Forms: Plato’s Metaphysics and Epistemology

Last week, I went deeper into Plato’s philosophy and its connections to his political theory. On Monday, I talked to Dr. Monahan’s husband, Dr. Phillips, who has a philosophy PhD. I especially wanted to formulate and clarify some of my thoughts on the relationship between Plato’s theory of Forms and constitutional instability. For a quick explanation of Forms, Plato believes that everything on Earth is a reflection of higher objects of reality. The Forms, which include abstract concepts like Beauty and Equality, are pure and unchanging, and objects on Earth reflect these characteristics but never mirror them completely. The Form of the Good is the highest object on Plato’s hierarchy of reality; it gives being to all other Forms. To truly know anything, one must first understand the Form of the Good, which shows the connection between the Forms and epistemology. My current thinking is that Plato designs his ideal aristocracy to emulate the Form of a City, and that this Form would be stable, but the imperfections of implementation lead to the aristocracy’s downfall. I’m still thinking about the cause of transitions between types of constitutions. Plato generally says that the Forms are always the first cause of something; for example, the Form of Beauty causes something to be beautiful. However, new governments emerge as an opposite reaction to the excesses of the previous type, such as the movement towards equality in a democracy stemming from the extreme inequality of an oligarchy. One possible explanation for this potential contradiction is that Plato thinks souls are mutable and can cause change, so a change in the souls of the populous could lead to a change in government. I will further explore Plato’s theories of causality and the connection to instability in the future. This week, I have started transitioning towards Cicero by reading about two political theorists who came between Plato and him, Aristotle and Polybius.