Introduction to Plato`s Metaphysics

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Introduction to Plato’s
Metaphysics
Plato
428-348 BCE
Athens, Greece
Student of Socrates, teacher of
Aristotle.
Founded the “Academy.”
No fees, but exclusive.
No set curriculum, but a method
of inquiry.
Pose a problem and inquire
through dialectic.
What’s confusing?
Literal summary?
Are the shadows the
prisoners see “real?”
“To them, the truth
would be literally
nothing but the
shadows of the images.”
Wouldn’t the prisoners wonder
about the causes of the
shadows?
• “…when any of them of them is liberated and
compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck
round and walk an look towards the light, he will
suffer sharp pains. The glare will distress him, and
he will be unable to see the realities of which in his
former state he had seen the shadows; and then
conceive someone saying to him that what he saw
before was an illusion, but that now, when he is
approaching nearer to reality and his eye is turned
towards more real existence, he has a clearer
vision…and if he is compelled to look straight at the
light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will
make him turn away to take refuge in the
shadows…? He will need to become accustomed to
the sight of the upper world.” (32-33)
“…when any of them of them is
liberated and compelled suddenly to
stand up and turn his neck round and
walk an look towards the light, he will
suffer sharp pains. The glare will
distress him, and he will be unable to
see the realities of which in his
former state he had seen the
shadows; and then conceive
someone saying to him that what he
saw before was an illusion, but that
now, when he is approaching nearer
to reality and his eye is turned
towards more real existence, he has
a clearer vision…and if he is
compelled to look straight at the
light, will he not have a pain in his
eyes which will make him turn away
to take refuge in the shadows…? He
will need to become accustomed to
the sight of the upper world.” (32-33)
Why “pain” and “distress”?
“Nearer” reality and “more real”
as opposed to unqualified
“reality” and “real”?
Why are the shadows a tempting
refuge?
The particulars are
imperfect copies or
expressions of the Forms
and are perceptible in
the visible world.
The Forms are the pure
ideas of the things.
The Forms can exist without
particulars, but the
particulars cannot exist
without the Forms.
The Forms exist in the
intelligible world (i.e. the
non-physical world) and
are accessible through
pure reason.
Plato’s Metaphysics
The nature of reality.
Plato’s worldview.
Universals vs. Particulars
Universals are perfect
and emanate from the
Good.
Particulars are imperfect
manifestations of the
Universals.
“My view is that in the
world of knowledge the
idea of the Good appears
last of all, and is seen only
with great effort; and when
seen, is also inferred to be
the universal author of all
things beautiful and right,
parent of light and of the
lord of light in this visible
world [the sun], and the
immediate source of reason
and truth in the higher
world [the world of forms]”
(34)
What is quality of Plato’s
Good?
How are the visible world
and the higher world
different?
What does the allegory symbolize and dramatize?
The need to question (and the
danger of questioning) basic
assumptions and common
sense.
The importance of enlarging
and changing one’s
perspective—more data
related to the shadows will
not lead to enlightenment.
Education leads to
enlightenment.
Appearance is not reality.
Ultimate reality is
nonphysical.
Wisdom brings
responsibility—one has an
ethical obligation to help
others out of the dark.
It is natural to be compelled to the
Good (to reconnect/recollect what
we came from)
Some Implications
Ideas are real—more real than
things.
Ultimate reality is non-physical.
The physical/material world is
mere appearance.
Wisdom begins when one
realizes the world is merely
appearance and reality is nonphysical.
If all things are expressions of the
Forms and the Forms emanate
from the Good, then we are
expressions of the Good.
The trauma of birth caused us to
forget our relationship with the
Good.
Pure reason and logic, the tools of
ideas, allow access to the Good.
To “know thyself” is to know the
Good.
Knowledge is recollection.
According to Plato’s Metaphysics….
What should one strive for? Avoid?
What should one worry about? Not sweat?
How should one live?
What would a Platonic experience of love, work, and
art be like?
What should be the character of education?

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