Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Plato: Where Do the Forms Exist?

If the Forms are truly real, if they embody Being, it would seem they must be someplace. How can they since they are immaterial? They are separate from the "concrete" things; they exist "apart from" the things we see. The question of their location comes up as a consequence of our language, which implies that Forms, being something, must be someplace in space. Plato says that the human soul was acquainted with the Forms before it was united with the body. God used the Forms in fashioning particular things, suggesting that the Forms had an existence prior to the embodiment in things. These Forms seem to ave originally existed in the "mind of God" or in the supreme principle of rationality, the One. Whether the Forms truly exist in the mind of God is a question, but that the Forms are the agency through which the principle of reason operates in the universe seems to be just what Plato means.
A hierarchy of Forms as representing the structure of reality, of which the visible world is only a reflection. The "lower" one comes in this hierarchy of Forms, the closer one comes to visible tings and therefore the less universal is one's knowledge, as when one speaks of "red apples." 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Platonic Doctrine of Forms or Ideas

The Forms or Ideas are those changeless, eternal, and nonmaterial essences or patterns of which the actual visible objects we see are only poor copies. There is the Form of the Triangle and all the triangles we see are mere copies of the Form. This tentative description of the Forms as non-material realities already indicates what was so novel bout this Platonic doctrine: Whereas the pre-Socratic philosophers thought of reality as material stuff of some sort, Plato now designated the non-material Ideas or Forms as the true reality.
Knowledge is not concerned simply with passing facts and appearances, with the realm of becoming. Knowledge seeks what truly is: its concern is with Being. Although Plato is not sure that there are Ideas or Forms of dog, water, and other things, he indicates in the Parmenides that there are "certainly not" Ideas of mud and dirt. Clearly, if there were Forms behind all classifications of things, there would have to be a duplicate world. 

Plato and Perfect Intelligence

To have the perfect knowledge would require that the mind should grasp the relation of everything to everything else, that it should see the unity of the whole reality. Perfect intelligence represents the mind as completely released from sensible objects. The perfect mind are dealing with the pure FORMS without any interference from even the symbolic character of visible objects. The highest level of knowledge is approached to the extent that the mind is able to move beyond the restrictions of hypotheses toward the unit of all FORMS. Perfect intelligence therefore means the synoptic view of reality and this, for Plato, implies the unity of knowledge. 

Plato and Thinking

Visible things are symbols of a reality that can be thought but not seen. Plato illustrates this kind of mental activity by referring to the mathematician. Although scientists may look at a particular object, a triangle or a brain, they go beyond this particular triangle or brain and think about the Triangle or the Brain. Science require that we "let go" our senses and rely instead upon our intellects. Thinking therefore, represents the power of the mind to abstract from a visible object that property which  is the same in all objects in that class even though each such actual object will have other variable properties.
Thinking is characterized not only by its treatment of visible objects as symbols, but also by reasoning from hypotheses. By a hypothesis Plate meant a truth which is taken as self-evident but which depends upon some higher truth: "You know," says Plate, "how students of subjects like geometry and arithmetic begin by postulating odd and even numbers, or the various figures and the three kinds of angle... These data they take as known, and having adopted them as assumptions, they do not feel called upon to give any account of them to themselves or to anyone else but treat them as self-evident."
For Plato, then, an hypothesis did not mean what it meas to us, namely, a temporary truth. He meant by it a firm truth but one that is related to a larger context. The special sciences and mathematics treat their subjects as if they were independent truths. All Plato want to say here is that if we could view all things as they really are, we should discover that all things are related or connected.