• Apollodorus
    2.7k
    The problem here, is that your "traditional Platonic" view is an off-shoot, a perspective which is not consistent with Aristotle and the majority of western readers of Plato (Christian Platonists).Metaphysician Undercover

    If the Platonic tradition is an "off-shoot", then surely so are the Aristotelian and Christian Platonist traditions which, of course, are different from each other and from Plato’s own tradition.

    In other words, Christians may have an interpretation of Plato but there is no logical necessity for it to be the right one.

    So, I don’t see that as a valid argument at all. More like an ad populum fallacy, to be quite honest.

    This is not consistent with what is written at 206. What people crave is the good, and there is no mention of "Beauty" at this particular section of the discussion.Metaphysician Undercover

    If we atomize the dialogues and divide them into thousands of separate and unconnected statements, then I think what is going to happen (and quite predictably so) is that we will fail to see the wood for the trees.

    The fact of the matter is that the Symposium consists of speeches dedicated to the God Eros. And, as Socrates says, Eros is the son of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love, and he is always “scheming for all that is beautiful and good” (Symp. 203d).

    There is an explicit connection between desire and the beautiful and the good from the start.

    So, the matter is very simple:

    (A). Philosophy is a quest for Knowledge.
    (B). The source of Knowledge is the Good.
    (C). Therefore, the end (telos) of the philosophic quest is the Good.
    (D). But man loves Beauty.
    (E). And Beauty culminates in the Good.
    (F). Therefore, the path to the Good is through Beauty.

    There is nothing unclear about it.

    You completely misrepresent "intelligence". The source of all knowledge is not intelligence, intelligence is the product of knowledge. The source of knowledge is the desire for the good, the desire for immortality, which is a manifestation of the Divine Form, Beauty. As the Form Beauty is the cause of that desire for the good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Plato’s basic forms of knowledge and their corresponding faculties are:

    Faculty of sensory perception (aisthetikon) => Sense-perception

    Faculty of forming mental images (phantastikon) => Imagined objects

    Faculty of thinking or reasoning (logistikon) => Thoughts

    Faculty of intuition and insight (nous) => Intuitive knowledge

    Divine Nous a.k.a. Creator-Intelligence (Nous Poietikos) => Forms, etc.

    The Good a.k.a. the One (to Hen) => Totality of Knowledge

    It can be seen that the faculties of knowledge are prior, not posterior, to knowledge.

    As I said before:

    When we imagine something, e.g., a series of images, it is our own intelligence that creates, organizes, and observes the images, and we know this to be the case.

    It follows that it is wrong to claim that intelligence is the product of knowledge just as it is wrong to claim that imagination is the product of the imagined image. Intelligence and imagination are the faculties, knowledge and imagined image are the products of, and therefore posterior to, their respective faculties.

    Were this not the case, we would have to say that the Source of Knowledge (the Good or One) is the product of knowledge. This is certainly not what Plato is saying. Knowledge has a Source and that Source is the One which is Intelligence.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    There is an explicit connection between desire and the beautiful and the good from the start.Apollodorus

    Of course there is a connection, or relationship, the point though is that Beauty and the good are not the same.

    It follows that it is wrong to claim that intelligence is the product of knowledge just as it is wrong to claim that imagination is the product of the imagined image. Intelligence and imagination are the faculties, knowledge and imagined image are the products of, and therefore posterior to, their respective faculties.Apollodorus

    I see what you mean, "intelligence" is ambiguous. You are using "intelligence" as synonymous with "intellect", and I thought you meant "intelligence" in the sense of the property of an intellect
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k


    Early Christians understood Plato well because they were Platonists. All educated citizens of the Roman Empire, especially in the East, spoke Greek and were familiar with Platonism. St Paul himself spoke Greek and was conversant with Greek philosophy.

    It was the Platonist belief in the One that led Pagan intellectuals to Christianity, as stated by St Augustine (who had read Victorinus’ Latin translations of Plotinus and Porphyry).

    Even though they embraced Christianity, Platonists remained Platonists at heart. When Synesius of Cyrene, originally a Platonist, was made bishop in 411 AD, he asked to be replaced by someone else because as a bishop he couldn’t find the time to practice contemplation as required by his Platonist beliefs.

    Platonism did not, and could not, disappear, as there was nothing comparable in the whole Roman Empire to replace it. Instead, it persisted among the intellectual classes and was largely adopted by the upper echelons of the Church itself. Over the centuries that followed, however, Platonism became more and more Christianized and most Christians, especially in the Catholic and later Protestant West, ended up with a poor (if any) grasp of Plato’s teachings.

    This is why, personally, I would recommend turning to Platonists and scholars of Plato for a better understanding. Gersons's From Plato to Platonism is a good start. I don't agree with everything he says - just as I don't agree with everything Platonists like Plotinus and Proclus say - but I think he understands the basics of what Plato and Platonism are about and can put readers of Plato on the right track. After that, they can work out the details themselves as they think best within the general Platonic framework.

    It can be seen from Plato’s written works that his philosophy acquires an increasingly higher degree of sophistication over time. Plato’s Theory of Forms, for example, starts with the Meno and Phaedo where Forms are described as entities that exist as “themselves in themselves”, i.e., that are separate from the material world and from one another, and moves towards a description of Forms as blended with others and connected with the material world through copies of themselves.

    Beauty and Good are not identical in every respect but they are closely interconnected, especially on higher levels of experience, with consciousness and experience becoming increasingly unified. In the Philebus, the Good is described as a mixture of three Forms, Beauty, Proportion, and Truth, and Beauty and Good appear together in other dialogues.

    The combination and (partial) identification of Beauty with Good is particularly obvious in the Symposium.

    To begin with, the dialogue takes place at the house of the “Good and Beautiful” Agathon. Beauty and Good are combined in Agathon himself, the party host, who is said to be “beautiful” and whose name means “good”. This could not have escaped Plato readers even under Roman rule when all educated citizens, including Christians, spoke Greek. Moreover, Socrates himself calls Agathon “very beautiful and of good nature and breeding” in the Protagoras (315d-e).

    So, there can be no doubt that we are in the realm of the Good and Beautiful from the start. Socrates himself is dressed in beautiful clothes for the occasion.

    Moreover, the Symposium consists of speeches dedicated to the God Eros. And, as Socrates states, Eros is the son of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love, and he is always “scheming for all that is beautiful and good” (Symp. 203d).

    The best, most important, and most beautiful speeches in the Symposium are those of Agathon and Socrates - they are placed at the center of the dialogue and their authors are crowned by Alcibiades who has appointed himself judge over the contest.

    Agathon and Socrates mirror each other in many ways. Agathon is young and beautiful, Socrates is older and not very good-looking. Agathon is a playwright who composes speeches for public consumption. Socrates is a philosopher who makes speeches addressed to small private groups. Their close connection is emphasized by the fact that they both are expressly dressed in beautiful attire for the party and they are seated together on the same couch: Agathon the Beautiful and Socrates the Good.

    In particular, both value wisdom and expert knowledge above common opinion. Both view love of beauty and goodness as arising from a lack of these. And both agree that, in addition to beauty and goodness, what love lacks is truth – hence they both criticize poets for neglecting truth.

    The triad of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth is an important one in Plato. All three appear together in the Phaedrus and now in Diotima’s Love Lesson. This should not be ignored.

    Crucially, Agathon brings together beauty and good not only in himself but also in his speech, concluding that love of beauty brings good to both Gods and men:

    And who, let me ask, will gainsay that the composing of all forms of life is Love's own craft, whereby all creatures are begotten and produced? … Since this God (Eros) arose, the loving of beautiful things has brought all kinds of benefits both to Gods and to men (Symp. 197a-b).

    The connection between beauty and good is made explicit by Agathon when he brings into focus the concept of love of the Beautiful as conducive to Good. He thereby prepares the ground for Socrates’ own speech, in which Socrates takes the theme to the highest level where the philosopher who has set out on the quest for Beauty has found the Good and the Good and the Beautiful combine together with Truth to form one reality.

    As already stated, the process implied in the Ladder of Love is one of inner transformation of the soul which involves interiorization, elevation, concentration and unification of consciousness.

    The goal of this is nothing less than deification (theosis), i.e. “assimilation to the Divine” or “becoming godlike” (homoiosis Theo) which can only happen as a result of liberation of consciousness from the human condition.

    This liberation involves the extrication of consciousness from the confines of human experience revolving on sense-perception and all the mental states based on it such as imagination, opinion, emotion, and thought, and turning our attention to higher realities.

    The stages of this process are clearly outlined in the Ladder of Love. The turning of attention from one beautiful body to many beautiful bodies initiates the extrication of consciousness. The consideration of beauty in customs, laws, and knowledge brings about its interiorization and elevation. And the focus on one knowledge results in its concentration and unification.

