges” which tells a story about a poor farmer who by chance finds a ring and discovers when he puts it on, he becomes completely invisible. He continues with putting on a good reputation, but is able to seduce the queen, and murder the king by using his ring. So J.R.R. Tolkien probably should have added a thank you page to Plato for giving him the idea of a ring of invisibility.
All this leads Socrates to conclude that simply talking about justice and from an individual’s perspective isn’t getting the dinner party anywhere, so he decides to expand the concept to what would a just city look like. That seems like it would be more complicated, but Plato believes that if you can enlarge the picture, you can all the interconnectedness of a just city when compared to an individual is the end picture.
I don’t want this to be a full summary of The Republic, but to fast forward a lot details, Plato lays down a city that tries to eliminate all forms of injustice and serves justice to the whole city and its people. In order to do this though, he concludes that we can’t operate as individuals since like where we started, individual behavior is complex and carries large externalities. So Plato decides that what has to happen is the creation of what is called The Noble Lie. He concludes that we have to lie to the people in order to get the full cooperation, just like many parents lie about Santa Claus to coerce children in behaving well. But the Noble Lie is that there essentially is a caste system that is biologically mandated. There are three classes in society: those who have gold, silver or bronze in their blood. If you have bronze, then you are basically a normal citizen who is going to be a farmer or a merchant. Silver means you will be physically strong and therefore you will be a guardian soldier to protect the city. Gold means you are fit to be a ruler of the city, but those who have gold must be philosophers. The reason that philosophers are the rulers is like stated earlier, a ruler is measured by the impact on those who are ruled. So a ruler should not be self-indulgent, but if possible, should not even have the desire for power. A philosopher fits this role since a proper philosopher is not interested in power but in observing and gaining understanding on power.
To further enforce this lie and to enforce cooperation, Plato also suggest that mating would be regulated by the city to produce the most capable offspring for the city and that the children would be taken from the family home and raised by the city as a whole. The reason being if one does not know who their biological family is, they can show that familial love to every in the city since they all are their brothers and sisters. Along that same logic, there would be no private property since everyone is focusing on the betterment of the city. If your getting a fascist/communist feel to all this, you’re now seeing why history has mixed feelings about Plato’s Republic since a lot of the means Plato described were attempted to be carried out by the Nazi regime and the Soviet Union. But where Plato is coming from is his observation of the mechanical structure of Sparta as they overtook Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Sparta was a city-state that centered its whole culture around military force; everything they did from breeding to education was designed to create the greatest warriors. Plato admired that unifying theme and saw how indestructible they were and wanted to see what happened if he could unify other aspects of society into an intentional purpose like Sparta was able to do.
But there are redeeming factors to Plato’s republic. For instance, Plato goes against the mainstream thought and suggest that women could fill these roles just as much as men could. Plato doesn’t seem to have problems with the idea of a female ruler as long as she comes from gold bloodline.
What Plato is trying to do with his republic is say that there three main roles in society and if you were focused on what you are naturally inclined for and only do that, others doing their own job makes the society as a whole work in harmony and thus goodness is experienced by all and the city is found to be just. Now if we accept Plato’s logic that this system provides goodness, we can then return to the individual and see the gold, silver and bronze classes within the individual. Bronze is our appetite for pleasure and satisfaction, it’s the least disciplined aspect but it is the most potent form of experiencing happiness. Silver is the spirited one; it is the one that is sensitive to harm and willing to defend one’s self and to invoke self discipline. Gold then is the individual’s reasonableness, that helps guide the spirited and the appetite of the individual. An analogy is a two-horse chariot: appetite and spiritedness are the two horses and reason is the chariot rider who is able to lead the chariot along. Appetite, spirit, and reason, then maker up the soul. Appetite motivates, while spirit animates, and reason guides.
Allegory of the Cave:
That pretty much summarizes the thesis of Plato’s Republic, but one other story that is found in this book that is very famous that I don’t think fits as much with the narrative of the book but rather elaborates on other concepts of Plato, and this story is called The Allegory of the Cave. This story is more an argument about his Forms and to show the difference between what we think we know and the greater reality that we actually are in.
