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The World of the Forms

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Andrew Midgley

on 12 September 2016

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Transcript of The World of the Forms

The World of the Forms
The World of the Forms in Plato's Republic
... and how the Cave illustrates it
What does the Cave represent?
: The world that our senses experience. Reality, said Plato, is actually much bigger
: Us
: Things that restrict our movement and stop us from further educating ourselves, they are keeping us put. Notably, our ignorance.
The Fire
: Light symbolises goodness, which enables understanding to take place.

What does the Cave represent?
The Sun
: The Form of the Good – ultimate truth, the absolute standard of good.
The Shadows
: The shadows are pale reflections of reality. When a creature or human walks between the fire and the cave, or when an object is placed there, a shadow is formed. This gives the prisoners an insight into things outside of the cave.
Plato's Beliefs
There are gods/God
Knowledge is
The body and soul are separate (This view is known as

Plato's Beliefs
The soul is immortal. Before the human body receives its soul, the soul exists in the world of the Forms.
The soul therefore has a full understanding of virtues such as goodness, truthfulness, honour etc …

Plato used this Cave
to make a very simple point:
human understanding is limited
In order to understand more, Plato argued, people need to want to get out of the cave. Wanting to leave is the first step on the road to escaping, and gaining understanding. So, what kind of understanding did Plato think people needed ...?

(Plato called these virtues '
'. The point is that
The Problem of Dualism
The issue is that
bodies cannot understand
forms, therefore when the immortal soul meets the mortal body, it loses the knowledge of the Forms.
Consequently, humans do not know what goodness is, or how to be good, even though some understanding of goodness has been retained.
The task of every human life, said Plato, is to
strive towards this goodness

How the Cave shows all this
We can understand all this - the Forms, goodness, the sometimes traumatic process of learning and growth - by means of the allegory of the Cave.
Most humans, said Plato, operate inside the cave, believing what they see there to be the truth. Plato taught that inside the cave was merely the
world of appearances
; outside the Cave you would find the real world. Plato called this real world the
world of the Forms

is an idea of something’s
true essence
In the Cave allegory, the true essence of ‘cat’ (for example) could only be seen once the world of appearances (that is, the Cave’s interior) had been escaped from.
Inside the cave, there were only pale reflections, shadows, imitations of what that real cat was like.
Inside the cave, there was
truth, but the fulness of the experiences in the cave eluded the grasp of the prisoners.

... is the
real world
. Here, one can see things exactly as they are – a real cat, a real horse, a real table.
This is like the
. The Forms are the real version of things that we experience in the world of appearances. It is only by escaping the shackles of our own
that we can get closer to finding out the truth of the Forms.

Outside the Cave ...
Read through the excerpt from Plato's Republic. Answer the following questions:

1] What does Socrates mean by the escapee being 'cured of their delusions'? (p.242)
2] Why would the prisoner need to grow accustomed before he could see things in the upper world?
3] What does the ascent to sunlight stand for in the allegory? Why is it painful?
4] How does Socrates describe the Form of the Good?
5] Why might someone who knows the Good be reticent to return to 'the Cave'?
6] 'Anyone who is going to act rationally either in public or private life must have sight of [the Form of the Good].' Why does Socrates make this claim? (p.244)
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