A Critical Analysis of Plato's and Sartre's Views on Existence

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In order to understand the meaning of existence in relation to philosophy, we need to discuss its ordinary meaning and the various levels of existence. The Chambers Concise Dictionary (1992, 362) defines ‘exist’ as having an actual being; to live; to occur; to continue to live’ and it defines existence as ‘the state of existing or being’. In other words, the Dictionary does not make a distinction between existence and living. However, philosophically there is the view that existence is different from living. What then is the meaning of existence in philosophy? In order to answer this question we shall examine how philosophers have used the term in their various works. Our attention shall focus on Plato and Sartre.

Plato’s view on existence

Plato’s view on existence can be understood by discussing his theory of Forms. The theory of Forms or Ideas is about the existence of ideas in higher form of reality, the existence of a reality inhabited by forms of all things and concepts. Plato used example of objects such as table and rock and concepts like Beauty and Justice to illustrate the notion of Forms. Plato further describes Forms as a being possessed by concepts. For example, Virtue has different characters; but they all have a common nature which makes them virtuous.

For Plato, Forms are eternal and changeless, but there is a relationship between these eternal and changeless Forms and particular things we perceive by means of our senses in the world. These particular things change in accordance to the perceiver and the perceiver’s environment and this is why Plato thought that such things do not possess real existence. For Plato, onl...

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...false and that is the reason why these positions have attracted different comments from the inception of the philosophical discipline to the present time.

Works Cited


Banach, David. “Plato’s Theory of Forms”, 2006.

Bruce, Ian. “Plato Theory of forms", 1998.

Owolabi, Kayode. Issues and Problems in Philosophy, Ibadan: Grovacs, 2000.

Phelan, J.W. Philosophy Themes and Thinkers, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Russell, Bertrand. Problems of Philosophy: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Stumpf, S.E and Fieser, J. Philosophy: History and Readings, New York: Mc Graw Hill, 2008.

Schwarz, Catherine. Chambers Concise Dictionary: Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap, 1998.
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