The Allegory of the Cave goes like this: imagine a large cave where no sunlight reaches, and in this cave we have a group of people who have spent their whole lives in this cave. To make things worst, they have been chained up with zero mobility their entire lives (I do not know how this is possible but oh well), so all they can do is look directly ahead towards the back wall of the cave. Behind these prisoners is a large bon fire, and there’s a group of people who constantly play charades with the shadows from the firelight that are now shown against the back wall. So the chained up people are constantly seeing these shadows against the wall, but since they have never even seen the fire, they mistakenly believe what they are seeing are real things in of themselves and have even developed games on who can identify the shadows first. But what if one of these prisoners somehow broke free and saw the fire, and even crawled all the way out of the cave, and after a long time of adjusting to the blinding natural light, was now able to see the sun and all of the physical world around. Their whole perception of reality would be completely transformed and would be devastated to look back at the limited life they once lived. But what happens then when this person decided to return to the cave and tell the others about their current reality? They would call this person crazy! This person talks about things that do not exist in their reality and so they must be wrong. To make things worst, when the enlightened one decides to play their shadow-watching game again, the enlightened one is severely limited because of adjusting back to dim light settings. But what kind of message does this person now bring? They make absurd claims and not only that, they can’t even spot the shadows anymore! Thus they dismiss all of the enlightened one’s examples since everything points to the enlightened one who is the one who is crazy, not them.
To better understand this, just think about the Matrix. The Matrix is basically the story of the one being enlightened and fighting to save people from the false reality. The Matrix is almost literally a modern interpretation of The Allegory of the Cave.
So why is this important? Well in The Republic, this is used to talk about the need for philosophers since they are the ones who are climbing out of the cave, but the reason why is because it comes back to forms. Again using Socrates’ logic, knowledge is the key to virtue and pure knowledge are Forms, then acknowledging that we do not know and accepting that the world around us is just a bunch of reflections of what is truly reality, allows us to then more accurately pursue it. We may not be able to fully grasp forms, but opening our eyes to that reality then makes us more accurately live closer to true reality, and that knowledge then leads us to be virtuous.
Now there’s one last major concept of Plato and it has to do with the soul and the source of understanding.
In Meno, Socrates is asked about knowledge and asks about the origin of knowledge. Meno claims that there’s a contradiction in that in order to set out to learn something, you have to know what you don’t know, which then confirms that you do know. Meno breaks down the progression of thought as:
- Either we know what we are searching for or we do not.
- If we know what we are searching for, the search is pointless
- If we do not know what we are searching for, the search is impossible.
- So the search is either pointless or impossible. “
However, Plato’s theory on knowledge completely deviates from Meno’s logic and sets about convincing the Meno’s premise is incorrect. Plato uses Socrates to make the claim that knowledge isn’t actually learned, but in fact is already all known by the soul. Plato believes that we all have a soul and when we are born, we forget all knowledge, and throughout our life we are slowly recalling all what our spirit already knew. To illustrate this point, Socrates asks Meno about his slave boy and asks if the boy has received any teachings on mathematics, which Meno states that the boy has not. Socrates then talks with the boy and asks him a question like about what would be the length of the side of a square that is double the area of a square whose side is two feet long? The boy displays is ignorance by fist saying four feet, and three feet long. But then Socrates continues to ask the boy a series of questions to the point that he now figures out the logic of how area is calculated and concludes that the answer must be eight feet long. Socrates then uses this as evidence that the boy’s soul already knew that logic, but the boy had to recall it. It’s not a great example, and in other works Plato does use other logical progressions like this one regarding a child’s identifying the concept of equality:
- If A judges that x is deficient to y at a given time t, then A knew y before t.
- If A experiences equal things (x), then A judges those things (x) to be deficient to equality (y).
- So, if A experiences equal things (x) at t, then A knew equality (y) before t.
- Knowledge of equality is acquired during life only from the experience of equal things.
- So, knowledge of equality could not have been acquired between the moment of birth and one’s first experience of equal things.
- So, if A experiences equal things (x), then there is some time (t) prior to A’s birth at which A acquired the knowledge of equality (y).
- So, if A acquires knowledge of equality for the first time in this life (i.e., if A learns equality), then A knew equality before (i.e., A recollects equality).
