Plato on the Existence of Negative Forms Essay

Plato on the Existence of Negative Forms Essay

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Plato on the Existence of Negative Forms


The question of the origin and nature of evil in the world has preoccupied philosophers throughout history. The ancient philosopher Plato does not directly address this question in his writings, but it can be argued that the logic of his theory of forms demands the existence of forms that are negative in meaning, such as the evil and the bad. When discussing his theory of imitation, Plato alludes to the principle that whenever there are many things of the same nature, there is one form for that nature. In several passages, Plato makes mention of many negative things. It can be debated, however, whether or not the negative has a positive ontological character of its own for which there can be a form. The several senses in which an object can be considered negative must first be distinguished before the texts of Plato can be analyzed. It will be shown that, although Plato makes references in the Republic to a common nature amongst many negative things, the supposition of a negative form is not in harmony with the hierarchal structure of forms that depends on the good, which is also presented in the Republic. A solution to this problem will be presented and analyzed.

In order to understand why it is argued that negative forms must exist according to Plato's logic, one must first understand the meaning of form for Plato. Plato thinks that forms are separate and eternal entities that exist apart from the sensible world. Plato thinks that objects in the sensible world imitate a particular form and that form makes them what they are. Plato writes, "As you know, we customarily hypothesize a single form in connection with each of the many things to which w...


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...rendon Press), 167-9.

[4] Ross, 168.

[5] Ross, 168.

[6] Plato, Statesman, trans. Seth Benardete (Chicage: University of Chicago Press,
1986), 262 d.

[7] Plato, Republic, 491 d 3.

[8] Plato, Republic, 608 e 3.

[9] Plato, Republic, 609 a 4-7.

[10] Plato, Republic, 610 b 4-6.

[11] Plato, Republic, 382 b.

[12] Plato, Republic, 476 a.

[13] Plato, Republic, 507 b 10-11.

[14] Plato, Republic, 509 b 11-c.

[15] Plato, Republic, 508 c-e.

[16] Plato, Republic, 508 b ? 509 a 3.

[17] Plato, Republic, 509 b 7 - 7

[18] Plato, Republic, 379 a 6 - c.

[19] I.M. Crombie, An Examination of Plato?s Doctrines: Plato on Knowledge and Reality
(New York: The Humanities Press), 283.

[20] Crombie, 283.

[21] Crombie, 284.

[22] Plato, Statesman, 262 d.

[23] Ross, 169.

[24] Plato, Republic, 491 d 3.

[25] Crombie, 284.

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