The Forms in Plato's Republic and Meno

Essay by geerrCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 2009

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Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher who, with teachings from his mentor, Socrates, helped establish the foundations of Western philosophy. Not only was Plato a brilliant thinker, but he also studied mathematics and was an excellent writer. Many of his philosophical ideas are contained in Dialogues, texts that encompass the basic teachings learned from Socrates as well as his own innovative thoughts. These writings take the form of conversations between a philosopher (usually Socrates) and a pupil. The major ideas, found in subjects such as mathematics, philosophy, logic, rhetoric, and others, are conveyed through indirect teaching and thought-provoking cross-examinations. The questioning involved in this method, known as elenchus, leads the subject to make his or her own conclusions. In many cases, this involves a state of uncertainty, called aporia, in which the interviewee realizes that he did not actually possess the knowledge he believed he had. Some recurrent themes found in the Platonic writings are the search for certainty in knowledge, the concept of virtue, the nature of reality, and politics.

One of the major theories put forth by Plato is the Theory of Forms. This philosophy attempts to explain the nature of the universe, including both the material world and the unseen forces that act within it. The Theory of Forms specifically refers to Plato's belief that the natural world as perceived by us is not truly real, but only a shadow of the real world. The forms themselves are abstract representations of the many types and properties of the things that exist in the universe. Plato delineated his ideas regarding forms in his Republic and Meno, and these were used in devising his explanation to the concept of universals. It was this attempt to rationally explain the phenomena of the natural world that Plato attempted to convey...