4: Plato

Lesson Objectives

Plato the teacher  points to the reality "up there," while Aristotle, his student, points to the only reality—"down here".

Key Terms

Allegory of the Cave
World of Becoming
World of Being
Ideal World/World of Forms

  • Read, analyze, and critique philosophical texts
  • Articulate key conceptual distinctions between classical views of reality
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the Ideal World, the worlds of Being and Becoming, the soul, and the Platonic aristocracy

I. Metaphysics and Epistemology

  • A. Metaphysics - beyond physics
    • Is there a reality beyond our physical senses?
    • Meaning of life
    • Free will
    • Nature of the mind
    • The way things really are
  • B. Epistemology - the study of knowledge
    • Making a proper claim
    • What is truth?

II. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

  • The Allegory in a nutshell: Clip
  • A. Allegory illustrates
    • what knowledge does for the individual
    • how a knowledgeable individual is received by the masses
    • the difference between the world the uninitiated see and the world the critical thinker sees
  • B. Conclusions from the Allegory
    • The acquisition of knowledge causes pain
    • Philosophers who attempt to share knowledge have often been punished
      • the "ignorance is bliss" cliché
    • The critical thinker sees truth; the uninitiated see misunderstandings
  • C. How do we acquire knowledge?
    • Knowledge requires certainty
    • Therefore Plato intuits that knowledge is unchanging, eternal, and non-physical and must come from a place that is likewise:
      • Unchanging: does not change due to new circumstances
      • Eternal: does not age
      • Non-physical: isn't subject to the normal laws of physics

Allegory of the Cave

Additional examples

Clip 1
Clip 2

III. Theory of the Forms

  • A. The world of Becoming (the everyday world of existence)
    • Use our senses to learn about this world
    • Constantly changing, evolving, and disappearing
    • The world of appearance
  • B. The world of Being (or, the higher world of ideas: literally, "the ideal world")
    • Use our reason to learn about this world
    • Unchanging, eternal
    • This is the realm of the true forms
  • C. Navigating the World of Becoming and the World of Being
    • The difference between the world of Becoming and the world of Being is vast
    • We discern the Forms through reason
    • Even though we live in the world of Becoming, we know about the world of Being
    • Plato reasons this means we have experienced this world in the past

IV. What is the Self?

  • A. The Soul before Plato
    • Socrates’ focus: Who we are and who we should be
    • Soul is separate from the body
    • Soul is immortal
    • Dualism of reality and self
  • B. Plato’s Difficulties with Socrates' View
    • The soul/self changes
    • This doesn’t mean the soul isn’t immortal
  • C. Tripartite Soul
    • Reason - divine essence
    • Physical Appetite - biological needs
    • Spirit or Passion - emotions
  • D. Allegory of the Chariot
    • 2 horses
    • 1 charioteer
    • Struggle for control
    • Horses represent Appetite and Passion
    • Charioteer represents Reason

V. What is the best way to govern?

  • A. Contextualizing Plato's Republic
    • Written in 300s BCE
    • Wrote near the end of Classical Greece
    • Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE)
    • The Thirty Tyrants installed after the war tried to recruit Plato but he declined
  • B. The Republic
    • Goals
      • Establish a state that would bring about eudaemonia
      • Recreate the World of Forms
      • 3 categories of people: workers, auxiliaries, philosopher–kings
      • Leaders are wise philosopher–kings, 50+ yrs old, with a secure understanding of the forms and the good
    • Flaws
      • High expectations of citizens, intellectual devotion and self–scrutiny
      • Higher expectations of leaders
      • Based in an ideal world we cannot perceive


Logic Week 4: Dysjunctive Syllogism