This weeks study of Plato’s Republic left me very intrigued about Plato’s theory of the forms. I found the theory slightly complexing and spent most of my study time trying to understand it. An intricate theory such as this will take much more hours of study and would be worth a well length research paper. I realize that with my study and understanding, I’ve only scratched the surface of an incredible concept from Plato. This is a concept I kept asking myself how Plato thought, and as I kept looking for a basis to his propositions, I realized that the theory of the forms may be completely intuitive to Plato.
According to Plato, the things that are truly real are not the physical objects we see in front of us daily. Instead, the most real things are things that are immaterial meaning not existing as a physical substance. The material substances we know of are imperfect because they are subject to change. To Plato, for something to be perfect, it must be unchangeable because of its consistency, and consistency is a property of immutability. Since there is no such thing as a perfect physical substance and changes from time to time in some way shape or form, then perfection is found in the immaterial world which Plato calls the forms.
In our weekly lessons; lesson four, we read of the imperfect triangle. No matter how many technological instruments we use to attempt to make a perfect triangle, it will always remain imperfect in the material world because it is constantly changing; however, let’s think a little more in depth. What if we somehow were able to tap into the world of forms and see and measure the ultimate triangle by which it transcends into the material world for our recreation. Let’s say that we are then able to use our most advanced technology and perfectly recreate the triangle just as we measured it in the world of the forms; would then the material triangle be perfect in the material world? No, it would not because of the principle that any substance out of the world of forms is a mere copy or shadow of the true form; therefore, in a relative metaphysical sense, not real.
Another illustrative example can be gleaned from Plato’s Cave. Consider the people chained against the wall. They look forward at a wall where their entire life they can only see shadows of people and objects being projected by the light of fire behind them. From their perspective, the shadows of people and objects moving are truly real to them based on ignorance. With this example, we can realize that the shadows are the material copies of the people and objects behind them, which are the forms. The forms; in principle, are always more real than its transcendence in the physical world.
For a clearer understanding consider a couple quotes from Plato regarding the forms. Plato wrote, “The mind or whatever we please to call it, of which they are the instruments, and with which through them we perceive the objects of sense,” (Plato p.40). If we think of the mind in the sense which is being written by Plato, our mind is an instrument we use to gather intelligence and knowledge. With the mind, we are able to make sense of the substances around our world. Not everyone is able to acknowledge or comprehend the world of forms; therefore, in the mind of Plato, it is only the philosopher who has the intellectual capacity to understand the world of forms.
“For there were no days and night and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he constructed the heaven, he (God) created them also. They are all parts of time, and the past and the future are created species of time, which we unconsciously but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence . . . these are the forms of time, which imitates eternity and revolves according to a law of numbers” (Plato p.13). We see here Socrates explaining that before there were properties of the day, night, years, and the concept of time; there is an eternity. I don’t suppose Plato read the Old Testament, so this is highly intuitive of him to believe there was a god who created the world of the forms and the world of substance, which according to Plato we mistake the substance world for the real world instead of the forms. Eternity is, therefore, the true absolute; and the properties of time are the shadows of the form of eternity. Forms, therefore, are transcendent to all time, space, and material substance; however, there is a little theology I’d like to add to this philosophy. Since in the world of forms, there would have to be a creator (God) to create the forms and its shadow substances, then we may deduce that there may not be a world of forms; but instead, all substances and forms are a shadow and copy of only one true form; the Absolute Form, who is God. If in the mind of Plato true knowledge is to acknowledge the world of forms, then true knowledge is to acknowledge the Absolute Form; God.
Plato. Theaetetus. ProQuest Ebook Central. 2000. Web. 26 2017. [http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/lib/apus/reader.action?docID=3314717&ppg=31].
Plato. Timaeus. ProQuest Ebook Central. 2000. Web. 26 2017. [http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/lib/apus/reader.action?docID=3314710&ppg=11].