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Why I am not a Platonist Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 10th, 2019

Introduction

There can be few doubts as to the fact that the methodological tradition of Platonism contributed rather immensely to the development of Western philosophical thought.

Moreover, even today, Platonism’s conceptual insights represent a certain discursive value. However, in light of the recent scientific breakthroughs in the fields of biology, neurology and physics, Platonism’s foremost tenets appear hopelessly outdated. In my paper, I will aim to explore the validity of this suggestion at length, while outlining the main reasons, as to why I consider myself a committed anti-Platonist.

Analytical part

The main theoretical premise, upon which Platonist methodology is based, implies the existence of God, who set the universe in motion. In its turn, this presupposes that there is a higher intelligence, behind the observable aspects of how universe’s workings manifest themselves – even if the existence of such intelligence cannot be proved empirically.

This is why Platonist methodology has been traditionally associated with the deployment of so-called ‘top-down’ approaches towards addressing a particular phenomenon in question. This practice, however, stands in a striking opposition to the methodological conventions of a scientific realism.

As Gerson noted, “A top-down approach to philosophical problems… (is concerned with) the claim that the most important and puzzling phenomena we encounter in this world cannot be explained by seeking the simplest elements out of which these are composed” (260).

After all, if we assume that there is God, then the most rational way towards discovering the discursive significance of the reality’s emanations would be striving to reveal these emanations’ metaphysical meaning, “The highest and best kind of knowledge is knowledge of Goodness itself; the second level of knowledge is of the other Forms” (Patterson 52).

Therefore, there is nothing particularly surprising about the fact that Christian theologians always regarded Platonism, as a precursor of Christianity. This is because this philosophical tradition does in fact promote the idea of an orderly universe, which cannot be conceived outside of the assumption that there is a deity behind the seemingly ‘purposeful’ complexity of the surrounding reality (Von Hildebrand 31).

Nevertheless, as it was implied earlier, throughout the course of recent decades, it became absolutely clear to scientists that, far from being a part of the ‘God’s design’, the universe’s complexity (as well as the complexity of life-forms) came into being without the involvement of any ‘third party’ – the blind laws of evolution predetermined such an eventual development.

The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in regards to the main conventions of the theory of a ‘chemical morphogenesis’ by Alan Turing, which points out to the fact that the bulks of randomly dispersed physical matter are quite capable of adopting systemic subtleties on their own, which is the main precondition for the emergence of an organic life.

As he pointed out, “(Chaotic substratum) although it may originally be quite homogeneous, may later develop a pattern or structure due to an instability of the homogeneous equilibrium, which is triggered off by random disturbances” (Turing 37).

According to Turing, just as it is being the case with the grains of sand in the desert, which self-organize themselves into ripples, waves and dunes (despite the fact these grains have no knowledge of the shape they become a part of), chemicals seeping across an embryo, cause its cells to self-organize into different organisms.

In other words, Turing had dealt one of the 20th century’s most powerful blows to the Platonic assumption that there is a ‘higher power’ behind the process of non-organic and organic forms becoming increasingly complex, because his theory removes last remaining doubts, as to this process’s thoroughly spontaneous essence.

The 20th century’s another major scientific finding, which exposes the sheer fallaciousness of Platonism, as a methodologically sound worldview, is the Heisenberg’s 1927 discovery of the ‘uncertainty principle’. According to this principle, it is impossible for us to be simultaneously aware of the elementary particle’s location and its speed.

This is because the principle’s formula suggests that, once we are being aware of the independent variable of the particle’s location, the depended variable of its speed would be projected into infinity, and vice versa (Heelan 125).

What it means is that the reason why we cannot possess a complete information about the concerned particle (its speed and location) is not because there is an insufficiency to the methodology of how we go about extracting the actual data, but because there is no such an information can be found in a priori. In its turn, this implies that the universe’s workings are unpredictable, because the universe itself is composed out of thoroughly unpredictable ‘bricks’ – atoms.

Heisenberg’s principle implies that micro-changes in the physical matter lead to macro-consequences in this matter’s ‘behavior’ (the so-called ‘butterfly effect’). In its turn, this suggests that, contrary to the Platonism’s main theoretical provision, the universe is not fatal, because despite the seemingly ‘intelligible’ essence of the reality’s observable emanations, they never cease being fundamentally chaotic.

