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Plato Theory of Forms

Essay by review  •  December 10, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,126 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,128 Views

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Plato's Theory of Forms is not something that is easy to understand. According to him the forms are a class concept that is a perfect example of the form itself. To anyone scanning through the forms they might not grasp the full concept Plato is trying to get across. However, if time is taken to examine Plato's theory it can make sense. For Plato everything has a pure form. If you take any property of an object and separate it from the object itself, you are left contemplating a form.

Plato splits up being into two worlds, the material world and the transcendent world of forms. We know of the world of forms through the mind, through reason; this gives us access to an unchanging world, secure from the changes of the material world. By making ourselves become aware of the forms, we find something that cannot be changed in anyway. We see a different world, with different objects, through our mind than we do through the senses. It is the material world, visible through the senses, that is changing. It is the world of forms, seen through the mind that is permanent and immutable. It is the world of the forms that is more real, where as the material world is an imperfect image of the world of forms.

The form of roundness can be a great example to try and break the concept of Plato's theory down into simpler terms. If you separate the roundness of a basketball from its color, its weight, etc. and consider just roundness by itself, you are thinking of the form of roundness. Plato believed that this form existed aside from the basketball, in a different form of existence than the actual basketball. The form is not just the idea of roundness you have in your mind. It exists separately from the basketball and independently of whether someone thinks of it. All round objects, not just a basketball, participate or resemble this same form of roundness.

To see what a form is and how it differs from a material object, you have to understand two properties that characterize the forms. The forms are transcendent. This means that they do not exist in space and time. A material object, a basketball, exists at a particular place at a particular time. The forms exist in a different way. This why Plato says the forms are unchanging. A form such as roundness will never change; it does not even exist in time. It is the same at all times or places in which it might be. A form does not exist in space in that it can be in many places at once and need not be anywhere specific in order for the form to exist. The form of roundness can be found in many locations, and even if all round objects were destroyed, the property of roundness would still exist.

The forms are also pure. This means that they are pure properties separated from all other properties. A material object, such as a basketball, has many properties: roundness, bounce, orange color, elasticity, etc. These are all put together to make up an individual basketball. A form is just one of these properties, existing by itself apart from space and time. Roundness is just pure roundness, without any other properties mixed in. The forms differ from material objects, then, in that they are transcendent and pure, while material objects are collection of properties located in space and time.

To understand the theory of forms you also have to understand some other characteristics that make forms different form material objects. The forms are perfect examples of the property that they represent. The forms are the perfect models which all material objects are based. The form of roundness, for example, is round, and all round objects are simply copies of this perfect form of roundness. All material objects

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