The Pre-Socratic dilemma
The Theory of the Forms; a solution to the pre-Socratics dilemma
The pre-Socratics; Heraclitus, Parmenides among others, lived and performed their profession before Socrates. The pre-Socratics tried to solve the puzzle of the connection that bonded the “one” together with the “many”. These philosophers saw an assortment of stuff around them which in whole composed the world.
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The pre-Socratics believed that there lies a linking that holds all things in place. This has to be something unique from the “many”. Therefore, the puzzle of the “one” and the “many” can be articulated as the connection between unity and diversity. The subject of finding the force that holds objects in the physical world has high value because of the outcomes it implicates. The main question lies in finding out what holds all the stuff in the world together. The pre-Socratics tried to find out the source of unity in the world (LordZB).
Heraclitus thought, “War is king”1. He supposes that reality is a process of constant creation and destruction. He uses the river as a metaphor for his rationale. Hearctilus would say that all of what we go through is like the river, endlessly changing in a manner of erosion and creation. On the other hand, Parmenides believed that being must occur virtually in the mind. Since “nothing” cannot be contemplated without considering it as something, there cannot exist “nothing”, there can only exist “being” (LordZB).
The Theory of the Forms as a solution to the dilemma
The solution to the dilemma facing the pre-Socratics can be found in Plato’s theory of forms. Plato attempts to unravel this dilemma with his theory of an impartial reality in a realm unique from that experienced by in the physical world. Plato suggested that reality comprises two realms.
First, the physical world that can be noticed with the five senses. Second, Plato says that there is a world composed of timeless, perfect “forms” or “ideas”. According to Plato, forms are flawless templates that subsist in a different dimension. The forms are more existent than the physical objects seen in the physical world (Macintosh).
The forms, though eternal and changeless, collaborate with erratic matter, to make up the terrestrial world. These objects may contribute in many forms and change constantly. The constantly changing temporal world can only be used as the basis of opinion. According to Plato, the opinions developed from the five senses, are like shadows of actual objects. Real knowledge, however, is the insight of the archetypal forms. These forms are actual, timeless, and unchangeable.
Plato’s argument for splitting the “forms” from the actual things people experience, with the five senses, links to the nature of knowledge. Plato’s case relies on distinguishing between “knowledge” and “opinion”. According to Plato, knowledge and opinion must have different powers and objects. Therefore, the things about which we have opinions cannot be the similar to those which we are knowledgeable of. The basis of Plato’s arguments was that forms must subsist distinctly from specific objects (Banach).
Plato’s solution lies in the realms, the realm of the physical world and that of the forms. The forms serve as locus points for all things in the world. Plato also highlights the difference between the physical world and forms as knowledge. Therefore, Plato’s theory reconciles the theories of Heraclitus and Parmenides by suggesting that the bind in the world is found in the realm of the forms. These perfect reference points represent the base from which all things come into existence.
Banach, David. Plato’s Theory of Forms. 2006.
LordZB. Top Ten Pre-Socratic Philosophers. 2012.
Macintosh, David. Plato: A Theory of Forms. 2012.