Criticisms of Plato’s Theory of the Forms Essay

Plato’s theory of signifiers. besides called his theory of thoughts. provinces that there is another universe. separate from the stuff universe that we live in called the “eternal universe of forms” . This universe. to Plato. is more existent than the one we live in. His theory is shown in his Fable of the Cave ( from The Republic. Book VII ) . where the captives merely live in what they think is a existent universe. but truly it is a shadow of world. Harmonizing to Plato. to the captives in the fable and to humanity in the material universe “truth would be literally nil but shadows” and he believes us to be every bit nescient as the people in the cave. Plato followed the belief that in order for something to be existent it has to be lasting. and as everything in the universe we live in is invariably altering. he assumed there must be something else. In his ageless universe of signifiers. there is an ideal signifier of every object there is in this universe. Plato answers the inquiry “what is beauty? ” by detecting the kernel of true beauty. The ground one recognises something has being beautiful is because we have an innate cognition of something that is beauty. i. e. we know of the signifier of true beauty in the ageless universe of signifiers. and everything we see compares to that. Something is merely beautiful if it portions features with the signifier of beauty in the other universe. The most of import signifier is the signifier of the good. portrayed by the Sun in the fable of the cave.

Aristotle was Plato’s chief critic and was one time a student of Plato. Aristotle and many other philosophers who came after Plato criticised Plato’s position that these ideal signifiers had an independent being. Many people believe that there must be something to which we compare all objects and something that makes something what it is and non something else. But that doesn’t mean that it exists separate from our organic structures. Plato does non turn out. or even seek and turn out that these perfect signifiers are axiomatic. It is Plato’s disablement to turn out this that causes people to knock his theory. As Aristotle was one of his students. he does non wholly reject Plato’s theory but argues that it may non be the lone logical ground towards how something is classified.

Another unfavorable judgment made by Aristotle. Linked to the old one is that Aristotle does non believe that there can be an ideal signifier of Disease. or Dirt. or anything bad. If these things are unwanted so how can at that place be a perfect signifier of these? A perfect signifier of disease would be one that does non harm anybody. and doesn’t cause decease or agony. Some constructs fit Plato’s system in better ways than others. For illustration. mathematical constructs are easier for us to understand than others. How are we to cognize what the ideal Canis familiaris is like? Is it tall. short. fat. or skinny? The perfect signifier of a circle fits into his theory as we know what a perfect circle would be like. It is difficult to believe that there is a perfect signifier of a piece of paper. or a fictile bag. But. as can be seen. this unfavorable judgment is once more non wholly disregarding Plato’s theory but is happening loopholes in it.

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Another job with his theory. which is once more related to the last. is how far the ideal signifier relates? Plato does non do it clear whether the perfect signifier in the other universe is really specific or whether it isn’t. If we take for illustration a Canis familiaris ; is the signifier in the ageless universe of signifiers merely an ideal animate being. or an ideal Canis familiaris? Possibly it goes farther to the strain of Canis familiaris. or even whether it is male or female. As Plato doesn’t elucidate this. we could travel on and on until we have a signifier of every animate being. so a unforesightful. over-weight. female Canis familiaris. This means that the signifiers are no longer cosmopolitan and hence stop up holding no significance.

If both Aristotle and Plato were taking to make the highest from of the good so they should both hold on how to make it. Plato claims that the highest signifier of the good is like the Sun. “seen merely with an effort” . and is the one thing that makes other things the manner they are as it is “the cosmopolitan writer of all things…and the immediate beginning of ground and truth in the intellectual” . Goodness is something that can non be defined. when asked. different people have different thoughts about what is good. or right and incorrect. whereas if everybody was asked to indicate to the Sun they all would. This disproves his theory as non everybody has a true apprehension of the Form of the Good.

Plato fails to put out his theory clearly and let the reader to gain it is a theory. Nowhere in his duologue does he province that he is depicting a theory of signifiers. and so people may hold misunderstood his composing s and he may non hold meant it to be a theory at all. He has elements of his theory in many different duologues and is inconsistent. In Book I of the Metaphysics Aristotle claims that Plato had a “system” to the consequence that “the many sensibles which have the same name exist by take parting in the corresponding Forms. ” This quotation mark from Aristotle’s work suggests that Plato did hold a theory of signifiers but this is non believed by all people.

None of these unfavorable judgments wholly disallow Plato’s theory but argue against it and propose other possibilities. Although there are many critics of Plato there are besides many people who follow him. and even in this twenty-four hours and age Plato’s thoughts are understood and followed and he has ended up being one of the most influential philosophers although his Theory of Forms is somewhat over the top and difficult to understand.

To a certain extent these unfavorable judgments are valid. but in other ways they are non. In my sentiment they are valid every bit far as unfavorable judgments are concerned but are non valid if they are meant to oppose Plato’s theory.

In my position they are invalid to travel up against Plato’s theory of signifiers because they do non provide us with any other options but merely indicate out the defects of his statements. For illustration. Aristotle’s unfavorable judgment that these ideal signifiers do non hold to be independently from this material universe is valid. But he does non give us a ground why it is impossible for them to be axiomatic or explicate to us how they could be in this universe. This causes the unfavorable judgments to be less valid in my position as there is no important ground for Plato’s theory to be untrue.

Similarly with the 2nd unfavorable judgment about how there can non be an ideal signifier of soil. I believe there can be. Just as good things can hold ideal signifiers. bad things besides must hold something to which we compare them. The signifier would bring forth a definition of disease and there is no ground why this can non be. When Plato negotiations about something ideal. he does non intend it is ideal in the context we want it and necessitate it. but merely that it is the signifier to which we will compare things and it is the perfect signifier of a bad thing. Although people criticise Plato’s because it is difficult to believe that there is an ideal signifier of some things that aren’t mathematical constructs. it doesn’t mean they are non true merely because we don’t understand it. I hence. make non believe that this unfavorable judgment is valid. as I do non see a ground why it can non be true.

One unfavorable judgment I do believe is valid is that Plato does non do it clear about whether the ideal signifier is of a certain animate being. a species or strain. But. Plato may non hold thought it necessary to do this clear to us as he may hold thought it obvious. This. nevertheless. is truly giving Plato the benefit of the uncertainty. and so I think this is a valid unfavorable judgment.

Even if Plato and Aristotle were both taking for the same thing. in my position it does non intend they have to make it in the same manner. Aristotle did believe many of the things Plato taught him. but merely expanded his thoughts a bit more. I do non believe this to be a valid unfavorable judgment as there are ever many ways to make an terminal and non everybody has to follow the same way to make their end.

Plato criticises his ain theory a few times but finally reaches replies to the things he criticised. This can either do other people’s unfavorable judgments to be more valid or less valid depending on the manner you look at it. Often. when people criticise their ain work before person else does. it lowers the value of the unfavorable judgment as it shows Plato already knew people would knock him for that. On the other manus. it makes me believe that there is ground to knock if he himself criticises his theory. This causes subsequently unfavorable judgments of his theory to be more valid.

There are many grounds for the unfavorable judgments to be valid. and many why they are non. I personally think that most of them are non valid and if even nowadays many people believe Plato’s theory so there must be some truth in it.


*Foundation for the Study of Religion – Libby Ahluwalia

*Plato – R. M. Hare

*Philosophy: an Introduction – Mel Thompson

*Encarta – Plato