This, of course, exposes the theoretical fallaciousness of the Platonic concept of an all-knowing and omnipresent deity. Consequently, it also suggests the erroneousness of Platonic metaphysics, concerned with the assumption that physical objects are only the ‘shadows’ of their true metaphysical ‘selves’. Apparently, the objective laws of the universe (supposedly designed by God), defy the very possibility that they have been ‘designed’, in the first place.

Even the application of a commonsense logic points out to the apparent erroneousness of the Platonism’s main postulate that the divine represents a thoroughly valid and irreducible explanatory category. This is because, if we assume that God is indeed all-knowing/all-powerful, it means that he/she has all of its desires satisfied, which in turn means that there no reasons for God to manifest its presence. God’s non-presence, however, equals to its non-existence.

Nevertheless, Platonism’s conceptual inconsistency may not only be revealed in light of the earlier mentioned discoveries in the field of cybernetics/physics, but also in light of what today’s neurologists know about the innermost reasons for the representatives of Homo Sapiens species to be endowed with a rationale-based consciousness.

This is because Platonism promotes the idea that there is an irreconcilable dualism between one’s body and mind. As Broadie pointed out, “Plato argues that we consist of something incorporeal, whether one calls it ‘mind’ or ‘soul’, which for the time being is somehow united with a body that is part of the physical world… and that one’s mind or soul will survive the demise of the body” (295).

Moreover, according to Plato, people who seek enlightenment should be willing to allow their ‘souls’ to be in charge of the process, “He who attains to the beatific vision is always going upwards… he cannot enter into the ideas of those who have never in their lives understood the relation of the shadow to the substance” (Plato VII).

Nevertheless, the idea of a ‘mind-soul dualism’ can no longer be referred to as such that represents even a formally discursive value. This is because, as of today, it became thoroughly clear to neurologists that one’s conscious/unconscious psyche (soul) cannot exist outside of his or her body, by definition.

After all, it has now been well proven that the workings of one’s psyche are defined by the essence of chemo-electric reactions inside of the concerned individual’s brain. For as long as there are no obstacles on the way of chemo-electric reactions’ normal flow, the functioning of one’s consciousness allows him or her to experience the three-dimensional sensation of ‘self’.

However, even a slight mechanical damage to the cortex area of one’s brain can produce a dramatic impact on the sense of his or her self-identity (soul) – often without affecting the integrity of the concerned individual’s ability to address cognitive tasks.

Moreover, the recent discoveries in the field of neurology suggest that one’s unconscious is in charge of defining the person’s rational choices – six seconds prior to when these choices are being actually made. The implications of this neurological finding are apparent.

First, there can be no ‘mind-body dualism’, by definition, because the workings of a particular individual’s body directly define the qualitative essence of how he or she assesses the significance of the surrounding reality’s emanations.

In other words, the way in which our ‘soul’ perceives the external reality, and the way in which it strives to attain self-actualization, cannot be discussed outside of how this reality affects the very functioning of our brains.

Second, contrary to the Platonic assumption of the soul/psyche’s structural wholesomeness, the integrity of one’s conscious sense of self can be well undermined by surgical intrusions. This, of course, serves as yet another proof as to the fact that ‘soul’ should not be discussed in solely metaphysical terms, but rather in terms of a physiology. We think and act in full accordance with how our bodies want us to – not the other way around.

Third, there can be no immortality to one’s ‘soul’. This is because, allegorically speaking, our conciseness (soul) is essentially a ‘symphony of interconnectedness’, played by the neurons in our brains. This is why while sleeping, we do not engage with our dream-visions rationally – in the state of dream, our brain’s different parts function independently of each other.

Given the fact that neurons and the information, which they pass, is essentially material (chemo-electrical), it means that the brain’s physical destruction/death, will necessarily result in the destruction of consciousness/’soul’. In other words, contrary to what Platonists and Christians believe, there can be no ‘afterlife’.

The third major objection to Platonism, on my part, relates to what I consider the fallaciousness of this philosophical school’s moralistic conventions, which stem out of the Platonic philosophers’ unawareness of what accounts for the actual purpose of just about every biological organism’s existence.

