Plato was one of the most prominent Greek philosophers, influencing the very core of philosophy for years to come. His early analysis of society and its values began the quest for answers to questions of existence and awareness. In “The Republic,” Plato explains the concept of Forms and Ideas while also inquiring on both justice within a person and what exactly makes a person ‘just. ’ Plato argued that the human soul innately searched for the Form of Good which could only be found through philosophical reasoning. Plato believed in two worlds, the material world and the world of the Forms.
The Forms differ from material objects because they are perfect and pure; while material objects are a complex mixture of imperfect properties of the Forms. Plato stated that the Form of the Good is the highest reality of all as well as the ultimate source of knowledge. Plato believed that ‘goodness’ was a quality that all the individual Forms possessed, linked together by the Form of Good. In a passage he states: “So what gives truth to the things known and the power to know to the knower is the Form of the Good. And though it is the cause of knowledge and truth, it is also an object of knowledge.
Both knowledge and truth are beautiful things, but the good is other and more beautiful than they” (Classics of Western Philosophy, Republic, 173). In this paper I will argue that the concept of the Good represents perception and the ability of the human mind to perceive its surroundings and its internalities. Why Does Knowledge Depend on the Good? In The Republic Plato states that the Good in the realm of Forms corresponds to the Sun in the physical realm. The Sun in the physical world gives life to all things; it is the foundation of the world around us.
Additionally the light of the Sun gives us the ability to see and understand the world we inhabit. This is best explained in the famous Allegory of the Cave in which a group of men are imprisoned in a dark cavern. In the darkness of the cavern the men can only perceive the shadows of the world around them. They believe this to be the extent of their world until one travels beyond the cave into the blinding sunlight. Once acclimated to the sunlight the man is able to perceive all those things that were mere shadows to him before and truly understand them.
Plato believed that the Good served the same purpose; in order to understand the true nature of the realm of Forms it was necessary to understand the Good. The Good, in a sense, allows abstract ideas to be perceived and understood. Observing and defining a concept did not equate to understanding it, definitions and characteristics could vary or change with the times but the nature of a concept could not. Only once one was able to see the true essence of a Form and its connection to the Good could understand and actual knowledge be attained.
Without the Good all men remain in the cave merely seeing shadows of the concepts of truth, beauty, justice etc. Why Is the “Good” The Most Real Object? Plato states that “…Both knowledge and truth are beautiful things, but the good is other and more beautiful than they” (Classics of Western Philosophy, Republic, 173). With this statement he cements the position of the Good above all Forms. The Forms of Truth and Beauty are innately part of the Good. They are created and given their structure by it.
Additionally, the Good like all higher Form corresponds to a single permanent property, the property of Good which is within all things that humans strive for and strive to be. Plato believed that this property would never change; the Good would always be the Good regardless of perspective or time. The more objective an object is the more real it is. Thus, according to Plato, without the Good the world of Forms ceases to exists as well as the concept of perfection of any kind. The Good allows objects to be known, without it nothing would be intelligible.
Due to this the Good is the most real object because of its property of giving all other objects lucidity. Eudaimonia Plato and many other Hellenistic Philosophers endeavored to answer one question: how can humans live a fulfilling life in a constantly changing world where everything can be taken away at a moment? Socrates believed that virtues were crucial to achieving eudaimonia. As long as man adhered to piety, justice, and self-control they could attain eudaimonia. Socrates states, “… is life worth living for us with that part of us corrupted that unjust action harms and just action benefits?
Or do we think that part of us, whatever it is, that is concerned with justice and injustice, is inferior to the body? Not at all. It is much more valuable…? Much more…” (Classics of Wester Philosophy, Crito, 42). In this, he explains that eudaimonia could never be reached if the soul is tarnished by injustice regardless of wealth or honor. A soul who is not virtuous cannot lead a fulfilling life and a soul who is virtuous cannot help but be fulfilled. Success is worthless if one’s life is not led morally. The sophists Thrasymachus and Callicles presented an argument through Socrates’s ideas.
In his writings the Gorgias Thrasymachus states that adhering to the virtue of justice and morality is counterproductive to achieving eudaimonia. The very idea of morality corresponds to a certain amount self-control. Thus to be moral one must live with being dissatisfied desires. Thrasymachus believed that this lack of fulfillment would inevitably hinder the attainment of eudaimonia, he went as far as to state (through the story of Gyges) that if not for the risk of punishment no man would be just. In book 2 of The Republic, Plato argues this by offering a different definition of the idea of virtue.
Utilizing the same story with a different analysis Plato claims that a man who is a slave to his desires is neither happy nor virtuous. Conversely, one who curbs his appetites and maintains control of himself will be happy in his rationality. Plato went on to state that virtues are states of the mind and soul not necessarily behaviors. A virtuous person is one whose mind and soul are ordered and harmonious. He states “[A] true pilot must of necessity pay attention to the seasons, the heavens, the stars, the winds, and everything proper to the craft if he is really to rule a ship.
” According to Plato a virtuous person would be one who’s logic, understanding of the Forms, will, and spirit are working together without internal conflict. In contrast, by the soul of an unjust man who is lacking virtue would be in constant chaos and filled in internal disparity. A man with such a conflicted soul would never be able to reach fulfillment regardless of whether or not he satisfied his desires or was honored. The Form of Good was essential to the achievement of eudaimonia. Since all knowledge and all virtues inevitably stemmed from the Form of Good it was crucial for one to understand it.
Plato devised the theory of Forms in order to answer the metaphysical question of universals. Do properties actually exist? If so do they simply in exist in thought or in actuality? The Theory of Forms stated that substantial abstract ideas, and not the material world of change known to us through sensation, possess the truest and most fundamental kind of reality. With this idea he separated knowledge into opinions on perceivable objects and true knowledge that could be attained about the Forms, the highest of these being the Form of the Good.
The Form of the Good was the source of all the other Forms and the source of true knowledge. It had the same effect as the Sun in the material world illuminating the surrounding world and allowing for a new level of awareness and understanding. The awareness achieved by this was key to living a life unhindered by internal conflict. Bibliography Classics of Western Philosophy. Eighth Edition. Steven M. Cahn. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc. 2012. Print.
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