The Forms In Plato's Republic And Meno

1638 words - 7 pages

Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher who, with teachings from his mentor, Socrates, helped establish the foundations of Western philosophy. Not only was Plato a brilliant thinker, but he also studied mathematics and was an excellent writer. Many of his philosophical ideas are contained in Dialogues, texts that encompass the basic teachings learned from Socrates as well as his own innovative thoughts. These writings take the form of conversations between a philosopher (usually Socrates) and a pupil. The major ideas, found in subjects such as mathematics, philosophy, logic, rhetoric, and others, are conveyed through indirect teaching and thought-provoking cross-examinations. The questioning involved in this method, known as elenchus, leads the subject to make his or her own conclusions. In many cases, this involves a state of uncertainty, called aporia, in which the interviewee realizes that he did not actually possess the knowledge he believed he had. Some recurrent themes found in the Platonic writings are the search for certainty in knowledge, the concept of virtue, the nature of reality, and politics.One of the major theories put forth by Plato is the Theory of Forms. This philosophy attempts to explain the nature of the universe, including both the material world and the unseen forces that act within it. The Theory of Forms specifically refers to Plato's belief that the natural world as perceived by us is not truly real, but only a shadow of the real world. The forms themselves are abstract representations of the many types and properties of the things that exist in the universe. Plato delineated his ideas regarding forms in his Republic and Meno, and these were used in devising his explanation to the concept of universals. It was this attempt to rationally explain the phenomena of the natural world that Plato attempted to convey to his pupils and fellow philosophers, as they tried to make sense of their existence and the world around them.To understand the concept of forms, it is necessary to know how knowledge of them comes about. In Plato's Meno, the idea of an innate knowledge of forms is brought up. In his dialogue with Meno regarding the nature of virtue, Socrates attempts to explain this concept, which he denotes as anamnesis, or recollection. Under this view, the soul, which is eternal, solely has to recall knowledge learned in previous lifetimes. "Then if the truth about reality is always in our soul, the soul would be immortal so that you should always confidently try to seek our and recollect what you do not know at present-that is, what you do not recollect?" Therefore, it is not possible to fully learn the forms, only to recall them when subjected to proper education and training.A form is a concept that is common to all things that are referred to by a single name. The essence of an individual thing is its identification with a certain form, and therefore all that we know comes from knowledge of and definition through the...

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