Explain Plato's Theory of Forms

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Plato was a philosopher who was taught by Socrates, he taught Plato that “the unexamined life is not worth living” and encouraged him to question everything and that is the reason to why he came up with the theory of Forms. Plato uses three similes to illustrate the theory of Forms in his book, the Republic: the analogy of the cave, the analogy of the sun and the analogy of the divided line.

Plato believed that there exist two worlds, the world of Particulars which is this world and the world of Forms which is a place which exists outside of time and space, not perceivable within the five senses, unlike the world of Particulars which is imperfect and constantly changing – this is the reason Plato said that “no human thing is of serious importance.” The example used in the Republic is that of the Form of Beauty; what is beautiful to one person is ugly to another and therefore beauty is not definitely beautiful. Beauty is also limited, for example, a rose might have a beautiful shape but the colour may be ugly. This can also apply to things like large and small, a cat may be large compared to a mouse but compared to a lion it is small; therefore it is not definitely small or large. Plato says that there must be something that is definitely small, large or beautiful and so he proposes the idea of Forms. Forms are basically the idea of what a thing is and these Forms are uncreated, universal, perfect, permanent, eternal, non-material and unchanging originals of the world of Particulars. The Form of Beauty is always completely beautiful and the things of this world are mere reflections of the Form of Beauty.

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Plato says that in the material world, the objects that exist, like cats, will all die. What makes a cat a cat, however is the way in which it corresponds to the Form of a cat. Plato said that the objects in the material world must exist somewhere and that place is the World of Forms. A Form is not a physical thing, it is a concept and therefore it is unchanging and eternal. The reason that Forms do not die, unlike the objects of this world, is because it is a concept and can only be accessed intellectually.

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