    When the extrication process has been completed, it is followed by a free, spontaneous, and sudden expansion of consciousness beyond anything known or imaginable. The philosopher no longer sees one beautiful body, or any body at all, but an infinite expanse or “sea” of ever-existing beauty (pelagos tou kalou) (Symp. 210d-e).

    This is the final state of release or liberation (lysis). It is a state of absolutely free intelligence which is a state of absolute happiness which is nothing but absolute freedom and fullness or completeness and satisfaction.

    When intelligence is in this state, it becomes truly creative and productive of things that are beautiful, good, and true. Of course, these beautiful things can be physical babies, who will grow to be like Agathon, beautiful and good. However, Diotima emphasises the beautiful production of poets, artists, craftsmen, architects, town planners, and law-makers who, being “pregnant in the soul” from contact with Beauty and Good, make themselves immortal by giving birth to things that are more beautiful and more deathless than man:

    But pregnancy of soul—for there are persons,’ she declared, ‘who in their souls still more than in their bodies conceive those things which are proper for soul to conceive and bring forth … (209a).

    This productive activity of the intelligence which has found its freedom and its true self, is not caused by any lack or need but by unceasing, overflowing and therefore creative, overabundance. Love itself is completely transformed. It is no longer motivated by a desire to acquire and possess things that we do not have, but by a desire to give things that we do have.

    The key to understanding the Mystery of Eros, and to understanding Plato and Platonism in general, is the understanding of the fact that Eros here stands for the totality of states and activities of volition.

    Eros refers not only to humans, but to all living beings including the Gods. Divine love or desire may seem different from human love or desire. The one stems from an awareness the Divine has of its own abundance. The other stems from an awareness (or perception) of absence of abundance. But human desire is ultimately an expression of divine desire, of the will of intelligence or spirit to be itself, i.e., to be happy and free, including free from desire.

    The exchange between Diotima and Socrates is as follows:

    D: You hold that love is directed to what is beautiful. But why does the lover desire the beautiful?
    S: The lover desires the beautiful in order to possess it.
    D: But what will the lover get by possessing beautiful things?
    S: This question I am unable to answer offhand.
    D: Well, let’s change the object of the question. Why does the lover desire good things?
    S: In order to possess them.
    D: But what will the lover get by possessing good things?
    S: This I can answer easily, happiness.
    D: Yes, this is the ultimate answer. We have no more need to ask for what end a man wishes to be happy (204b-205a)

    Happiness (eudaimonia) is the ultimate end of all human endeavor. And we don’t need to ask why we wish to be happy because we know that to be happy means to be our real self. When we are happy, we are at peace, i.e., in harmony, with ourselves and the world.

    Our real self is the intelligent spirit within us (nous) whose supreme happiness consists in contemplating the Divine within itself, i.e., itself as it really is on the highest level of existence. This is the meaning of contemplation (theoria). The divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and all such qualities (Phaedrus 246e). Contemplation of divine qualities, for example, beauty, elevates and refines consciousness until it acquires a direct vision of Beauty itself. The Gods themselves, who are supremely happy and blessed, derive their happiness from contemplation.

    Indeed, if we are happy when we possess beautiful and good things, we can easily imagine how much happier we will be when we possess not only beautiful and good things, but the Beautiful and the Good themselves, and with them, Truth itself which is, above all, the truth about our true identity.

    But happiness is of little value without the awareness of being happy. Where there is happiness, there is awareness. Awareness and happiness are the highest and most fundamental principles of intelligent life. Awareness and Happiness are the properties or faculties of Supreme Intelligence, along with Will-Power, Knowledge, and Action as indicated in the Timaeus.

    Therefore, the imagery of the Sea of Beauty takes us sufficiently close to Ultimate Reality for us to conceptually grasp Plato’s Two Causes.

    Though Beauty itself belongs to Ultimate Reality, the philosopher can have awareness of it because it is also within him and because his consciousness has sufficiently expanded to contain Beauty, at least partly, within its field of awareness.

    These two elements of experience, (1) the Sea (or Ocean) of Infinite and Eternal Beauty, and (2) Awareness of it, are the objective and subjective aspects of consciousness, respectively, that correspond to the Dyad and the One. Awareness also corresponds to the One through its function of unifying experience.

    The philosopher’s expanded consciousness and Ultimate Reality mirror one another. The philosopher arrives at Infinite Beauty and Awareness of it by a process of ascent or return (epistrophe) to the Ultimate Source and Cause of all. In contrast, Ultimate Reality arrives at the stage of the One and the Dyad by a process of descent or procession (proodos) from the Ultimate Source and Cause of all.

    The stages of Consciousness prior to Creation are as follows:

    1. Pure, Undivided Intelligence or Awareness (syneseis or synaesthesis) a.k.a. “the One”.
    2. Self-Aware Intelligence, i.e., Intelligence with Consciousness (parakolouthesis) or Self-Awareness (parakolouthesis heauto) = Intelligence (subjective element) aware of itself (objective element) = “Indefinite Dyad”
    3. Creative Intelligence (nous poietikos) = “Creator-God” = Intelligence containing Forms = Knowledge

    Otherwise formulated:

    (A). The good is defined by beauty (kallos), proportion (symmetria), and truth (aletheia) (Phileb. 65e).
    (B). These properties depend on order which is a well-proportioned arrangement of parts in a harmonious whole.
    (C). Therefore, the basis of order is unity or oneness.
    (D). Therefore, Unity or Oneness is the cause of all good.
    (E). But Order and Goodness in the world are not perfect.
    (F). Therefore, a cause must exist that is opposed to Oneness and Goodness.
    (G). Such a cause must be a principle of Division and Plurality.
    (H). This cause is the Indefinite Dyad.
    (I). Therefore, there are two causes, the One, and the Indefinite Dyad.
    (J). But the Indefinite Dyad exists exclusively in opposition to the One.
    (K). Therefore, the Indefinite Dyad is dependent on the One.
    ( L). Therefore, the One (= the Good) is the Ultimate Cause of all.

    When the One, i.e., Supreme Intelligence, sets about to create the Universe, it limits its own powers by imposing Limit on the Unlimited, and thus produces (1) Spirit or Soul which possesses exactly the same powers as the Supreme but in limited degree and (2) Matter which is (almost) completely devoid of intelligence.

    Were this not the case, the human soul would not have the powers of awareness, happiness, will, knowledge and action, and would be no better than inanimate objects. Indeed, it would be worse given that even inanimate matter, though devoid of higher intelligence, still possesses some powers as can be seen from the behavior of atomic particles, energy fields, etc. – which, at the very least, indicates the presence of a very limited power of action.

    It follows that human love or desire for the beautiful and the good, and ultimately, for happiness, is really an expression of divine will, i.e., of the will of limited, individual intelligence to recover its original happiness and freedom which it once had before descending into particular existence.

    This act of volition (boulesis) on the part of the human soul is triggered by the perception of beauty in objects other than itself.

    The perception of objective beauty activates the soul’s innate memory of the “infinite Sea of Beauty” that was once part of its self-identity, and, through philosophic practice the soul gradually recovers its full awareness of its true identity. Having recovered its identity, it is once again complete, fully satisfied, self-sufficient, self-contained, full of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth, infinitely and eternally happy, and lacking in absolutely nothing. It has now attained ultimate perfection (and is welcomed into the company of Gods).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Beauty and Good are not identical in every respect but they are closely interconnected, especially on higher levels of experience, with consciousness and experience becoming increasingly unified. In the Philebus, the Good is described as a mixture of three Forms, Beauty, Proportion, and Truth, and Beauty and Good appear together in other dialogues.

    The combination and (partial) identification of Beauty with Good is particularly obvious in the Symposium.

    To begin with, the dialogue takes place at the house of the “Good and Beautiful” Agathon. Beauty and Good are combined in Agathon himself, the party host, who is said to be “beautiful” and whose name means “good”. This could not have escaped Plato readers even under Roman rule when all educated citizens, including Christians, spoke Greek. Moreover, Socrates himself calls Agathon “very beautiful and of good nature and breeding” in the Protagoras (315d-e).

    So, there can be no doubt that we are in the realm of the Good and Beautiful from the start. Socrates himself is dressed in beautiful clothes for the occasion.
    Apollodorus

    I suggest that you consider the passage in The Symposium in the following way. There is a separation described by Diotima between the good and the beautiful. Hence the necessity for good "and" beauty. The good is not necessarily beautiful, and the beautiful is not necessarily good. This is why Socrates could not say why a person would desire the beautiful, but could easily say why a person would desire the good. The good is desired for the sake of something, happiness/. But beauty, if it's desired, is desired for the sake of itself.