After all, along with opposing body and soul against each other, Platonism also regards people’s endowment with animalistic instincts utterly counterproductive to their physical, emotional and intellectual well-being. According to Plato, “He who… has become corrupted, does not easily rise out of this world to the sight of true beauty in the other… and like a brutish beast he rushes on to enjoy and beget; he consorts with wantonness, and is not afraid or ashamed of pursuing pleasure in violation of nature” (62).

Yet, it is specifically the denial of atavistic instincts’ purposefulness, which constitutes an actual violation of nature. This is because, in the biological sense of this word, there is only one purpose to people’s existence – passing genes to the representatives of next generations, which in turn creates objective preconditions for Homo Sapiens species to remain on the path of a continual evolutionary advancement.

As Dawkins had put it, “We are all survival machines for the same kind of replicator – molecules called DNA… natural selection favors replicators that are good at building survival machines… Genes have no foresight. They do not plan ahead. Genes just are” (24). Therefore, contrary to the conventions of Platonism, the measure of a particular individual’s existential virtuousness cannot be discussed in terms of a ‘thing in itself’.

The fact that humans developed an ability to operate with abstract categories has nothing to do with their presumed ‘god-likeness’. Just as lions rely on the sharpness of their teeth and claws, while ensuring their localized dominance in the environmental niche of Africa’s savannahs, humans rely on the sheer sharpness of their intellectual powers, while ensuring their undisputed dominance in the ‘environmental niche’ of the whole planet Earth.

What it means is that, quite contrary to what Platonism implies, people’s ability to cognitively engage with utterly abstract subject matters is not meant to ‘elevate’ them above this world, but to increase the extent of their evolutionary fitness, which in turn allows them to continue exercising a complete mastery over the world.

Therefore, the earlier mentioned people’s ability, which Platonism refers to as ‘logos’, cannot be thought of as being irreconcilable with their instinctual taste for experiencing a wide array of sensual pleasures (‘wantonness’). Quite on the opposite – the more people are intellectually advanced, the more they are powerful, and – the more they are powerful, the higher are their changes to be in a position of experiencing sensual pleasures unopposed, as the actual purpose of their existence.

Apparently, it never occurred to Platonists that, biologically speaking, humans are nothing but primates, whose foremost priorities in life are the same with what happened to be the existential priorities of plants and animals – ensuring access to the limited life-sustaining resources and imposing dominance upon less environmentally adapted competitors from the same environmental niche.

Therefore, if one’s ability to philosophize undermines the extent of his or her biological survivability (as it is often the case with decadent White intellectuals, who cannot resist the process of their countries being colonized by the hordes of legal and illegal immigrants from the Third World), it cannot possibly be regarded beneficial to the concerned individual well-being.

Thus, it is not only that Platonism is being fundamentally inconsistent with what empirical scientists know about the very essence of universe’s qualitative dynamics, but it also remains thoroughly arrogant of what account for the basic laws of biology, which apply to people, as much as they apply to plants and animals. This once again substantiates the legitimacy of my positioning as a committed anti-Platonist.

Conclusion

I believe that the provided earlier line of argumentation is being fully consistent with the paper’s initial thesis. In light of what has been said earlier, it appears to be only the matter of time, before Platonism will cease being considered a discursively valid school of Western philosophy.

Works Cited

Broadie, Sarah. “Soul and Body in Plato and Descartes.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series 101 (2001): 295-308. Print.

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print.

Gerson, Lloyd. “What is Platonism?” Journal of the History of Philosophy 43.3 (2005): 253-276. Print.

Heelan, Patrick. “Heisenberg and Radical Theoretic Change.” Zeitschrift fur allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie / Journal for General Philosophy of Science 6.1 (1975): 113-136. Print.

Patterson, Charles. Plato’s The Republic: Notes. Lincoln: Neb John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1963. Print.

Plato. Phaedrus. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Sparks, 2010. Web.

Plato. The Republic. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Project Gutenberg EBook, 2012. Web.

Von Hildebrand, Alice. “Platonism: An Atrium to Christianity.” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 10.2 (2007): 29-37. Print.

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