But let’s now turn to the soul. Since knowledge is not learned, then there has to be something that possess that knowledge within us, and that is what Plato calls our soul. But with the logical progression explained previously, Plato determines that this knowledge is already possessed prior to birth, and if it prior to birth then it exists after death as well. With Plato adding the unchanging characteristics to the soul, what he is also doing is saying that the soul is very much like the eternal Forms since the soul is not limited to the senses as well. Plato goes on to talk about the process of the soul in the body and concludes that if the soul possess all knowledge of Forms, and we spend our lives slowly recalling all the known knowledge, then the body must be a form of a prison for the soul. The more we are able to recall knowledge in our life, the more our soul can operate in its most pure form, but cannot be fully reached until it is liberated through death that allows the soul to reclaim its full capacity.
As a Christian, it is really interesting to read Plato’s perspective of souls because it strongly correlates with the Christian narrative of how the eternal soul operates in the finite human body. So don’t take this the wrong way, but you can see how this Christian narrative is influenced by Plato since Plato wrote these ideas 400 years prior to Paul preaching about Jesus and concept of salvation in that very same community. Plato had already primed Greek thought with the idea of the body being a restrictive force to the soul and what lies ahead is not the end of existence, but quite the opposite is something pure and joyous.
So to summarize all this: Forms (or Ideas) represent what Socrates is looking for when he searches for knowledge; Forms are universal and unchanging. The reason why Socrates was so against ignorance can now be explained by seeing that our soul is eternal and already possess knowledge, but our finite body limits its capacity. Therefore the more we can learn what lies beyond our deceptive present reality that comes from our senses, the more we can recall knowledge, which based on Socrates’ rationale, the more we can get closer to knowledge, the more we can act virtuously and therefore live a good life.
I think one of the most applicable things about Plato has to do with his allegory of the cave. It helps us understand how we think and why it is so hard to change peoples’ minds. It makes you wonder who are you in the scenario when you debate with someone: are you really the one who is enlightened and are trying to convince someone who doesn’t have the framework to comprehend your logic, or could in fact you be the one who is still shackled? Even if the person sounds crazy, how do you know you’re not the one with the circular logic?
Let’s now challenge your thinking to see what you really have retained from all of this. Imagine you’re having a discussion with someone and you mention Plato in passing, but the person you are talking to you admits that they do not know who Plato is, how do you describe Plato to them? See if you can answer coherently these questions that you are being asked:
- Who is Plato?
- You say all these books are written by Plato, but they are written in first person as Socrates, whose ideas are really being talked about here?
- What are these “Forms?”
- Why is the form of a black lab more real than the one I see in front of me?
- What is the difference between knowledge and opinion?
- While Socrates may be the original western philosopher, none of Socrates’ ideas would have ever survived without Plato. Plato was a follower of Socrates who not only became Socrates’ most credible biographer, but also was ambitious enough to start laying the framework to answering the questions Socrates wrestled with. Plato came up with concept of perfect Forms and theorized how a perfect society should operate.
- Short answer is that we don’t really know which are Socrates’ ideas and which are Plato’s but just to be clear, even when you read a book where it’s written as Socrates being the narrator, it’s still Plato who is the author. But to decipher which ideas are Socrates and which are Plato’s is generally seen as the early writings of Plato to more reflect Socrates, and as Plato gets older, the more Plato infuses his own ideas. The Republic is seen more as Plato’s own ideas while being imagined through how Socrates would talk about it.
- Forms are the perfect version of something. If we see a Black Lab, and call that as a Black Lab, what happens then if we see another Lab that is Yellow and maybe a little bit smaller or has a different personality, how can we still call both these things Labs or even dogs? Plato says they reflect a perfect idea of Dog, or Lab, or Yellow or Black. Since there is a perfect form and they are just representations of it, they can have variances in them while still being called Labradors.
- The reason why Plato says that the Form of a Labrador is more real than the one you physically interact with, is because the Form is immortal and unchanging. What sounds more authentic to you, something that is always consistent or something that decays and has a lot of ambiguity to it? You’d say the former, therefore while we cannot interact with the Form of a Labrador, it is more true and real than the physical representation of a Labrador.
- Knowledge is connected to a Form, and therefore if you can identify the Forms of your inquiry, than you have something stable to it. If you don’t have that basis, then you simply have a belief, which is subject to persuasion. With belief you can still be “right,” but only on accident since you don’t really understand why you are right.
This is just a link to my notes page if you want to see how I got my material.