    This is why Diotima places the good in the human realm, what is desired by people, while beauty is placed in the realm of what is godly. Now, human beings do not necessarily desire what is godly, so the good, what a human being desires, is not necessarily something godly or beautiful. It might still be something ugly. "The good" being what a human being determines as desirable, might not be godly or beautiful.

    So when we look at the phrase "beautiful and good", what is described here is a consistency between what is desired by a human being, "the good", and what is godly, "Beauty". At this point, the beautiful (what is godly) is the good (what is desired by a human being. Though the good and the beautiful are not necessarily the same, they may be the same, and when they are, we might call this Truth.

    You'll see that Aristotle described this principle in a slightly different way, and his description was adopted into Christianity, especially from Aquinas and later. He distinguished the real good from the apparent good. In Christianity the apparent good is what a human being desires, and the real good is what God determines. The goal of moral philosophy is to shape the apparent good so that it conforms to be the same as the real good.

    He thereby prepares the ground for Socrates’ own speech, in which Socrates takes the theme to the highest level where the philosopher who has set out on the quest for Beauty has found the Good and the Good and the Beautiful combine together with Truth to form one reality.Apollodorus

    I think this is the point here. Truth is elusive to the intellect, difficult to understand. The good is always present, so it is apprehended first. To move onward from the good to Truth, we must give to beauty what we find in the good, thus uniting Beauty and Good.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Though the good and the beautiful are not necessarily the same, they may be the same, and when they are, we might call this Truth.

    You'll see that Aristotle described this principle in a slightly different way, and his description was adopted into Christianity, especially from Aquinas and later. He distinguished the real good from the apparent good.
    Metaphysician Undercover

    Culture, religion, and philosophy in the Roman Empire, especially in the East, were heavily Hellenized. This is why key Platonic concepts like “the inner man” (entos anthropos, Rep. 589a) the true human being that is an image of the Divine, appear in early Christian texts (Romans 7:22, 2 Cor. 4:16, Ephes. 3:16) and later commentators like Augustine.

    It is this “inner man”, in contrast to the “outer man” (whose attention is caught up in the material world and in personal interests), that discerns the difference between what an individual person regards as “good” and what may be regarded as “universal truth” or “Divine Truth”.

    As in Platonism, human intelligence or reason in Augustine has two parts, one looking upward to higher realities, the other looking downward to worldly existence. The upward-looking part corresponding to the Platonic nous, also called “the eye of the soul” both in Plato and Augustine and other Christian thinkers, is the part that is capable of contemplating the Divine and grasping eternal truths that remain invisible to the untrained sight of unphilosophical man.

    Hence, as in Plato, this inner optic organ in Augustine is in need of purification in order to have its faculty of higher vision restored. Like Plato who speaks of Eternal Forms, Augustine speaks of Eternal Ideas, etc.

    I think this is the point here. Truth is elusive to the intellect, difficult to understand. The good is always present, so it is apprehended first. To move onward from the good to Truth, we must give to beauty what we find in the good, thus uniting Beauty and Good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Beauty leads to Good and Good (together with Beauty) leads to Truth. All Forms ultimately lead to Truth of which they are expressions or manifestations. This is why I think that the emphasis should be on similarity, rather than difference.

    The identity and function of “the Good” is of particular significance, being the link between Beauty and Truth as Ultimate Reality.

    In the dialogues, Plato lists the Form (eidos) of the Good together with other Forms that are said to be “essences”. But in the Republic he states that the Idea (idea) of the Good is “above essence” (Rep. 508e).

    So, there are two aspects of the Good. One is coordinate with other Forms, the other is superordinate to them.

    The Form of the Good itself holds a central place among Forms as a Genus (genos) of which other Forms that bring goodness, e.g., Justice, are species.

    This Form of the Good is contained, together with other Forms, within the Creative Intelligence that brings forth the Universe.

    In contrast, the Idea of the Good is above Creative Intelligence. It is (1) the source of all Forms, i.e., the Reality of which all Forms are manifestations, and (2) the source of Creative Intelligence itself which contains the Forms.

    And, in the same way the Good has two aspects occupying two different ontological positions, so the One has two main aspects:

    1. The One in itself (which is identical with the Idea of the Good).
    2. The One and the Indefinite Dyad which together generate (a) Creative Intelligence and Forms and (b) Matter.

    Creative Intelligence and Forms are (or is) “Intelligence with Form” where Intelligence is the dominant element and Form a barely distinct form of Intelligence, comparable to a perfectly transparent object contained within a perfectly transparent medium, like a clear object made of ice in a body of clear water.

    This “transparency” of the Forms makes it possible for the Creative Intelligence to hold within itself a multiplicity of Forms and perceive them at once as One and Many and as distinct from, and identical with, each other and itself.

    Matter, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, it is “Form with Intelligence”, where visible Form is the dominant element and Intelligence is barely present, being imperceptible to the naked eye (though it may be observed at atomic level as an internal form of activity).

    It is for this reason that the One and the Good are one and the same Reality which is nothing but Pure, Objectless Intelligence that produces all things out of itself in a process of increasing “externalization” and “materialization”.

    To take Diotima’s Sea of Beauty Analogy, Beauty Itself is the Sea and beautiful objects are particular waves, and the same holds for the Form of the Good.

    Similarly, the Idea of the Good or the One, i.e., Ultimate Reality, is like an Ocean of Infinite Intelligence that contains currents of water (= Forms) within itself that are imperceptible from the outside, and at the same time produces waves on its own surface that are visible externally (= material objects). Thus, the Good, i.e., Reality, is One.

    Plato himself held a public lecture in which he concluded that “the Good is One”, as witnessed by Aristotle and related by Aristotle’s pupil Aristoxenus in Elementa Harmonica (Harmonika Stoicheia) II. 30-31.

    When Aristotle says:

    And of those who hold that unchangeable substances [or immovable essences/realities] exist, some say that the One itself is the Good itself (Aristot. Meta. 1091b13)

    he can perfectly well refer to Plato. In fact, in light of Plato’s lecture, he most likely does so. The use of the plural does not always imply more than one person. The plural is obviously regarded as less strong and more respectful and therefore serves the purpose of softening the tone of Aristotle’s criticism of some of the views held by Plato who, after all, was his teacher and friend for many years.

    In any case, if we consider the philosophical parameters of the time within which Plato operates; his belief in the deification of the human soul, i.e., the elevation of human consciousness to the highest possible level; his belief in the Good as the ultimate source of all knowledge and as the highest object of philosophic inquiry; his commitment to the reduction of explanatory principles to the absolute minimum; and his application of epistemology, psychology, ontology, metaphysics, and mathematics to Ultimate Reality, I think the conclusion that the Good is One and that the Good and the One are identical with one another and with Ultimate Reality, becomes inevitable.

    Once we have identified Plato’s Ultimate Reality as absolutely simple and one, the principles below it, though still of some interest, become less important.

    This is why I said earlier that the exact position of Forms in relation to one another is ultimately irrelevant and does not present a real problem, not because Forms cannot be classified in a particular ontological or metaphysical order (Plato’s method of dieresis or Collection and Division may be applied to all objects of knowledge) but because the Intelligence that contains them is beyond time and space, which means that no Form is “higher” or “lower” than others, in the same way one idea formed in the mind is not spatially higher or lower than others, though the mind may now focus on one, now on another, endowing one idea with greater importance in relation to others at any given time.

    Plato is clearly unconcerned with a complete classification of all things because such a classification is not needed for living a good and happy life. Still, once the First Principle has been more or less understood, a structural hierarchy may be outlined beginning with the Megista Gene (Greatest Genera) and proceeding in descending order with Ethic, Natural, and Mathematical Forms:

    1. The One a.k.a. the Idea of the Good
    2. Primary Genera – Being On), Self-Identity/Sameness (Tauton), Difference (Thateron), Stability/Rest (Stasis), Motion (Kinesis)
    3. Ethical Forms – Beauty, Goodness (Form of Good), Justice
    4. Natural Forms – Earth, Sky, Living Beings
    5. Mathematical Forms – Number, Quantity, etc.

    Incidentally, it may be worth noting that, as observed by Aristotle, Plato does not suggest that there are Forms for artificial or man-made things such as table or bed. These can be explained by means of the combined Forms of Shape, Size, etc., that the human craftsman combines in his mind to form an image of the object to be crafted.

    Here, again, we can see the close parallels between human and divine cognition (hence Plato's Mirror Analogy). As humans create artifacts following certain patterns seen in their mind, so Divine Creative Intelligence, too, creates according to certain patterns it forms within itself.

    In other words, the Forms are nothing but the cognitive powers by which Intelligence actualizes, manifests, or makes itself known to itself and to “others”. As part of Intelligence, the Forms are one. As powers, they are many and different. Thus Ultimate Reality Itself, the Supreme Intelligence, is the Dynamis Panton, the Power behind all things.

