Due to spam and off-topic content, these forums are being phased out and replaced with new great books forums. Please join us!
Posted by Chad Trainer on December 18, 1999 at 12:53:45:
In Reply to: Re: the republic and the theory of forms posted by jackie on December 17, 1999 at 04:19:27:
: Dear Chad
: I have the same problem as Sarah, this my first year doing Philosophy and I am finding the Theory of Forms hard to grasp. My essay is due in on January 28 2000. Could do with some help understanding the principle. While I am here, what part does 'perception' play in understanding 'The Theory of Forms'? How do we know that how we perceive x is the same as everyone else's perception of x.
It could well be to your credit that you find the Theory of Forms hard to grasp. I did too, and I must say that, in retrospect, I believe that much of the confusion I experienced initially was a result of having overestimated it.
I think that most Platonists would accept as a brief description of the Theory of Forms the description that for every morally or aesthetically positive thing that can be isolated in thought there must be an eternal, transcendent, archetype that, because of its very eternity and transcendence, can be grasped by the mind alone, not the senses. The sensory world, rather, abounds in half-baked, or "impure," instances of these transcendent archetypes.
How much latitude do you have in deciding what your essay is about? It might be interesting to write on:
-why you agree or disagree with the Theory of Forms;
-the Theory of Forms as a culmination of several Pre-Socratic philosophies, as well as the philosophy of Socrates;
-the influence of the Theory of Forms on history in general, Aristotle,Catholicism, and the like; or
-the Theory of Forms as it seems to have been modified as Plato's thought matured.
As far as "perception" is concerned, I have never come across any instance in Platonic literature where "perception" meant anything other than sensory-perception. Since Forms can be grasped much more purely by the mind than by sensory perception, Plato would say that the best part sensory perception can play in "understanding Forms" is to "remind" the "soul" of the Forms the "soul" has already grasped independently of, and prior to, the senses. (This is what is referred to as Plato's "theory of reminiscence.") With this in mind your point about "How do we know that how we perceive x is the same as everyone else's perception of x?" is more marginalized in the context of Platonism than in many philosophies if you mean by "perception" "sensory-perception." This is because Plato would not have ociated "knowledge" with sensory perception, to begin with.
I'm afraid that if yo mean, on the other hand, "how do we know that our grasp of a given Form, say Beauty, is the same as everyone else's, I think your question is well taken. I think it is a question the Platonists have not satisfactorily answered. And I think Platonism would have been imperiled had enough of its adherents asked the same question you have.
I hope this has been of some help.
Post a Followup