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What did Plato believe?

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Quick Answer

Plato believed that the world we see around us is only a shadow of reality, which he referred to as the world of the forms. From this belief, he developed the Parable of the Cave, the philosophical theory for which he is best known, according to a website hosted by St. Anselm College.

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Plato believed that there was a perfected representation of everything in the world of the forms. In Plato's view, the things that people experience in the ordinary world are like shadows reflected on a dark cave wall by flickering flames. Humans are unable to turn and see the reality. Instead, they must deduce reality from the shadows before them. Applied to real life, this means that people must look at many things to get an idea of the Form of something. For instance, there are dozens of different types of shoes. However, they all have certain things in common. The Form of "shoe" would therefore be the perfected example of all shoes.

This perfected shoe is an example of an archetype, or the shape upon which all reflections may be patterned. Plato argued that archetypes are more real than the items that are based on them. He also argued, based on this theory, that there are ultimate truths in the world. For this reason, he clashed with the Sophists, a school of philosophers who used rhetoric to prove that all things are relative to one another and that fixed truths do not exist.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Who is Plato?

    A:

    Plato, born around 428 B.C. in Athens, Greece, was an ancient Greek philosopher, a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle who founded one of the first institutes of higher learning. He wrote on a variety of subjects, including justice, equality, politics, theology and cosmology.

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  • Q:

    What are the differences between Socrates, Aristotle and Plato?

    A:

    Socrates focused on asking probing, sometimes humiliating questions in order to learn, Plato believed in immortality of the soul and Aristotle was a champion of reason and believed in avoiding extremes. While the three philosophers had differences, they were more alike as Aristotle was the student of Plato and Plato was the student of Socrates.

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  • Q:

    What is Plato known for?

    A:

    Plato is celebrated as one of the most significant early Greek philosophers. His theories of form, ethics and politics, in particular, have proven enormously influential in both Western and Islamic traditions. Some, such as Alfred North Whitehead, have even considered all subsequent Western thought as simply a "footnote" to Plato.

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  • Q:

    What is realism?

    A:

    In philosophy, realism is the belief that reality lies outside of the human mind; it is the focus on things that can be observed as well as things that exist independently of what the human mind believes to be true. An example of realism in philosophy is that a tree will exist in nature whether a human is able to recognize the tree.

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