    This is why Plato’s central idea is that higher degrees of being are inseparable from higher degrees of unity, eventually resulting in One Ultimate Reality: the closer we get to Truth, the more we realize both its oneness and our own oneness with it.

    So, from seeing beauty in one object, the rightly-guided philosopher advances to seeing beauty in all things. From pursuing a single Form, he eventually reaches a mode of experience and being where all Forms are one and individual intelligence is identical with Universal Intelligence. At that point, all things, from Forms to their material instantiations are seen as products of one Infinite Intelligence, like waves rising and subsiding in the vast expanse of the Ocean of Existence which, deep within itself, remains eternally changeless, silent, and One.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Incidentally, it may be worth noting that, as observed by Aristotle, Plato does not suggest that there are Forms for artificial or man-made things such as table or bed. These can be explained by means of the combined Forms of Shape, Size, etc., that the human craftsman combines in his mind to form an image of the object to be crafted.Apollodorus

    I think that this is contrary to what Plato describes in The Republic. He says that when the carpenter makes a bed, as a material thing, he holds in his mind an idea of a bed, a form which he copies when producing the bed. In coming up with his idea of a bed, the one which he will make, he tries as much as possible to replicate the Divine Form, the idea of the perfect bed, or Ideal.
  • Valentinus
    1.6k

    The demiourgos in Timaeus does a similar thing. The things that are made that we encounter directly are brought into being by some agent using a pattern outside of time to create what we encounter in time.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    I think that this is contrary to what Plato describes in The Republic. He says that when the carpenter makes a bed, as a material thing, he holds in his mind an idea of a bed, a form which he copies when producing the bed. In coming up with his idea of a bed, the one which he will make, he tries as much as possible to replicate the Divine Form, the idea of the perfect bed, or Ideal.Metaphysician Undercover

    He doesn’t actually say “Form/Idea of Bed”. So, the reference to “bed in itself” may simply be an illustration that need not be taken literally.

    But you are right about the carpenter producing a bed using an idea of the bed that he has in his mind, which is more to the point. The point Plato is making is to show the parallels between human and divine creation and, ultimately, between human and divine mind or intelligence. They both involve cognitive activity and they mirror one another.

    The aim of Platonic philosophy is to enable the philosopher to become as godlike as humanly possible.

    This is achieved through a noetic or intuitive grasp of the Good (the “greatest lesson or object of study”) which may be defined as a universal principle of goodness.

    But the Good is also described as the cause of knowledge, objects of knowledge, and power to know.

    So, I think what Plato is trying to say is that he has discovered a way to reach the source of knowledge itself, which is consciousness itself.

    The way I see it, Plato’s teachings are not about religion or “mysticism” - though they may contain elements of both just as they contain elements of ethics and politics - but about cognition (on which politics, ethics, religion, "mysticism", and philosophy itself, depend). It is only when we understand the actual source of cognition that we truly understand everything, and above all, ourselves, in a deeper sense.

    This is why, as noted by Proclus, the Universe within Plato’s Academy was considered as “generated for the purpose of instruction about its Creator” and that even Divine Intellect has a cause.

    Plato’s Analogy of the Mirror is not without significance in terms of the identity of the human and divine (i.e., higher) intelligence.

    There are numerous parallels between the human and the divine in the dialogues. Both the human intelligence and God’s Creative Intelligence have the faculties of thought and perception. They have intellectual activity that is productive. Both have language. And both are described in terms of light.

    Plato uses the conception of “light suddenly kindled in the soul” or “seeing the light” in relation to solving a philosophical problem through the process of dialectic.

    More importantly, however, he says that the Good, which is compared to the Sun-God, is that “which sheds light on all things”, whilst the human soul is that whose light is turned upward to the Light Divine.

    Supreme Intelligence and its human mirror-image are made of the same stuff, the Light of Consciousness which is the source of all things and from which everything eternally emanates like rays from the Sun.

    The philosopher begins by seeing this Light of Consciousness in its variegated manifestations in particular things that are increasingly reflective of it, from physical objects to his own intellect, until both streams of light, the lower directed upward and the higher directed downward, not only see but touch and come into direct contact with one another, and the light in the philosopher’s soul is embraced by the All-illumining and Life-bestowing Light of all Lights.

    If Consciousness is a living reality on which all knowledge and all life literally depend, then it is not wrong to refer to it as “God” – not a personal God, of course, but a divine being in the sense of a living reality that is above, and more perfect, than everything else and to which all things, including ourselves, owe their existence.

    This is why Plato prefers to refer to this Ultimate Reality as “the Good” or “the One”. And even this fails to describe what is ultimately indescribable and unknowable except to itself.

    As Proclus puts it, what we are naming by “the One” is really the understanding of Oneness (of Consciousness) which is in ourselves:

    What else is the One except the operation and energy of this striving (after the One)? It is therefore this interior understanding of unity, which is a projection and, as it were, an expression of the One in ourselves, that we call “the One.” So the One itself is not nameable, but the One in ourselves

    Having reached the very source of cognition, the philosopher truly sees everything in the right light. This does not necessarily render him omniscient or omnipotent. He remains subject to certain natural laws, at least in his embodied existence. But he now has an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and of the superiority of universal goals and concerns to particular or personal ones, which, in turn, makes it easier for him to identify and follow the right vision, right thought, and right action in any given situation.

    It is this understanding or inner vision of a higher truth that, according to Plato, enables the accomplished philosopher to assume a leading role in society.

    Plato says of the philosopher-rulers who have undergone years of physical and intellectual training:

    We shall require them to turn upwards the light of their souls (he tes psyches auge) and fix their gaze on that which sheds light on all [note the imagery of light meeting Light], and when they have thus beheld the Good itself they shall use it as a pattern for the right ordering of the state and the citizens and themselves throughout the remainder of their lives, each in his turn, devoting the greater part of their time to the study of philosophy, but when the turn comes for each, toiling in the service of the state and holding office for the city's sake, regarding the task not as a fine thing but a necessity; and so, when each generation has educated others like themselves to take their place as guardians of the state, they shall depart to the Islands of the Blest and there dwell (Rep. 540a-b)

    So long as we hold Plato’s central concern before us, the details will tend to fall into place, sooner or later.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    He doesn’t actually say “Form/Idea of Bed”. So, the reference to “bed in itself” may simply be an illustration that need not be taken literally.Apollodorus

    Maybe you ought to reread this, starting at 596, Bk 10. "There are many beds and tables...But there are only two forms of such furniture, one of the bed and one of the table." And surely the craftsman does not make the form itself. Then who is this craftsman who makes the form? 597: The craftsman doesn't make "the being of the bed", which is equated with the form of the bed, he makes a replication, a copy, just like the painter makes a copy. Further, the being of a bed, the form, made by God, is one only.

    Now, God makes one bed, "the form", and the carpenter makes "a bed", and may make many beds, and the painter imitates a bed, painting a picture of it. Being third from the natural one makes the painter an "imitator", and what is made is an imitation. And the painter does not imitate "the form", which is created by God, the painter imitates one of the many beds created by a carpenter, and the imitation imitates the way the bed appears, not the truth. Being third, it is far removed from the truth.

    What I propose is that you carry the analogy further. The carpenter employs "a form", a blueprint, which is 'one' template by which he makes many beds. But the carpenter's template is a replication of the one "Form of bed", which is the perfect template, God's bed. Since there are many carpenters there are many templates, or forms of bed, each carpenter having one's own. Then the material bed produced by the carpenter is twice removed from the truth, and is third, as an imitation.

    So when the carpenter makes a bed, it is not an imitation of "the Form of bed", created by God, it is an imitation of the template of the carpenter, one of many such templates, or forms (because there are many carpenters), which is each a representation of the one Form of bed, created by God. So the material bed, made by the carpenter is just an imitation of how the perfect bed, the Form of bed, from God, appears to the carpenter, manifested as the carpenter's template, or form of bed. The carpenter's from or template is one of many, as there are many carpenters, and the bed produced is an imitation of this, which is how the Form of bed appears to that particular carpenter.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k


    This may be one possible way of looking at it. Unfortunately, the matter isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems.

    It is entirely possible that Plato here presents a position that includes Forms of artifacts but which he later no longer holds (hence Aristotle's claim), in the same way in earlier dialogues he (or Socrates) seems to suggest that Forms are completely separate from sensibles and from one another, but later presents a more complex view where Forms do combine and are present in particulars through material copies of themselves.

    A second possibility is that Plato does posit Artifact Forms but of a different type from the usual one, that does not have all the features normally attributed to Socratic (or Platonic) Forms. After all, a craftsman cannot have the same access to Forms as a philosopher.

