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AS Religious Studies Philosophy of Religion; Revision

Unit 1: Greek Philosophy - Plato and Aristotle

Plato: the Cave, the Forms and the Form of the Good

Plato’s Cave: Understand what Plato means in his analogy of the cave and be able to explain his symbolism: ➢ A.N. Whitehead said: All European philosophy is a “series of footnotes to Plato” [i.e. Plato is quite a major philosopher to our thinking.]

➢ Plato – a pupil of Socrates who was executed for ‘corrupting the youth’, after Socrates was executed Plato travelled around and eventually created his university in Athens.

➢ For Plato, knowledge gained through senses (a-posteriori or Empirical knowledge) = merely opinions. But that gained through reasoning (a-priori) = certain.

➢ The Allegory/Analogy of the Cave makes a contrast be tween people who see appearances and mistake them for truth, and those who actually see truth.

➢ The Allegory (i.e. a story that has a symbolic meaning) of the Cave =

Imagine prisoners in a cave. They are chained to the floor so that they can only see the wall in front of them and the shadows of things passing the mouth of the cave. One man escapes out of the cave. It is a hard journey out of the cave. At first he is dazzled by the ‘real’ objects which were more real than the shadows he saw in the cave. He then returns to the cave to tell his fellows, but they reject him.

➢ This suggests people are ‘philosophical ignorant’ and are like prisoners. They can only see the shadows playing on the back of the cave. They think the shadows are real.

➢ The world outside represents ‘Real’ stuff i.e. the world of Forms. The prisoner who escapes = is philosophically enlightened i.e. Philosopher-King.

➢ The Symbolism:

← The Cave = world of sight/appearances.

← Prisoners = us, trapped in this world of appearances who believe this all as true. We are like prisoners who are being stopped from realising the Real i.e. the Forms. Prisoners are in state of Eikasia (i.e. lowest level of understanding).

← The objects/statues = imitations of the Forms.

← Objects carried by people = those people represent politicians who lead people but don’t actually know the truth of the Forms or don’t want people to know.

← The Fire = the sun of our world

← The journey out of Cave = journey of the soul upward into the realm of Forms.

← Being dazzled = analogy to the philosopher gradually learning to differentiate between the Forms and imitations.

← The Sun = Form of the Good, the sun sustains all living things in the world above, thus the Good is the source of the other Forms and sustains them.

← Who should be the leaders? = prisoner now philosopher = realises truth of Forms, because he’s fully enlightened he should lead society, not the dodgy politicians who rule because of fame.

← Going back into the cave = prisoner (now philosopher-king) cant see clearly on way back down, this shows the difficulties of seeing the Forms within the world of appearances.

➢ Plato said: knowledge of Forms is essential for any ruler, so that a ruler can govern justly, not to further their self-interests.

➢ Issue raised = who is most suitable to rule society?? Also says everyone else is stupid because they are ignorant of the Forms.

➢ Plato uses this analogy/allegory to describe the world of the Forms.

Plato’s Cave: Assess the points Plato is making: do they make sense? AO2 Criteria:

Arguments to use if you wish to say that Plato’s Cave is good: • Plato makes a good point that empirical knowledge can be flawed (as was shown by the prisoners thinking the shadows to be real), this is because we live in an imperfect world of appearances and imitation of the Forms. The better type of knowledge is logical reasoning (A-priori) as it is based on philosophical reason not our suspect senses.

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