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Topics in Ancient Philosophy


Module Code: PI3003

Module Name: Plato's Theory of Form

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas Term/Semester 1
  • Contact Hours: 22 hours of lecture
  • Module Personnel: Lecturers - Professor Vasilis Politis

Module Content

There is much to the epistemology and metaphysics of Plato and Aristotle. We shall concentrate on three great works.

The aim of this course is to study, in some depth, Plato's peculiar theory of essence, the Theory of Forms; and to consider, first, how and why Plato developed this theory, secondly, how he went on to subject it to some serious tests and criticisms, and, thirdly, why he subjected it to these tests and criticisms - whether to clarify and improve it, or, on the contrary, to throw it out.

Plato's Theory of Forms is generally recognized as one of the greatest contributions to metaphysics. However, it is not always considered in response to what questions this theory was developed by Plato. To consider this will be one of our central tasks. We shall, in particular, consider the question whether Plato thought that his account of philosophical argument and enquiry is sufficient to justify the Theory of Forms. Whereas critics generally answer this question in the negative, I shall argue that it should be answered affirmatively; which means that Plato's theory of growth is an outgrowth of his account of philosophical argument and enquiry.

We shall consider a number of particular questions about the content of and elements in the theory. More generally, we shall ask whether the theory of Forms is a theory of all things ('the theory of everything,' to quote Hawkins); and whether it is a theory of what it is for something to be.

Learning Outcomes

To be advised