    Platonists like Plotinus and Proclus tend to dismiss this passage. Personally, I don’t think it should be dismissed, but we should take a second look at it and see if it can be interpreted in a way that is consistent with Plato’s general framework.

    A third possibility consistent with this would be that the example of the “bed in itself” or "Form of Bed" could be given for the sake of argument, only.

    The passage begins with the following statement:

    We are in the habit, I take it, of positing a single Idea or Form in the case of the various multiplicities to which we give the same name (Rep. 596a)

    Then three examples of bed are given, of which the first is referred to as “existing in nature, and we would say, I suppose, that it was made by God”.

    “I suppose that God knew it […] and produced in nature a single bed-in-itself”

    “I suppose so”.

    So, this is a hypothesis (a) intended to back up an argument that is in line with previously stated views, and (b) followed by the phrase “I suppose” repeated several times.

    In other words, if and only if, all these suppositions are true, then “we might call God author of the bed’s nature or some such name.”

    But what if they are not true?

    We also find the question “No one else could have made it?” to which the answer is “I think not” – not “Of course not”.

    There are other interesting statements like:

    “You must use your own eyes”

    “Imagine a mirror that reflects all things”

    And, finally, “Suppose a man could produce both the original and the copy”.

    This last statement suggests that the carpenter forms an idea of a bed in his mind using properties like size, shape, etc. (eternal and perfect versions of which are present in the Divine Mind), and then produces the palpable bed, the “copy”, after the mental image which is the “original”.

    Indeed, there can be no doubt that the craftsman forms an ideal image of bed in his mind prior to producing the physical bed. The only doubt that arises is whether God himself first creates a Form of Bed in his own Mind. Hence the question, “No one else could have made it?” which introduces an element of doubt that this is actually the case.

    This doubt is reinforced by another question, “Then you say that the artist’s representation stands at third remove from reality?” (597e) and is followed by the affirmation that a distinction must be made between “things as they are and things as they appear”. In other words, the matter may be not quite as it appears to be.

    If, in addition to the image in the craftsman’s mind, we were to admit an eternal Form of Bed in God’s own Mind then the artist’s copy would be at fourth remove. Alternatively, we could say that the craftsman (a) has direct access to the Mind of God and (b) has no mind of his own. More likely, the original is not in God’s Mind, but in the craftsman’s mind.

    Another doubt that arises is whether carpenters really look to a Form of Bed as a blueprint or template. A more likely scenario would be that they produce a bed following the specifications indicated by the customer. On the whole, therefore, the passage may not be meant literally.

    This takes us back to Plato’s wider argument in the Republic which is to distinguish between productive crafts and imitative crafts. According to Plato, the validity of knowledge increases or decreases according to its dependence on objects of knowledge belonging to a higher or lower order of reality.

    Things created by God and the carpenter are true production because they are the product of a higher form of intellection and, accordingly, closer to reality. In contrast, artistic creation which is mere imitation (mimesis) does not amount to true production. The painter who paints a picture of a bed is basing his activity on the visual perception of a physical bed and has no intimate acquaintance with or knowledge of the object he is painting.

    Therefore, the artist (painter, poet, etc.) has no real knowledge of the represented object and no practical skill such as making the object. His creation or imitation belongs to the lowest level of knowledge which is the level of shadows or illusion (eikasia) that creates copies of copies. The craftsman’s creation is also a copy, but is a product of right belief (pistis or doxa) which is based on the mental original which is a product of reason (dianoia), which is itself inspired by universal properties ultimately derived from Forms and perceived by means of intuition or insight (noesis).

    Drawing inspiration from the Forms perceived by his nous (the part of the human soul that is closest to the Divine Mind or God’s Creative Intelligence), man can form an ideal mental image in his mind, of which he produces a physical copy. If a craftsman has the ability to form an ideal image of an object in his mind that is at least partly consistent with a higher reality, we can image how much closer to reality the accomplished philosopher will be who, thanks to special intellectual training, is able to have a clear vision of Reality. After all, this is why, though craftsmen have a role to play in society, rulers are to be selected from among philosophers, not from among craftsmen.

    So, the focus here is on the similarity between human and divine creation and, therefore, on the reality and correctitude of human activity when based on a divine and perfect model. It is action in harmony with a higher, and true, ideal that enables the philosopher who has established contact with the Light that illumines all things (to Phos pasi) i.e., the Light of Consciousness itself, to always act in the correct manner in all circumstances.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Platonists like Plotinus and Proclus tend to dismiss this passage. Personally, I don’t think it should be dismissed, but we should take a second look at it and see if it can be interpreted in a way that is consistent with Plato’s general framework.Apollodorus

    Of course there is another possibility. This possibility is that what you call "Plato's general framework", is not consistent with what Plato has written at all. Therefore what you espouse as "Plato's general framework" is the product of a misunderstanding of Plato. I propose that it is not by mere coincidence, nor by some mistaken strokes of Plato's writing hand, that some of the most important passages in Plato's dialogues are not consistent with what you call "Plato's general framework".
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    what you espouse as "Plato's general framework" is the product of a misunderstanding of Plato.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, I think I have made myself clear on what I believe Plato’s framework to be.

    But here is another example in connection with the Forms:

    (A). Sensibles are “in flow and motion” and always changing (Theaet. 152e).

    (B). Therefore, knowledge of them is not possible.

    (C). But knowledge is possible.

    (D). Therefore, there must be non-sensible objects of knowledge that are changeless.

    (E). These non-sensible, changeless objects of knowledge are the Forms.

    Plato is clearly committed to Forms as principles of explanation for knowledge or aspects of knowledge.

    He is also committed to certain Forms like the Good (or the One), Beauty, Justice, etc.

    But there is no evidence that he is committed to Forms for everything under the sun.

    In the Parmenides (130b-d), he has Socrates say that he is undecided about a Form of Man and that he does not believe in Forms for things like mud, hair, or dirt, which he holds to be “such as they appear to us”. The contrast between appearance and reality is a recurrent theme in the dialogues.

    Plato does not explicitly say what his exact personal view on Forms of artifacts is. We have to rely on the material available in the dialogues and on the testimony of members of his Academy.

    Aristotle says that Plato does not believe in Forms of artifacts. Therefore, it is legitimate to see if an interpretation can be found that reconciles what we know about Plato from Aristotle and others that were close to the Academy on one hand, and Plato’s own statements on the other hand.

    The fact of the matter is that the speakers here are Socrates and Glaucon, not Plato. The fact that Socrates expresses or appears to express a certain view regarding Forms does not mean that Plato himself holds exactly the same view in all respects.

    At any rate, what matters is the wider argument that is being made in the Republic against poetry, of which the reference to “Form of Bed” is a part.

    Socrates’ real complaint is against poets. This is why he begins by saying that he is delighted that all dramatic representation has been banned from the Ideal City.

    Glaucon asks him to explain. Socrates introduces the painter as an illustrative example. The painter paints an image of an object or person that can be so realistic as to “deceive children and foolish people into believing that it is real” (598c).

    But the greatest deception is that people are led to believe that the painter is an expert on all the things he is representing, when in fact he is just an imitator of things he knows little or nothing about.

    Socrates describes the painter as standing three removes from the original maker in order to make an analogy with the poet. Having presented the painter as a paradigm of imitator, Socrates next moves to poets.

    He does mention a “Form of Bed” but one that is hypothetically made by God and the whole passage is coached in ambiguous terms that raise doubts about this “Form of Bed”.

    What is telling is that he makes no attempt to define this “Form of Bed” and offers no argument to show that there must be such a Form. His real concern is the analogy between painter and poet. Not the “Form of Bed” (that may or may not exist), but the painter himself as a Paradigm (or Form) of Imitator.

    A Platonic Form is a Paradigm (Paradeigma) and the Paradigm at issue here is the Paradigm of Imitator and Deceiver which is contrasted with those who possess true knowledge, and which Socrates will use to make his point about the poet as a questionable educator of the masses as part of the wider discussion of education.

    Socrates classifies craftsmen into three types: one who actually uses an object, one who makes the object, and one who merely imitates the object. Those who actually use an object have the best knowledge of it, i.e., of its practical use, which defines the object’s practical value. Those who make the object have no knowledge of its practical use. And those who imitate the object have even less knowledge of the object as they merely observe it from a distance. Moreover, the imitators do not imitate the things, e.g., a bed, as they are, but as they appear to be.

    Similarly, the poets produce imitations or copies of what appear to be instances of human or divine excellence. This leads people to believe that the poets are experts in excellence who can teach them how to live their lives.

    But these imitations are not always consistent with the reality of what is truly good. If the masses blindly follow the poets and the role models praised in their poems, they will be deceived in the same way they might be deceived into thinking that other imitative artists, such as painters, are experts on crafts and on objects used by craftsmen.

