Monday, May 9, 2011

around the world goes ths singer

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recollection. He argues that mankind is general seems to know a great many things which they could not have learned during their lives. The example given is that of the area of a square formed by the diagonal of another square. Menos slave-boy, although uneducated in geometry, nonetheless recalls the correct answer under careful guidance. The reason for this, according to Plato-via-Socrates, is that our souls, before birth, dwelt in the realm of the Forms and learned such things there.


However, as you may expect, several objections and disputes arise against this theory. Surprisingly, some of them are voiced by Plato himself. In the late dialogue Parmenides, Plato pits the young Socrates against Parmenides the Eleatic. Parmenides raises a few different objections to Socrates theory.


The first of these is simply one of double-standards. Socrates is quick to accept Forms of Wisdom, Beauty, and Justice, but balks at the idea of Forms of Mud and Hair. If there are Forms of everything, must not there also be Forms of the less glamourous parts of life?


The second is that Forms, if other items partake of them, cannot be one eternal indivisible item. If something is divided then it is not eternal; if it is eternal, it cannot be divided. Socrates attempts to answer that perhaps Forms are not objects but thoughts, but Parmenides rejects this outright (recall that Parmenides famously states that one cannot think of what-is-not, thus there are no just thoughts, only thoughts about existing items).


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Thirdly, we come to the Third Man argument. If it is true that over any set of items sharing X, there must be a Form of X, then you are faced with the proposition that now the original set and the Form both share X. This then posits an additional Form of X, which also shares in X, ad infinitum. The Forms are no longer first-causes but an infinitely-regressing chain. This does, of course, presupposed that the Forms are self-predicating.


Two more objections are raised with the Stoics and Platos own student, Aristotle. For the Stoics, they reject the idea of universals, preferring instead to think of particulars. Instead of Man is a rational animal referring to a universal Form of Man, they state that it is truly a mis-worded statement of particulars -- For each X, if X is a man, then X is rational.


Aristotle presents what I believe to be the most damaging argument that changeless Forms cannot explain change. If X once participated in the Form of Hot and now participates in the Form of Cold, what caused this change? Here, Plato does not seem to have an answer.


Personally, while I find the Forms an interesting attempt to explain certain items (especially the metaphysics of arguing about Fairness and the like), I find the multitude of criticisms raised are more persuasive against than are Plato-via-Socrates arguments for. Foor for thought, indeed, but not a fulfilling meal.


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