My studies of philosophy began with Plato. He was one of those characters within philosophy that you could easily grow to hate, or become obsessed with. I suppose I veer towards the latter because I certainly never grew sick of him. His theories stuck with me like no other, drilled into me more than any other. The allegory of the cave has already been adapted into my work, and Plato’s World of Forms is something I would like to use in some way but have not quite worked out how.
The allegory of the cave is all about seeing the truth and understanding that what we perceive to be reality is often anything but. Plato describes a group of people chained to a wall in a cave viewing only the shadows of events passing before them and believing them to be real. But one day, one of the prisoners is freed and gets to see what is really happening, not just the shadows of it. When he returns to the cave he tells his companions all about it but they do not believe him and eventually kill him for his supposedly outlandish beliefs, just as Socrates, Plato’s mentor, had been.
Plato’s World of Forms, or Ideas, builds on a similar thing: viewing the true form of reality. His theory suggested that everything in the world as we know is not real but it exists as a ‘perfect’ form within the World of Forms and it is because of this ‘perfect’ form that we are able to recognise, for example, not only that a horse is a horse even if one is black and one is brown, or one only has three legs, but also if something is good or bad. Likewise, the soul too has its ‘perfect’ form and it is on a constant journey to become one with it – i.e. to understand that there is more beyond what we see and experience, and to gain true knowledge. Therefore, Plato’s concept of Heaven is one where the soul is able to escape its bonds – the prison that the body creates – and return to this perfect world where ‘it can behold the absolute Good, the Pure Form’.