    Of course, poetry is not always deceptive. Socrates himself, like most other Greeks (whose main education consisted in learning the Odyssey and the Iliad by heart), sometimes cites Homer in support of his views. The lesson he and Plato are trying to convey is not that poetry in itself is harmful, but that it can be harmful when it gives a false impression of what is right and what is wrong in terms of human behavior, for example, by uncritically presenting a particular action as the correct ideal.

    Philosophers must not follow the masses. They must use their own judgement that has been honed through specific methods of inquiry, and separate what is good in poetry – and in all forms of transmitted knowledge – from what is bad. The whole dialogue has an ethical theme which is the Good and the Just and how they can be integrated into human society by means of education, philosophic inquiry, etc.

    In any case, the way I see it, Socrates here seems to use the “Form of Bed” simply as a hypothesis (which is why he repeats phrases like “we assume” or “suppose”) for the sake of the analogy between painter and poet, and need not be taken as a commitment to Forms of artifacts on Socrates’ (or Plato’s) part.

    As I said, I don’t see carpenters looking to a “Form of Bed” made by God as a template. They normally have a catalogue of templates most of which are copied from other carpenters.

    At the most, humans might look at “beds” (or nests) made by apes and other animals from tree branches, leaves, and grass, and construct something similar adapted to human use, that can be later perfected according to Forms like Proportion, Size, Shape, etc., instantiations of which can be observed in nature.

    So, if anything, there might be a Form of Nest, that animals copy and humans imitate after the example of animals. And if neither humans nor animals need a Form of Bed to construct a bed, then no such Form need be assumed. We may, however, assume one when we want to make some particular argument or analogy that requires such a hypothetical assumption, as Socrates does in the Republic.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Well, I think I have made myself clear on what I believe Plato’s framework to be.

    But here is another example in connection with the Forms:

    (A). Sensibles are “in flow and motion” and always changing (Theaet. 152e).

    (B). Therefore, knowledge of them is not possible.

    (C). But knowledge is possible.

    (D). Therefore, there must be non-sensible objects of knowledge that are changeless.

    (E). These non-sensible, changeless objects of knowledge are the Forms.

    Plato is clearly committed to Forms as principles of explanation for knowledge or aspects of knowledge.
    Apollodorus

    I pretty much agree with all this.

    He is also committed to certain Forms like the Good (or the One), Beauty, Justice, etc.Apollodorus

    Where I disagree with you is in how you present this aspect of Platonism, as being "committed to certain Forms". This would be the way that Forms are related to each other, perhaps as a hierarchy of Forms. Plato presents the good, not as a Form, but as the material thing desired by a man. So there is no equivalence between the One, which is the Form that supports mathematics (for Plato), and the good.

    Therefore your proposed hierarchy which places the One as the highest Form, as derived from Neo-Platonism, is not necessarily what Plato intended. I think Beauty, for example, and even Justice, as closer to "the good", being what is desired, are higher Forms than One, .

    The fact that Plato did not explicitly produce a hierarchy of Forms, is one reason why there is a division amongst "Platonists", as Aristotle described, and why "Neo-Platonists" are called by that name, not "Platonists".

    Socrates’ real complaint is against poets. This is why he begins by saying that he is delighted that all dramatic representation has been banned from the Ideal City.Apollodorus

    I agree with this. The complaint which Socrates has, is against this description of reality which is twice removed from the truth, but presented as a direct representation of the truth. This is presented as "narrative" in common translations, and can be understood along the lines of a representation of a representation. Or in the cave allegory, the cave dwellers see a reflection of reality, and the narrative would be a representation of this reflection. The cave dwellers would think of it as a direct representation of reality, not grasping that what they see as "reality" is already just a reflection.

    There is a very similar situation with the artists. The artist, or poet, might present us with a representation of reality, but it's really a representation of the artist's opinion, which is itself a representation. The double representation is a common theme for Plato.

    We can see the importance of this in Aristotle's interpretation of "the good". Ethicists will present us with what is "good". But any particular ethicist is just presenting us with a representation of one's own opinion of "good", which is itself a representation of the "real good". So what is presented to us by ethicists is something twice removed from the real good.

    Philosophers must not follow the masses. They must use their own judgement that has been honed through specific methods of inquiry, and separate what is good in poetry – and in all forms of transmitted knowledge – from what is bad. The whole dialogue has an ethical theme which is the Good and the Just and how they can be integrated into human society by means of education, philosophic inquiry, etc.Apollodorus

    Yes, I agree completely with this, and I think it is the principal message presented to us from Plato, which keeps him relevant today and into the future. In our world of mass communication and mass media, it is very important to keep in mind the multitude of layers of representation. A report in the media is a report on someone's interpretation, it is not a direct representation of reality. If we want to understand reality, we need to go beyond the layers.

    As I said, I don’t see carpenters looking to a “Form of Bed” made by God as a template. They normally have a catalogue of templates most of which are copied from other carpenters.Apollodorus

    I think you are missing the point. When we take words like "just", "good", "beauty", "knowledge" and look for their meaning, we see that different people have different ideas. That is what Plato does in many dialogues, looks to the meaning of a word by analyzing the opinions of people who assume to know it. It's called platonic dialectics. The issue is that with any such word, if there is supposed to be an objective meaning, what the word actually refers to, there must be an independent Form of that thing. The independent Form is supported by the divine mind, how God would define "just", "good", etc..

    So when we practise platonic dialectics, in the attempt to go beyond, the opinions of individual people, we must assume that there is a true Form, the divine Form, as the third layer. Otherwise nothing justifies the assumption of the third layer, or "Truth". We have what is reported to us in the media, and this represents the many different opinions, but we have nothing further assumed, to validate a judgement, only one's own opinion, the person judging. But one's own opinion is just another part, one of the many, in the second layer, and does not support the assumption of the third layer. That is why we need to assume a "Form", made by God, in order to validate this whole idea of "narrative", or layers of representation, which Plato presents us with.

    So, whether or not the individual poet, artist, or craftsperson, looks to the divine Form, to produce one's own template, is irrelevant. In fact, the vast majority would not, having no education in philosophy one would not even know about such a thing. The person would learn one's own trade through education from others, such that one's opinion would replicate another's opinion, and this propagates what you call "the masses". There is no need to assume a divine Form here. However, the philosopher, who wants to judge the opinions of others, for truth, must assume a divine Form, or else one's own judgement is just another opinion, amongst the opinions of others. There is nothing to validate Truth.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Where I disagree with you is in how you present this aspect of Platonism, as being "committed to certain Forms". This would be the way that Forms are related to each other, perhaps as a hierarchy of Forms. Plato presents the good, not as a Form, but as the material thing desired by a man. So there is no equivalence between the One, which is the Form that supports mathematics (for Plato), and the good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, we’ll just have to disagree then.

    The way I see it, the word “good” can have many different meanings on many different levels. It can refer to a material thing, an ethical value, a Platonic Form, or Ultimate Reality, depending on the context, on how we wish to use it, the purpose for which we use it, etc., etc.

    To return to my earlier statement, Aristotle says that Platonists deny that there are Forms of house or ring. In discussing Plato’s Phaedo, he says:

    … while many other things are generated, e.g. house, ring, of which we hold that there are no Forms (Meta. 1.991b)

    … and many other things are generated, e.g. house and ring, of which they say that there are no Forms (Meta. 13.1080a)

    In Peri Ideon (On Ideas/Forms), he says:

    For example, carpentry is of bench without qualification, not of this bench, and of bed without qualification, not of this bed. And sculpture, painting, house-building, and each of the other crafts is related in a similar way to the things that fall under it. Therefore there will be an Idea of each of the things that fall under the crafts, which they [the Platonists] do not want (Alexander of Aphrodisias, In Metaph. 80.5)

    As a member of the Academy, Aristotle was in a position to know what the general view, including Plato’s own, was, and he clearly agrees with Plato that there are Forms of natural objects but not of artifacts:

    In some cases the individuality does not exist apart from the composite substance (e.g., the form of a house does not exist separately, except as the art of building); if it does so at all, it does so in the case of natural objects. Hence Plato was not far wrong in saying that there are as many Forms as there are kinds of natural objects (Meta. 12.1070a)

    Alcinous also says that most Platonists rejected Forms of artifacts (Didaskalikos 1.9).

    So, there is a tradition going back to the Old Academy according to which Plato and other Platonists reject Forms of artifacts. This is why Platonists like Plotinus and Proclus pay little attention to the Republic 10 passage.

    As I said earlier, the passage should not be ignored. First, because it is quite interesting in that it shows how Plato connects human psychology with ontology and metaphysics, which I for one believe to be a key feature of his system. And second, because in my view, a closer reading puts to rest the idea that it commits Plato to Forms of artifacts.

