Plato’s Phaedo Beth Kirkpatrick 1 October 13, 2000 Dr. Meadors Phaedo Plato: Concerning Souls, The World of Forms, and Particulars Phaedo, written by Plato, is intended to be an account of the final moments of Socrates’ life as he is preparing to be put to death for poisoning the minds of the youth of Athens. Socrates proceeds to explain to his followers that there is a soul and his reasoning. Plato employed the conversational structure as a way of presenting dialogue. He used Socrates in this pattern of argumentation to examine each issue from several perspectives using speculation from Socrates’ peers. This explored the interplay of alternative ideas while subjecting all of them to evaluation by reason.
Plato incorporates his theory of Forms in which the World of Forms and the World of Particulars categorizes abstract and concrete images. In order to contemplate the World of Forms and Particulars, a foundation for the reasoning of the soul and its specifics must be established. Plato’s idea of the soul as a separate entity parallels that of the Judeo-Christian beliefs today. He taught of the divinity of the soul and the immortality. Plato believed the pure soul goes on and the evil soul stays doomed to wander.
He believed that those virtuous in life would be rewarded with peace and knowledge. The idea of reincarnation was justified in the principle of recollection, 2 this being the acquirement of knowledge at the moment of birth. This awareness at birth includes two types of existences: that of the visible, the body, and that of the invisible, the soul. The soul also represents the divine and the body as mortal. This concept entails opposites. He felt this provided support of reincarnation in that life succumbs to death and death generates life.
Awareness leads into the foundation for the World of Forms and the World of Particulars. Plato’s abstracts in the World of Forms are denoted with capital letters with Equal, Just, and Beauty Itself as the most popular examples. These, according to Plato, are true reality. What humans experience with their senses are the impure shadows of reality. The supreme Form is that of the Good, which supercedes all other ideas.
This principle is upheld by the popular myth of the cave. The good can be paralleled with the sun. Ultimately, the theory of the Forms is intended to explain how one comes to know and how things have come to be as they are. Plato’s theory of Forms is both an epistemological and ontological thesis. In order to understand the realities which the soul and the mind can only grasp, this knowledge of Forms was bestowed upon an individual before their actual birth. This would conclude that one might look forward to death as a release from bodily limitations and provide opportunities for the acquisition of higher knowledge.
Sensory perception awakens the information bestowed on an individual prior to birth. 3 Plato’s idea of learning is rooted in the concept of recollection. Recollection may be the source of our true opinions about the most fundamental features of reality. The World of Forms is abstract, full of ideas, or can be perceived as the ideal world. The Forms exist independently of the sensible world.
The World of Particulars is the material world, in that nothing is perfect. Ordinary objects are changeable, but they faintly resemble the perfect and immutable forms. Any information acquired concerning sensible objects is temporary, insignificant, and unreliable; while genuine knowledge of the Forms is undoubtedly certain. The soul and mind are the in the World of Forms, and the body is in the World of Particulars. Plato’s view has often been referred to as idealism.
Forms can not be comprehended by senses, only by the mind. Hence, there is a standard by which to judge individual objects. The concept of Beauty can best be used to understand idealism. One can see a beautiful person or object, but Beauty Itself can not be seen or heard. Thus, Beauty can only be identified by having prior acquaintance with Beauty Itself. Beautiful things such as flowers and women can only be beautiful to a certain degree.
Ideas are like perceptions of nonsensible realities that exist independently. Visual perceptions may be more or less accurate, but conceptual accuracy is measured by the degree of conformity to a naturally and independently existing conceptual reality. Perceptual accuracy is measured by the degree of conformity to the properties of the visual object. 4 Another aspect of Forms is the idea or concept of opposites. Each Form can only be experienced through contrast.
This exemplifies the idea of hot and cold. Plato used snow and fire as examples of opposites. being snow it will not admit to the hot, and remain what it was and be both snow and hot, but when the hot approaches it will either retreat before it or be destroyed. The ideas of hot and cold are not solely limited to these forms. This notion of opposites allows Plato to conclude his ideas on the characteristics of individual concepts that have an external existence of their own.
Everything in the world of space and time is what it is by virtue of its resemblance to its universal Form. Socrates argues that the correctiveness of names is determined by general consensus. No name belongs to a particular thing by nature, but only because of the rules and usage of those who establish and call it by that name. A name is a correct name if it expresses the essence of the object it is to represent, regardless of the many synonyms that may be used to describe the same essence. Each argument that Plato incorporates is meant to prove there is a soul.
The souls having prior knowledge of the Forms through recollection can then use reason not empirical observations through the senses. Forms were givers of knowledge but also gave things reality. In the early beginnings of Christian worship, philosophers were trying to adapt the image of the sun into a though of God as the source of reality and knowledge. The sun casts light down to earth 5 allowing all to see and energy foe things to grow and prosper. This being the Good in the myth of the cave.
Other Greek literary figures picked up on Socrates and Plato and their ideas of ration and logic. Aristophanes, in his many comedies, makes Socrates and the Sophists the object of folly. Clouds were partially responsible for the condemnation of Socrates by the Athenian society. Aristophanes’ character Strepsiades want to learn logic and reasoning so that he may avoid his debtors and commissions Socrates and his Thinkers to teach him these ways. There are several references to words that can be taken as Forms.
For example, Strepsiades states, But teach me the other of your Logics, the nonpaying one and it’s that unjust Logic I’m after. Aristophanes clearly makes jest at the terms of reason and logic taught by the Sophist and especially criticizes Socrates in his plays. Socrates states in rebuttal that For sure, no one listening to us now, even if he were a maker of comedies, could say that I am talking idly and making speeches about things that don’t concern me. Aristophanes sarcastically teaches that the commoner had no need for that type of higher understanding unless it were to entrap others. This proved to be the basic attitude of the majority of Greeks during that time period. Plato did not remain constant on his theories of nature and the significance of Forms.
The idea of the soul was married into other principles, especially Christianity, with many of the same guidelines that are present today. Plato’s Forms can be observed better in a mathematical sense rather than 6 empirical observation. Forms provide an excellent example of complexity and a wide range of Platonic thought. Metaphysics through the enlightenment of Forms has become a central issue for philosophers throughout time. Plato’s theory of Forms introduced in Phaedo is still contemplated today.