Plato on reality and the soul
Plato on reality and the soul
Socrates believed that the soul is pure and the body is corrupted, where wisdom is accounted for the soul and needs, thus the materialistic and carnal desires are to the body. Plato’s Phaedo discussed in the world of forms. Any entity or object has a quality or feature or multiple properties. And these properties are prior conditioned to the soul. Plato’s metaphysics can be drawn primarily from the influence of his teachers Paramenides, Heraclitus, and of course Socrates. First, the concept from Parmenides’ belief that there could be only one being, and this is a never changing entity.
It has a static quality. This is where Plato derived his concept of the world of forms. It is a different concept in the material world wherein it is an always changing world. Change can be accounted as the only thing common and the only thing consistent as Heraclitus described the notion of “flux”. Academicians account that most of Plato’s thinking was influenced by Socrates. Socrates however was not at all articulate in conveying a Metaphysical or Epistemological discussion; rather, he conveyed more ethical notions.
For Socrates, The idea is for one to take care of the soul so one can be happy, or attain the truth. This is especially true and evident in the Phaedo where Plato accounts the last hours before Socrates separated his soul from the body. Plato’s Metaphysics can be analyzed as a completion of that of Socrates’. The notion of the world of forms or the world of ideas is an eternal and immovable form. In contrast to this world is Chaos or the world of objects which receives the form. For example, an artist created a vase; the material form of this object is only a receiver or only partakes into the idea of the vase.
The object is thus not a perfect representation of the real idea of the vase. The two worlds are joined together which infuses the soul and makes possible to Heraclitus’ idea of the visible world. The world of forms can be stated as perfect and the world of objects as an approximation of it. This meant that men strive to achieve it but fall short of achieving such perfection because the body is corrupted. Forms are independent and the world of objects is dependent to forms because they seek to compare to the perfect image.
But because the senses are blurred they can never be perfect. It is also evident this pattern of ideas based on Socrates. Plato points out that a man seeks for the truth and in this speculative journey makes a man better and in turn achieve good. Another evident notion of this is in discussing perfect equality. When you look at perfect equality, you notice that it is not perfectly equal. There and then we can suppose that the idea of this equality had been existent to the soul prior to the unison of it with the body. This intensifies the ideas that the soul existed before the body.
However, once the soul was united with the body, the soul’s knowledge of ideas falls into the subconscious. During sleep, man reminisces and recognizes the world of Ideas and thus there is realization. The soul from the moment it unites with the body recognizes an irrational soul that is derived from the corruption of the material world, dissatisfaction and the seeking of pleasure. This soul is situated in the heart. The soul that comes from the world of Forms is situated in the head, on top of the irrational soul, controlling its impulses and conditions the body to live within the confines of reason.
Plato in his writings in the Republic described that the end result of an individual in the Good. In his society (or the republic), he stated that this is the final goal of everyone and it is not just a reward. A just man, one of Plato’s virtues, is rewarded not only in this lifetime but until one is reincarnated. This eminent idea that the soul preexisted before the body in the world of forms and its separation of the soul to reach the world of forms represents how the soul is immortal. For Plato, there is a division between the world of forms and the world of objects.
In his analogy of the sun, he contrasted the two as those that are merely visible and those of intellectual value. He further explains this through the analogy of the line. Plato described four forms of knowledge. One is of the idea of pure images, dreams and imaginations. In account to the concept of the soul, as discussed earlier, the soul in the preexistence of the body originally comes from the world of Forms. Once the soul infuses with the body, all its knowledge of the world of forms becomes part of the subconscious.
Through dreams and the imagination, which is a process of the head, the seat of the rational soul, it recounts and reminisces the truths in the world of forms. The next is the perception of sensible objects that gives attribute and judgment to visible materials. We imply that a certain item has such an attribute but it can change in another similar form. Another one is of mathematical knowledge which is not a perfect knowledge and one of philosophical knowledge that explains more the ideas as eternal and absolute realities. The four types of knowledge can be condensed into two more specific forms.
The first two can be accounted as opinions for the things in which we perceive through sensing may look like such in one way and different in another. Another one is called understanding, in which the realities of these objects can or cannot be. It is a more logical, scientific knowledge. The idea of the soul reaching the world of forms is from an inferior to a superior level and its main goal is to reach that state where happiness exists. In the world of objects, there is always dissatisfaction. He further illustrates his ideas through the cave.
He stated that the world the secludes us is an illusion to what is the truth, once we step out of the cave we get blinded by the light but as we refocus and look not into the reflections and shadows, but the real perfect forms,we see the truth and the real objects. This process of release from the cave to the outside world represents enlightenment, which in the case of Socrates’ beliefs is the separation of the soul to the body, to attain the truth. In Phaedo, Socrates sums up these arguments and philosophical intertwines by pursuing death himself.
According to Socrates, the only way for one to attain the truth from all the imitations and corruptions of the material world is through death. One should never be afraid of something that would give enlightenment. Man should even welcome it when the time arrives. The world of objects prohibits a man to philosophize, thus he has a hard time attaining this virtue of justice and good. There are various distractions that hinder man to the truth. Death for Socrates is the liberation of the soul. Death is also not merely a separation of the soul and body. It is a process and an end state that progresses to achieve the truth.
Dissatisfactions, pleasures, emotions inhibit the call of reason and wisdom thus inhibiting philosophy. This separation is an ultimate embrace to the truth until the time comes when the soul unites with a body as an incarnate. Plato ultimately bridges the connection between the soul and the world of forms. As is reiterated, the ultimate goal of man is good, happiness and wisdom. These ideas or forms are not of existence in the world of objects. The world of objects, are perceived representations of man through various forms of knowledge, (of opinions and of logical knowledge).
The objects man builds are imitations, thus they are not perfect. Man has a perception of what is perfect because the rational soul is of prior existence in the world of forms. The world of objects cannot be perfect and man cannot be happy because the human body is predisposed to various entanglements with pleasures, emotions, diseases, and imperfections. Philosophers are to accept death for it liberates man from the soul. The soul has its ultimate goal in essence is to go back to the world of forms. In that way he would be able to attain good.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 22 November 2016
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