    Craftsmen do indeed look to “forms” in the sense of “paradigms” or “templates”, but not necessarily to Forms as eternal Ideas. They can look to paradigms in nature or in the work of other craftsmen. If anything, what craftsmen need for their knowledge is not an Artifact Form such as Form of Bed, Table, or House, but a Mathematical Form like Geometrical Shape or Size that involves exact measurements.

    Animals are a different story. For example, some bird species build intricate nests without being shown how to do it. In Platonic terms, it may be argued that they do this as a result of some form of subconscious access to a higher intelligence that contains templates or “forms” related to such activity. Humans have largely lost this instinctive knowledge and need to learn such skills by observing other animals (or humans).

    Ultimately, however, the individual selves or intelligences are manifestations of the Universal Intelligence which creates them (v. Timaeus) and therefore dependent on it. It is in this sense that we look to a higher reality in order to acquire certain forms of knowledge. Even when we look to natural objects or animals for inspiration, it is really the Universal Intelligence that we draw inspiration from.

    We are normally unaware, and even dismissive, of the individual intelligence’s connection with a larger, collective or universal intelligence until extraordinary circumstances, such as precognitive dreams, force us to acknowledge at least the possibility of such a connection. This realization of the possible (or probable) existence of a higher reality is the first step on the path to knowledge and the beginning of Platonic, i.e., genuine philosophy as understood in Ancient Greece.

    Much has been made of Socrates’ admission that he “knows nothing”. In reality, his exact words as related by Plato were:

    “I am aware that I am wise neither in great things nor in small things” (Apology 21b)

    Those who see nothing here but an admission of ignorance do nothing but demonstrate their own ignorance and lack of understanding. They are like the imitators in Socrates’ Analogy of the Painter. In reality, the key words are not the denial of knowledge but the affirmation of awareness: “I am aware” (synoida emauto). What matters is awareness. Awareness that there are limits to our knowledge implies awareness of the existence of some things that we have no knowledge of.

    This is the beginning of philosophy in the Platonic sense. The awareness that there are realities “out there”, i.e., outside our everyday experience and knowledge, that we don’t know and don’t understand and that it is our task, as intelligent beings endowed with awareness and understanding, to inquire into these realities. Some, like Socrates, feel compelled to do so by an “inner voice”, “instinct”, or “guiding spirit” (daimonion) that in itself indicates that there is more to reality than meets the eye.

    At the other end of the spectrum, others refuse outright to even contemplate the existence of anything outside the range of their five sense-perceptions.

    Socrates himself tells us why this is the case. The soul has two aspects (or forms of intelligence): a higher, thinking one that is receptive to higher truths and always strives toward wisdom (phronesis) and a base, unthinking one that is attracted to what is far from wisdom (Rep. 602c-605b).

    Different parts of the soul are attracted to different aspects of reality. This is why, in Socrates' analogy, the thoughtless in whom base intelligence is dominant are taken in by the illusory product of the imitative crafts, whilst the thoughtful in whom higher intelligence is the dominant aspect see the productive crafts as producing what is real. This applies to painting, poetry, science, and philosophic discourse itself.

    This explains why Plato is interpreted in many different ways by different readers. Some, like the Straussians, who come from a background of political science, see Plato’s dialogues as having a purely political message with no metaphysical content. Similarly, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Atheists all have their own interpretation according to the inclination in their soul that happens to be dominant at the time.

    Some follow the imitators, i.e., the translators and interpreters of the unthinking kind who have little knowledge of Greek and even less of Plato, and who choose to render phronesis as “prudence”.

    My own view is that Platonists understand Plato best. This is because their understanding is based not only on Platonic tradition itself, but also on the realization that Plato is a highly intelligent writer whose entire project starts with intelligence and ends in intelligence.

    As Plato puts it, it would be extremely strange not to assign intelligence (nous) to Being:

    “What then, by Zeus! Are we to be so easily persuaded that change and life and soul and wisdom are truly absent from what completely is, and that it does not live, or think, but sits there in august holiness, devoid of intelligence, fixed and unchanging?”
    “That would be a quite shocking account of things for us to accept” (Soph. 248e-249a)

    Similarly, we are told that the Universe is created and ruled by Intelligence:
    All the wise agree that Intelligence (Nous) is king of heaven and earth (Phileb. 28c6-8)

    The Platonic philosopher’s task is to become aware of the oneness and universality of Intelligence. It is the universality of Intelligence which is One that validates Truth.

    Like awareness (syneidesis) which is derived from syn (“with”, “together”) and oida (“know”), understanding (synesis), from syn and hiemi (“bring”), implies a bringing together of cognitive elements resulting in understanding.

    Without this bringing together or unification, no understanding is possible. This is why Plato stresses the importance of the cognitive processes whereby intelligence classifies cognitive elements according to the principles of sameness and difference. It is this bringing together or unification of elements of experience into assorted categories and of categories into a unified whole, that makes understanding possible.

    Awareness, therefore, is a principle of unification or unity that makes intelligence and life possible, and is itself one. This is why Plato and Platonists refer to Ultimate Reality as “Intelligence” and “the One”.

    In Plato, philosophy begins with epistemology and ends with metaphysics, both of which are part of one cognitive continuum as clearly indicated in the Analogy of the Line. The underlying reality of it is intelligence itself, which is why Plato tells us how intelligence works, how individual intelligence mirrors a higher Intelligence of which it is a part, and how philosophy can be used as a practical method of elevating human cognition from the most basic to the highest possible.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    As a member of the Academy, Aristotle was in a position to know what the general view, including Plato’s own, was, and he clearly agrees with Plato that there are Forms of natural objects but not of artifacts:Apollodorus

    Aristotle makes a separation between "Platonists", and "Plato". I even saw at one point where he referred to. "some Platonists". Your quotes are quite questionable. Perhaps you could find the place in Phaedo which Aristotle refers to? My footnote says 100d, but I didn't find it.

    Perhaps Aristotle is referring to the fact that Plato posited Forms for qualities, like Beauty and Just, not for particular things like a house or a ring. That of course was the big issue for Aristotle, particular things have substance, yet Platonists claimed Forms (as universals) were the the cause of substance. So there is a gap to bridge here.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Perhaps Aristotle is referring to the fact that Plato posited Forms for qualities, like Beauty and Just, not for particular things like a house or a ring.Metaphysician Undercover

    Aristotle says that Plato posits Forms for qualities, but not for artifacts.

    He says that Plato at Phaedo (100d) affirms that a beautiful thing exists in virtue of its dependence on the Form of Beauty.

    Aristotle’s point is that (man-made) objects like house or ring of which Plato and the Platonists hold that there are no Forms are nevertheless generated. And if objects like house and ring are generated without Forms, then other things might also be so generated.

    Therefore, he concludes:

    Thus it is clearly possible that all other things may both exist and be generated for the same causes as the things just mentioned [i.e. house or ring].

    In other words, Aristotle is using Plato’s rejection of Forms of artifacts to attack Plato’s Theory of Forms.

    However, Aristotle does not apply to his own comments the same logic that he applies to those he attacks. For, if no Forms are necessary for humans to build houses and make rings, it does not follow that this must apply to naturally occurring things, or to all things.

    Moreover, according to Plato, natural objects (and the whole Universe) are not generated by Forms but by the Universal Intelligence (Creator-God) using Matter shaped according to Forms. Aristotle knows this, but he must reject it because in his own system there is no Creator-God.

    Therefore, Aristotle's argument may succeed according to his own system, but fails according to Plato’s.

    In any case, Aristotle’s statements in the Metaphysics and elsewhere show that Plato holds that there are no Forms of artifacts. As we have just seen, Aristotle sometimes puts a subtle spin on his treatment of Plato’s views to bolster his own. Therefore, we should acquaint ourselves with Plato’s views before we read Aristotle’s comments on them.

    However, as I said before, Aristotle does not lie. He could not lie even if he wanted to because his audience knows what Plato's views are. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we may safely assume that he is a reliable witness in this regard.

    This is why, as already explained, Socrates’ “Form of Bed” is a purely hypothetical Form that he uses exclusively for the sake of the Painter and Poet Analogy and should not be taken to mean that he (and even less Plato) is committed to Forms of artifacts. Had Plato believed in Forms of artifacts, he would have made this clear. But nowhere does he do so.

    As regards the Platonic tradition, the Academy at Athens was closed down in 529 AD (though other Platonic schools continued to function even afterward). Platonists like Alcinous, Plotinus, and Proclus wrote and taught at a time when the Platonic tradition was still alive and well and existed within the wider Greek-speaking, Hellenic tradition.

    In contrast, Christians like Aquinas who lived about a millennium later in the West, were cut off from the Platonic tradition. Their knowledge of Greek philosophy was largely limited to Latin translations of Aristotle and the works of Aristotelians like Averroes and Maimonides, who were anti-Platonists.

