Philosophy: Ancient philosophical influences - Coggle Diagram
Philosophy: Ancient philosophical influences
Plato's understanding of reality
Problems Plato was addressing:
Plato tries to answer questions about the possibility of certain knowledge in a world where everything is changing.
Another problem Plato tries to address is sometimes known as the problem of the one and the many - are there many things, or is there only one thing really?
Knowledge of changing things:
Heraclitus (a pre-socratic philosopher) had said that everything flows; there is no unchanging essence to anything.
This was a problem for two reasons:
Can i know a thing that changes?
Essence and change cannot coexist.
Plato's theory of the Forms
All things experienced through the senses are particular things.
We never sense abstract things, only particulars - we can see a beuatiful face but not beauty itself.
Many things can be beautiful, so they share something caled beauty even though they are different.
Therefore, there is a universal idea of beauty which really exists or it could not be shared by many different things.
Plato called this a 'Form'.
Particulars: football example:
Particulars like footballs are always a mixture of properties like roundness, whiteness etc.
They are also relative. A ball can be large or round, but only relative to larger or rounder things.
This means that our knowledge of a particular thing will always be a mixture or relative to other facts.
Separation: episteme and doxa:
For Plato, knowledge and opinion (episteme and doxa) are two different faculties.
Opinion (doxa) can be mistaken but knowledge cannot.
Knowledge is about what is real, but ignorance is about what is not real because if you are ignorant of something, you do not know it at all.
Opinion is a mixture of knowledge and ignorance.
Nature of Plato's Forms:
separate from particulars
logically prior to particulars
the good is the supreme form
Plato's analogy of the cave
Prisoners chained to a wall:
A prisoner is chained alongside others facing a wall. Behind them is a fire and in front of that a raised wall, upon which objects are placed so that they cast their shadows onto the wall in front of the prisoners.
The prisoner's journey:
One of the prisoners is freed. He sees the fire first, the objects and then he begins the difficult ascent out of the cave.
When he gets outsideand his eyes become accustomed to the light, he sees reflections of the moon and stars in the water. Then he sees them in the sky.
Finally, he sees the sun. When he returns to free the prisoners from the cave and tell them of the outside world, they think he is mad and drive him away.
Allegorical meaning of the cave:
Cave: the world of the senses
Shadows: what we see annd mistake for reality
Fire: the sun
Objects on the wall: physical things
Difficult ascent: the process of arriving at truth
Reflections: process of understanding
Moon and stars: forms of justice, beauty etc
The sun: form of the good
Purpose of the cave analogy:
Knowledge is remembering
Education is a moral and spiritual conversion
The intelligible and sensible world are related
Rationalism > empiricism
Plato claims there are two worlds: known as dualism.
He also argues that true knowledge is only grasped through the intellect.
The Forms are non-spatial, they are the things which really exist. The forms are also an ideal standard - meaning they are absolute and objective.
We implicitly appeal to such standards whenever we debate the morality of a course of action - without an ideal standard of justice, it would not be possible to judge whether something is just or unjust.
'Third man argument': Aristotle showed that the theory of forms was subject to this criticism:
If we have a collection of large things and their form 'largeness' then we should consider the collection of things large, as well as the form 'largeness' itself large.
But in that case, do we not have to appeal to a further form to consider largeness large? Why should we stop there?
Lack of empirical support. It is not really surprising that Plato provides little empirical evidence for his theory as he shows, especially in his analogy of the cave, that he believes empirical data is next to useless in gaining real knowledge.
Plato is a rationalist and, as such, makes use of logic and a priori reasoning for his proofs.
Potentiality vs actuality:
Aristotle draws a distinction between potentiality and actuality.
He applies this to the process of change.
Change is simply the process by which an object acquires a new form.
The object has the potentiality to become something different, and change is the actualisation of the potential of one form of matter to become another form of matter.
E.g. the block of marble has the potential to become an actual statue. The statue is latent within the block of marble - the block has the capacity to become a statue.
It is important to note that potency and act are distinct. The marble cannot be both a block and the statue at the same time.
Aristotle's 4 causes:
Refers to the matter or substance that something is made from. E.g. the matter that a book is made from is paper.
Refers to what gives the matter it's "form" or "structure".
E.g. a book is not just any old piece of paper, it is a book because the pieces of paper have been arranged in a particular way.
Refers to the cause of an object or thing existing. In other words, "why" the thing exists.
A book exists because someone wrote and printed it; the author of the book is the cause of the book existing rather than it just being a pile of paper.
Refers to the reason why something is the way it is. This cause is concerned with the function of any thing or object.
E.g. why is a book printed and laid out in the way it is? The answer is so that it is readable.
Aristotle's four causes
What something is made up
The agent that causes something to change form
The 'form' of something (its properties)
The aim (telos) of something
The world is in a state of flux; all movement must have a chain beforehand.
The chain movement leads back to an unmoved mover, called the Prime Mover.
Change is eternal. There was no 'first change' as there something would have to set that off.
The Prime Mover causes the movement as a final cause. An efficent cause would have affected itself by the act of pushing.
The Prime Mover is immaterial, meaning it does not change and cannot perform bodily actions and so is incapable of being acted upon.
Comparison of Aristotle and Plato
Both concepts have been profoundly influential on Christian understanding of God. Plato = gives the concept of God as a perfect source of goodness, ultimate reality that is permanent and unchanging. Aristotle = understanding of a God who is the ultimate cause of all that exists.
Both the Form of Good and the Prime Mover give an answer to why anything exists at all. Form of Good is at the top of the hierarchy, illuminating everything else. The Prime Mover is seen as the primary cause of existence, why everything is in motion.
Both the Form of Good and Prime Mover have an independent, necessary existence; depend on nothing else for own existence.
Also, unlike the God of classical theism, neither the Form of Good or Prime Mover take an interest in the moral affairs of humanity. Form of Good does not have a mind to take interest in anything and the Prime Mover cannot interact with the world. Both are understood as perfect, but neither is capable of noticing or caring whether humans behave morally.
The two do have some differences. Form of Good is not a ‘being’, has no intentions or emotions. Exemplification of a quality. The Prime Mover draws thing to itself by attraction, making them move and change. Thinks of itself and own perfect nature, whereas the Form of Good does not have a mind with which to think. It is solely goodness, whereas the Prime Mover is more to do with motion, cause and change rather than morality.
Also, Form of Good is something which humans could possibly encounter once they’ve left this physical world, but there’s no suggestion that humans could ever gain further knowledge of the Prime Mover.
Plato presents us with the view that reason is the ultimate way to gain knowledge. Aristotle says that the source of all our knowledge is experience.