Plato (427 -347 BCE) believed that the world we live in was nothing more than a mere reflection of a more perfect world out of our reach. He is one of the most famous philosophers in history, influencing the development of the modern world we live in today. His main idea, was the theory of Forms. He argued that everything we see in our world, is an imperfect reflection of the Form of that object in the World of the Forms. He was mainly interested in those things we couldn’t touch, such as beauty or justice, rather than things such as tables or animals. Plato believed the World of the Forms was more real than the world we live in, the World of Appearances.
Plato was a dualist, meaning he believed that the soul predates the body in the World of the Forms. It was his view that the soul observed the Forms in this life, but the memory of it is dimmed during incarnation, and so upon entering the body we do not know what the real Forms are. He argued that knowledge is a priori, meaning when we learnt something, we were actually recalling it from our time spent amongst the Forms. For example, when you were younger and you learnt that lying is wrong, to him this was not matter of being taught. He believed you were simply remembering the Form of Truth that your soul knew before incarnation.
Plato deemed the most important Form to be the Form of the Good. He believed that “all the Forms gain their usefulness and value from the Form of the Good” and that they all carry something of the Good in them. The Form of the Good was regarded as the source of all Forms, he believed it supported all the Forms, and without the Form of the Good, they would all cease to exist. Plato claimed that only those who could comprehend the Form of the Good were fit to rule, these people became known as Philosopher Kings even though Plato himself never used the phrase. It was his belief, that someone who knew the Form of the Good had the “vision of truth”. They had seen the most perfect Form, and so only they could truly observe the World for what it is. Plato’s Form’s go beyond human comprehension, as we only ever experience the imitations of Forms, so he argued that whilst we can never truly experience the Form of the Good whilst on the World of Appearances, we can come very close to understanding it.
In order to help people comprehend his theory, Plato came up with 3 ways of explaining it, one of which being the Analogy of the Cave. Each aspect of the allegory represented an aspect of his theory. He asked people to imagine 3 prisoners, tied up in a cave and facing a wall. Behind them was a fire, and behind the fire people were moving up and down carrying objects over the heads. All the prisoners would ever know are the shadows of those objects, and so this becomes reality for them. Then, unexpectedly, one of the prisoners is set free. Once they are turned around, they will be confused, everything they understand about reality would be changing. Then they are forced out the cave and into the world above, at first they will not be able to see due to the bright light of the sun, but then when their eyes adjust they see the real world for what it is. Upon returning to the cave to teach his friends, they doubt him and wish death upon anyone who tries to change their version of reality. In this analogy the Form of the Good is represented by the Sun. The freed prisoner observes the way the Sun provides light and sustains life, similar to what Plato believed the Form of the Good did. From this, we can understand Plato’s idea. The Form of the Good is said to illuminate all the other Forms. The prisoner’s journey represents the journey of the Philosopher, at first he is confused and scared of it all, but then he begins to see the perfection of the Form of the Good and is enlightened. The Philosopher is now able to distinguish the real Forms from the pale...