    So, if we are reading Plato through a multi-layered filter of Aristotelianism, Thomism, and anti-Platonism, we may find that there isn’t much of the real Plato left.

    Platonists (Platonikoi) in antiquity did not start their study of Plato by reading Aristotle and even less (as is currently the case) by reading translations of the Republic interpreted by non-Platonists and non-Greeks. They normally began with dialogues like the Phaedo and ended with the Timaeus and the Parmenides, in the original Greek, which afforded a much better preparation for a proper understanding of Plato’s true teachings. This is why I believe that we stand a much better chance of correctly understanding Plato if we follow the Platonists, at least in general outline.

    Concepts like “the One” and “Oneness” (or “Unity”) are absolutely central to Platonism for a very good reason. They go back to Plato and his Academy (and even before).

    The quest for the One (on different levels) is a recurrent theme in the dialogues. Plato himself writes:

    He who is a first-class craftsman or warden, in any department, must not only be able to pay regard to the many, but must be able also to press towards the one so as to discern it and, on discerning it, to survey and organize all the rest with a single eye to it (Laws 12.965b)

    Can any man get an accurate vision and view of any object better than by being able to look from the many and dissimilar to the one unifying form? (Laws 12.965c)

    The very same principle is applied by Plato to philosophy as a whole as much as to individual philosophical problems. To begin with, candidates for philosophical life are to be selected on their aptitude for dialectic which is the ability to take a comprehensive or unified view (synopsis):

    The chief test of the dialectical nature and its opposite is that he who can view things in their connection (synoptikos) is a dialectician (dialektikos); he who cannot, is not (Rep. 537c)

    Dialectics is the only process of inquiry that advances in this manner, doing away with hypotheses, up to the first principle (arche) itself in order to find confirmation there (Rep. 533c).

    For Plato, synoptikos = dialektikos = philosophos
    (synoptic-visioned man = dialectician = philosopher)

    Moreover, Plato is a man of action who does what he preaches. He says that everyone in practicing their respective craft must survey and organize all the elements of that craft with a single eye to one unifying principle.

    And this is precisely what Plato is doing in the context of his own craft which is, practicing, teaching, and writing about philosophy. He takes different strands of culture, religion, and philosophy that he regards as the best, the most beautiful, and the truest, and masterfully weaves them into an integrated, sublime whole.

    And he can only do so because he is endowed with synoptic vision.

    So, Plato may be regarded as the paradigm of the synoptikos, of the man who has a holistic, unified and unifying vision, which is the true philosophical vision.

    Indeed, all the terms that a careful reader of Plato finds at the core of Platonic philosophy, such as “awareness” (syneidesis), “understanding” (synesis), “comprehensive view” (synopsis), etc. are based on the concept of bringing together, unifying, making one, and seeing, knowing, and understanding everything as one.

    In short, Plato understands that which all philosophers, consciously or subconsciously, strive to understand.

    Each thing exists by being one. And there is a universal principle of unity that makes this oneness possible, both at individual and at universal level. In the case of man, it is the soul. In the case of the Universe, it is the Cosmic Soul. And because soul is intelligence, this Principle of Unity is Intelligence.

    If we acknowledge our true identity as intelligence (nous), and bring all elements of cognition together, which is the only way we can have a comprehensive view or synopsis, we obtain one cognition and one cognizer, i.e., intelligence consisting of a subjective and an objective element.

    If we next complete the unification process by bringing together cognition and cognizer to make them one, so that subject and object are cognitively identical, we obtain the One. And since the Ultimate is One (Hen), oneness (henosis) is the ultimate goal.

    This is the inescapable conclusion if we follow the inner logic of the dialogues and, in particular, Plato’s Divided Line representing the cognitive continuum stretching from the multiplicity of sense-perceptions to the vision of a single Reality symbolized by the Sun, i.e., the all-illumining Light of Consciousness which is the Source of all Knowledge and all Life.

    This is the fundamental core around which the Platonic framework is built.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Aristotle says that Plato posits Forms for qualities, but not for artifacts.

    He says that Plato at Phaedo (100d) affirms that a beautiful thing exists in virtue of its dependence on the Form of Beauty.

    Aristotle’s point is that (man-made) objects like house or ring of which Plato and the Platonists hold that there are no Forms are nevertheless generated. And if objects like house and ring are generated without Forms, then other things might also be so generated.
    Apollodorus

    I don't think we can make this conclusion about Platonic Forms, because Forms account not only for the existence of qualities, but also of types. So the Form of Animal is the reason why anything which is an animal is an animal. We could say the same thing for Ring, and House. But I agree that there are many simple little things which Socrates would say we can't assume a Form of this, and a Form of that, until there is a different Form for every distinct individual.

    This is a deficiency in Platonic metaphysics which I think Aristotle greatly improved on. Aristotle assumed that every particular thing has a Form proper to, and unique to, itself. And this becomes the principle which his law of identity is based in. He says that the fundamental question of Being, or metaphysics, is not 'why is there something rather than nothing?', but 'why is each thing the exact thing that it is, rather than something else?'.

    However, Aristotle does not apply to his own comments the same logic that he applies to those he attacks. For, if no Forms are necessary for humans to build houses and make rings, it does not follow that this must apply to naturally occurring things, or to all things.Apollodorus

    But Aristotle's argument in his Metaphysics is that it is impossible that a thing is not the thing that it is. If it were not the thing that it is, then it would be something other than it is, and this is impossible, (forming the law of identity). Further, since things are generated (come into being), then in order for a thing to come into being as the thing which it is, the form of the thing must be prior to the material thing itself, as the cause of it being the thing which it is. If the form of a thing is not prior to the material existence of that thing, then the thing could come into being as anything, therefore not necessarily the thing which it is, violating the law of identity, by allowing that a thing could be anything.

    So Aristotle's argument is that it is necessary to assume that each and every thing has a unique Form which is prior in existence to the material thing, as the cause of the thing which it is. So Plato is seen as not going far enough, by not allowing that every existing thing has a form unique to itself.

    Aristotle knows this, but he must reject it because in his own system there is no Creator-God.Apollodorus

    There is a 'Creator-God' responsible for material existence in Aristotle, it's the Divine Mind, described I believe in Bk 12 Metaphysics. In his Metaphysics, I believe it's around Bk 6, he describes how the form of an artificial thing comes from the soul of the craftsperson, and is given to the matter in the act of creation. The matter accounts for the "accidentals", and why the thing created is not exactly the same as the form coming from the soul of the artist. He implies that natural things are created in the very same way, but from the Divine Mind.

    The problem which Aristotle sees with Platonic metaphysics is that Forms are only universals, yet material things are particulars. But Plato wanted Forms to somehow be the cause of material things, by causing material things to be the type of thing that each is. However, Plato does not close the gap between universal and particular, to show how one universal Form can cause the existence of many particulars, when each particular is distinct and unique. Aristotle moves to close the gap with the concept of "matter", allowing that matter accounts for the accidentals, and the uniqueness of each individual.

    This is why, as already explained, Socrates’ “Form of Bed” is a purely hypothetical Form that he uses exclusively for the sake of the Painter and Poet Analogy and should not be taken to mean that he (and even less Plato) is committed to Forms of artifacts. Had Plato believed in Forms of artifacts, he would have made this clear. But nowhere does he do so.Apollodorus

    So this is why Aristotle portrayed Plato's Forms as conceptually deficient.

    In contrast, Christians like Aquinas who lived about a millennium later in the West, were cut off from the Platonic tradition. Their knowledge of Greek philosophy was largely limited to Latin translations of Aristotle and the works of Aristotelians like Averroes and Maimonides, who were anti-Platonists.Apollodorus

    I believe that this is factually incorrect. The early Christian metaphysicians, St Augustine for example were well versed in Neo-Platonism. So Christian theology was based in Neo-Platonism. The fall of the Alexandria library made the work of Aristotle less and less available to the early Christians, though they had access to Neo-Platonist teaching. The Muslims maintained access to Aristotle through other sources, and Averroes and other Muslims worked to introduce the more scientifically inclined Aristotelian metaphysics into the more mystical Neo-Platonist metaphysics which the Christians held. You can see in Aquinas' writings that he was working to establish consistency between the Neo-Platonist principles already held by the Church, and the newly introduced Aristotelian principles. This brought scholasticism to an end, and also came the end of the middle ages

    The quest for the One (on different levels) is a recurrent theme in the dialogues.Apollodorus

    Metaphysically, this "quest for the One" is lagging far behind Aristotle, who found "the One", as the particular, the individual, and defined it with the law of identity. The introduction of Aristotle into Christian schools marked a revolution in thinking for the Christians.
145678Next
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.