How Can You Not Understand The Platonic Forms?
May 20th, 2010 by Sam-Frea

Philosophy is something that can benefit everyone's life, but few people in today's world are in a position where they can readily benefit from philosophy. This is because they languish in a misconception that philosophy is only for grad students or dusty old professors. By no means! Philosophy is for everyone.

The first truly notable philosophers were those who emerged in ancient Greece, most notably Plato and Aristotle. With them, philosophy wasn't a profession or an idle pursuit, it was a way of life that taught them about biology, mathematics, art, poetry, the sciences, and even spiritual matters such as ethics.

Because the sphere of interest held by ancient man was so vast, it's not surprising that many 'theories of everything' seemed to crop up all over the place. Theories that delved into man's understanding of the world around him were particularly popular, as they sought to understand how we know the things we know.

Thus, one of the best answers to these questions, Plato's theory of Forms has enjoyed widespread recognition for centuries. This theory is designed to explain the phenomena of mental categorization, among other things. It reveals why it is that we group certain things together, such as a Tiger rice cooker or a spatula, and exclude other things, like a hedgehog.

Plato famously used the vehicle of fiction and allegory to demonstrate his points, and this is no exception. Here, he paints the image of men chained up in a cave. The world passes behind them, panthers and baby cribs and trains, and they can only see it through the shadows cast by a dim fire. If they were to turn around and see the true reality, they would be amazed, and might not even be able to handle it.

What we see are creative approximations of singular idealized archetypes that exist in a realm beyond our immediate grasp, the realm of Forms. Everything in the universe has a true Form, and Plato tells us that by walking the path of the philosopher, we can grasp those Forms.

The philosopher's life is not an easy one, but the benefits are well worth it. To be able to comprehend reality as it truly is, from hamsters to business deals to girls polo shirts, philosophy provides us with a means to structure a keen and powerful intellect that can take us far in the world. Excelsior!

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