Tutor HuntResources Philosophy Resources

Plato Theory Of Ideas

Platonic theory of ideas is an answer to a fundamental question of metaphysics

Date : 22/07/2014

Author Information


Uploaded by : Shruti
Uploaded on : 22/07/2014
Subject : Philosophy

What is the ultimate reality of the world? As per the great thinker and Philosopher Plato, Ideas are the ultimate realities. In this world, there are lots of particular things but if we take these things in a particular way only, nothing general can be extracted. Thus, on the basis of some common qualities of things, Plato divides particular things into different classes. Ideas are nothing but essential features common to all members of these classes. As an example, there is a class man, and every member of this class possesses a quality called manness. Thus, there exists an idea of manness. Likewise, there are several ideas including an idea of tree, idea of horseness etc. Throwing light on the importance of ideas, Plato says that the concept is important to understand a sentence. As an example, there is a sentence say, India is a democratic world. To understand it properly, we should have an idea of democracy. Here comes the necessity of ideas to plato. Features of Ideas, as explained by Plato: . Ideas are substances as they are the ultimate realities of the world . Ideas are eternal because they exist beyond space and time . Ideas exist prior to particular things and apart from them . Ideas are many in number. Thus, Plato is a pluralist as he considers the reality to be more than one in number. However, bridging the gap between atomists and parameindes, plato says that ideas are unity in plurality. There are many trees but idea of tree is one. . Ideas are perfect. For example, idea of beauty is a perfect idea. No other thing in the world exists that carries the same level of perfection. Discussing the origin and status of ideas, Plato says that there is a different world of ideas, also called heaven of ideas. It can be comprehended by our reason but this world of ideas does not depend on us for its existence. Plato, here, lays the foundation of Rationalism by saying that in human reason , there exist some universal principles which act as starting point of knowledge. On the other hand, by accentuating that ideas do not depend on us for their existence, Plato advocates Objective Idealism. Ideas have been presented in a scale as per the degree of comprehensiveness. Idea of Good is at the top that imparts axiological dimension to Platonic theory( Zeller). Plato considers the reality to be good and beautiful. In views of Zeller, the theory also carries ontological dimensions because ideas are not mere mental constructions, they are the substances. W.C. states that ideas are epistomological because they have been considered as the starting point of knowledge. In addition, they are mystical because they have their own world ,different from our world. Succinctly put, ideas are the realities of the world. However, this consideration has left big questions: How this real world has been derived from the world of ideas? What is the relation between this world and the world of ideas? In answer to these questions, Plato has come up with two concepts: 1) Relation of appearance and reality 2) Concept of participation According to Plato, world of ideas is a reality and our physical world is just a copy of it. In his book Republic, Plato takes an example of allegory of caves to prove his point. In this example, a man is considered to be fully chained, can`t move from his place. Sunlight coming from behind makes his shadow on the wall in front of him. As the man can`t move from his place, he is only able to see the shadow and nothing except that. Thus, he considers the shadow to be real. However, shadow is just an appearance. Reality is the sunlight coming from behind.Same is the case with our world. As we continuously see this world, we start considering it a reality. In actuality, reality is the ideas and this world is a mere shadow of ideas. Plato also provides second argument and opines that things and beings of the world participate in ideas. A particular thing may participate simultaneously in plurality of forms and assumes new forms when it undergoes any change. Ideas exist prior to things and apart from them. We can`t think of man without having an idea of manness but not vice versa. Thus, ideas are necessary for this physical world to exist. Secondly, things of the physical world exist only to the extent that they participate in the world of ideas. Thus, ideas explain the physical world. Platonic theory draws praises from Whitehead but at the same time has been criticized on the basis of inconsistencies. Successor, Aristotle, makes a severe attack by saying that ideas are posterior, not prior to things. He further says that ideas are abstract entities and they can not explain the existence of this concrete physical world. Plato considers two worlds in his theory, world of ideas and physical world. Because of this, he has been attacked by Aristotle of keeping this distinction between form( ideas) and matter. He says that Plato could not reconcile between form and matter. Plato stated that world of ideas is the only reality and this physical world a mere shadow, on the other hand he said that physical things are real to the extent they participate in the world of ideas. This seems illogical.

This resource was uploaded by: Shruti

Other articles by this author