Plato’s World View Realm of Ideal Forms

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Plato’s World View

Realm of Ideal Forms
“Justice” = Justice

(word) (entity)

Truth, justice, love are real entities in the realm of ideal forms.

Realm of Objects
“chair” = chair

(word) (thing)

Language is a perfect mirror

of the world
For every word, there is a real thing; for every real thing, there is a word.
Our best means of understanding the world is deduction: reasoning from premises that exist in the world of ideal forms, as well as from received knowledge.
The perfect world (golden age)

is in the past.

Enlightenment View

(18th century)
Mind of God
“Justice” = Justice

(word) (entity)

Truth, justice, love and reason are real entities in the mind of God.

Physical World
“chair” = chair

(word) (thing)

God has given us tools to perfect the world.

1. reason

2. scientific method ( induction:

reasoning from evidence )

3. the idea of progress
Reason is an extension of language

We can use language to understand the world because language is a vehicle of truth.
The perfect world (a scientific utopia) is in the future.

Linguistic and Structuralist View (20th century)

“justice” = “justice” (signifier)

(sign) + justice (concept)
Truth, justice, love and reason are verbal concepts created by language. They do not have an absolute existence before language.
Even a word like “chair” no longer has an absolute existence, nor does it refer to a simple entity. There are numerous types, sizes, and shapes of chair. If you choose to sit on a crate or a stool, it becomes a “chair” for at least a brief time.
Cultural linguistics suggests that even physical objects appear differently in different cultures. Benjamin Whorf studies the Hopi language, and finds no words, grammatical forms, or expressions or that refer to what we call “time,” or to past, present, or future. He argues that language affects perception and thought, and the Hopis have a radically different concept of time. Language is no longer an unproblematic instrument for understanding the world.

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