Plato's Forms

Topics: Aristotle, Platonism, Theory of Forms Pages: 7 (2042 words) Published: October 8, 1999
I. Introduction


I intend to show the validity of Plato's arguments about his theory of Forms. Aristotle, along with others, cross-examines Plato's proposals. Yet, I happen to see the potential of his point of view and would like to take a deeper look into his theory. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the theory of Plato's Forms from his perspective and that of several others, including Aristotle.


The topics in which I will mainly focus on will be Forms as universals, Forms as separate entities (substances), Universe as two realities, and Forms as final causes. For the most part, the topics are interwoven together yet I will try to separate them in such a fashion as to provide sufficient arguments for each main topic.

II. "In View of Plato's Theory of Forms"

Topic #1: Forms as Universals

"The essence of [Plato's] theory of Ideas (Forms) lay in the conscious recognition of the fact that there is a class of entities, for which the best name is probably "universal," that are entirely different from sensible things" (Allen 18). Plato's theory of Forms assumed that Forms are universal and exist as substances. Aristotle firmly disagrees with the idea of Forms being universals. In Scaltsas' Substances and Universals in Aristotle's Metaphysics, he defines universals as being "the object of understanding and thought, the object of knowledge, and indeed of scientific knowledge…" (33).

Plato's first argument for his idea that Forms are universals uses mathematics and the sciences to explain his theory.According to Plato, science is the 'body of universal and necessary truths' (Jones 125). Jones also pointed out Plato's view that since math is a science, 'there must be forms to be the objects of mathematical knowledge.' "Nothing other than eternal, unchanging forms can qualify to be the objects of scientific knowledge." (Jones 125) Plato also described mathematical objects as being universals and separate substances (Cherniss 180).

In Nicholas Denyer's article titled "Plato's Theory of Stuffs" he claims that Plato's argument on Forms, as universals, is valid. He believes that Plato's theory was misinterpreted and he claims that if the Forms were thought of as chemical elements, then everything would make sense. Denyer uses the example of gold in his ring, stating that the ring is composite while the gold in his ring is incomposite. As for particulars and forms, they are in the same sense respectively. In conclusion, Nicholas claims that "Plato's theory of forms is not a grotesque misunderstanding of universals; it is a sober, intelligent, and largely true account of the elemental stuffs from which the world is made" (315). In Aristotle's Metaphysics, Plato claimed that the "elements of the Forms are the elements of all things" which filters in with Denyer's consideration of Forms being chemical elements (Apostle 24).

Topic #2: Forms as Substances

In Aristotle's Criticism of Plato and the Academy, Heraclitean affirms the existence of Ideas (Forms). In his argument, he refers to Ideas as separated universals. He persuaded that "all sensible things are in constant flux, so that if there is to be knowledge of anything there must be apart from the sensibles some other entities (or substances) which are stable, for there is no knowledge of the things that are in flux" (186). Many who once believed in the existence of Forms as separate entities did so because they were persuaded by Heraclitean arguments (Cherniss).

More support for Plato's theory that Forms exist as substances can also be found in Cherniss' novel. It can be assumed that Aristotle thought that the Platonic ideas were meant to have a real existence separate from all phenomena, which is why he criticized the idea in the first place. Plato did not believe that the 'separate existence' of the ideas to be an existence in time and place (210). Plato was convinced that knowledge...
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