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You most probably have heard about Plato’s theory of forms at one point in your life. If you haven’t, don’t you worry, this article is going to tackle this seemingly bizarre concept in a new light, hopefully.
But before I continue, I have to insert a disclaimer here. I don’t pretend to write a scholarly article to flesh out the arguments made herein in an academic manner. I am more interested in reflecting on Platonic Ideas from a contemporary prism in a way that perhaps makes it relevant to contemporary issues.
Another disclaimer is in order: I will not be mentioning Plato’s allegory of the cave. I will leave it to a later article.
When we talk about a Platonic theory of forms, we make it sound as though the ancient Greek philosopher spent his time in an office, squeezing his brains to come up with a coherent theory of everything. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Plato (427ish-347ish BC) was born in a family of politicians, fought in wars, witnessed a political and economic collapse, was kidnapped at some point in his life, traveled around, was dissuaded from pursuing a literary vocation to become a poet, saw his teacher, Socrates, sentenced to death, and founded an educational hub which he called the Academy. This school would pretty much become the proto-type of contemporary academia. So if anything, you can put the blame on him (or on Akon).
Not that academia intentionally disregards the context in which a particular philosophy is cooked, but the often little attention it gets makes the philosophers sound as though they were a dedicated bunch who only engaged in intellectual discussions all the time.
The result of this is that the image many philosophers end up having in the collective consciousness of people tends to be more ideal than was actually the case.
Not only this, but their philosophical corpus ends up being examined as a completely separate text from the lives they led. To add insult to injury, their writings end up being treated as though they constitute a coherent narrative with a linear progression. Philosophers…