Theory of forms  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Plato's Theory of Forms asserts that Forms (or Ideas), and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the highest and most fundamental kind of reality. The Forms are the only true objects of study that can provide us with genuine knowledge. Plato spoke of forms (sometimes capitalized in translations: The Forms) in formulating his solution to the problem of universals.

Dialogues that discuss Forms

The theory is presented in the following dialogues:

  • Meno
    71-81, 85-86: The discovery (or "recollection") of knowledge as latent in the soul, pointing forward to the theory of Forms
  • Cratylus
    389-390: The archetype as used by craftsmen
    439-440: The problem of knowing the Forms.
  • Symposium
    210-211: The archetype of Beauty.
  • Phaedo
    73-80: The theory of recollection restated as knowledge of the Forms in soul before birth in the body.
    109-111: The myth of the afterlife.
  • Republic
    • Book III
      402-403: Education the pursuit of the Forms.
    • Book V
      472-483: Philosophy the love of the Forms. The philosopher-king must rule.
    • Books VI-VII
      500-517: Philosopher-guardians as students of the Beautiful and Just implement archetypical order.
Metaphor of the sun: The sun is to sight as Good is to understanding.
Allegory of the cave: The struggle to understand forms like men in cave guessing at shadows in firelight.
    • Books IX-X
      589-599: The ideal state and its citizens. Extensive treatise covering citizenship, government and society with suggestions for laws imitating the Good, the True, the Just, etc.
  • Phaedrus
    248-250: Reincarnation according to knowledge of the true
    265-266: The unity problem in thought and nature.
  • Parmenides
    129-135: Participatory solution of unity problem. Things partake of archetypal like and unlike, one and many, etc. The nature of the participation (Third man argument). Forms not actually in the thing. The problem of their unknowability.
  • Theaetetus
    184-186: Universals understood by mind and not perceived by senses.
  • Sophist
    246-248: True essence a Form. Effective solution to participation problem.
    251-259: The problem with being as a Form; if it is participatory then non-being must exist and be being.
  • Timaeus
    27-52: The design of the universe, including numbers and physics. Some of its patterns. Definition of matter.
  • Philebus
    14-18: Unity problem: one and many, parts and whole.
  • Seventh Letter
    342-345: The epistemology of Forms. The Seventh Letter is possibly spurious.

Criticism

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Theory of forms" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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