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14 JUNE, 2017 (MAINS)



Q1. Explain Plato’s theory of forms? Does it entail a kind of essentialism? Discuss. (2015/20/200 words)


Please write the answer in comments section

  • Bubbly

    Explain Plato’s theory of forms? Does it entail a kind of essentialism? Discuss.

    Plato’s metaphysics is idealism according to which ideas represent the reality. According to Plato, ideas are the real substance which are also eternal and universal. This universal can be distinguished from the particular by the fact that while particulars are many, universal is one. Each particular will have different qualities which may range from accidental to essential qualities. For example, a cow being a particular will have accidental qualities like color, size while the idea of “cowness” will be it’s essential quality. This cowness is universal for all the cows and hence is the idea. He further maintains that these ideas as universals are also independent and have an objective existence.
    Essentialism, in its broadest sense, is any philosophy that acknowledges the primacy of Essence. Platonic idealism emphasizes that all known things and concepts have an essential reality behind them, which is the idea or forms. While differentiating between the qualities of a particular, he distinguishes between what can be accidental and what can be the essential quality. This essential quality that each and every substance holds in them is “idea”. Idea forms a basic tenet negating which a substance cannot become. Hence, through his idea of form, he indeed leads to essentialism.
    However, this idea of essentialism is negated by the non-essentialists who refuse to accept that there has to be any special trait that is must for a substance.

  • karan

    Plato, propounded the theory of forms or ideas, by idea he meant the essence of the worldly objects . Ex: Cowness of cow. He therefore believed that essence exists irrespective of the existence of the corresponding objects ex: all cows may die but cowness will prevail. Hence, he confers essentialism .

    He established dichotomy of existence i.e two world theory . He said that over and above this perceptual world of sense experience there lies a transcendental world of ideas where objects are the faithful copies of the ideas. He employed certain metaphors like copy theory or imitation theory to substantiate his philosophy . He further gave “cave analogy” to explain this dichotomy, where the cave and the world of sunlight represent material and transcendental world respectively . Prisoners are the common man bonded by the shackles of ignorance .
    Further, the knowledge of the transcendental world is only possible through rational insight which he explained by his “theory of divided lines” . According to him, man can attain liberation only by meditating on the idea of god i.e craving for it, referred as spiritual love or platonic love. Here his Metaphysics meets epistemology i.e
    “to know is to be” .

    Although , Aristotle later criticised his philosophy to be poetic and mystical . He further gave his philosophy of form and matter to explain the underlying problem of being and becoming .