# Critique of Plato's theory of Forms [closed]

I'm new to philosophical studies, my background is in mathematics.

I've just read some of Aristotle's Metaphysics today, and would like critique on a brief argument I wrote against Plato's Forms being anything other than of substances.

Here it is:

Plato's Forms must be of substances, for that which is a Form of that which can be predicated of a subject, such as "Wisdom", is not an essence of said thing. For the Form in which Socrates participates is "man", but wisdom is predicated of Socrates, as is "good" predicated of "wisdom", and, transitively, of Socrates (it is thus implied that Socrates partakes in both the Forms of "Good" and "Wisdom"). But transitive predicabilty cannot be asserted in the theory of Forms, for it is absurd to say that the essence of any man is "good"; it is the plurality and interconnectedness of Plato's Forms that ultimately leads to their demise if not considered as Forms of substance. Thus Forms, if they exist, must be of substances only, since, if not, anything that can be predicated of the Form in which the substratum participates (say, the matter of Socrates in the Form of "man") can equally be said of the substratum (i.e. that Socrates is "good" in essence), due to the logical assumptions of "essence". Namely, if the Form of the substratum participates in a further Form, the essence of the secondary Form must be the essence of the essence of the substratum, and, consequently, the essence of the substratum.

If this sort of predicabilty is admitted and we argue that Socrates has "good" in his essence but also "bad", since "bad" can be predicated of, say, "irrational behaviour", then we arrive at a logical stalemate, for it is not proper to give something contradictory essences; what is the essence of a thing should not bring about essences that disallow each other. For this reason, it seems apt to adapt Aristotle's general theory in Metaphysics BK. I CH. 9, $991^a$, that the relation of participation confers to the partaker a substantial nature. Ergo, the Forms should be reduced to the essence by which something is recognizable, whatever that may be. One would have to clarify what is meant by \emph{recognizable} to establish such a theory, for in modern science it would seem events'' to be the only needed Form, as used in physics to describe matter and energy.

In the Ancient respects, however, "man" may seem most correctly the Form the substratum which produces a substantial man by participation in this Form. Predicable phrases seem not to belong to Forms, but more generally to a class of Universals. This class of Universals, we may separate into Forms and Essences in the sense of Plato, and also linguistic universals which do not give rise to substance, but are predicated of a Form that, through the substratum's participation, gives substance.

Now, we touch upon such Forms as "round", "straight", and "equal", and discuss why they need not be valid Forms as they are too temporal to act as the essence of some substratum, and too flighty act as the Form which provides the partaker with a substantial nature. For the issues of plurality and interconnectedness that give rise to the shortcomings of Plato's theory also apply to pertinent Forms such as these. Suppose one has two earthly pieces of string laid on the ground of equal (in the best of man's ability) length. A rational man may deem that the two strings partake in both "straight-ness" and "equality". If the wind blows one such string remarkably into the shape of a semi-circle, the affected string now partakes in "round-ness", and the two strings cannot be said to partake in "equality" (though the Form "equality" is absurd altogether, since it is relatively asserted, i.e. one may assert that two things are "equal" in that they both have been seen by one's eyes).

The temporally-caused shift from "straight-ness" to "round-ness", as a continuous change, is not able to be handled by Plato's Forms. For how can the essence of something be that which is possibly ephemeral and possibly deformed into its contrary? If these such pertinent qualities are admitted as primal Forms that confer a substantial nature, then it is possible of most any object to at one time have as its essence one quality, and at another, the contrary. This continuous change implies that there is a Form of the substratum that undergoes said motion, attaining all such intermediate essences as "curved", and this Form is therefore more primal and essential to the substance. Accordingly, we should not admit those such as "round" and "straight" into the class of Forms and Essences, but in the linguistic universals that do not confer substance. As such, we have shown that, if Plato's Forms are to exist, they cannot logically exist in the plurality in which he has set them forward, but must be further separated in a manner of linguistic analysis.

Any comments welcome

## closed as unclear what you're asking by Geoffrey Thomas♦Mar 28 at 15:25

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• Hi, welcome to philosophy SE. This a question/answer rather than discussion site, so we do not do critiques on essays, or "am I right" questions. Your post is also too long for most people to get through. If you want meaningful responses please try to isolate what it is you suspect is potentially problematic in the argument, and ask about it specifically and much more briefly. – Conifold May 18 '16 at 3:40
• @Conifold is it not like mathSE in that one may post a proof and ask for it to be discussed? – Anthony Peter May 18 '16 at 3:41
• No. Mathematical proofs are logically tight, so "mistake" has a very definitive meaning. In philosophy every little thesis can be defended or disputed, so without specificity it turns into a free for all in every which direction. – Conifold May 18 '16 at 3:46
• @Conifold then how does a beginner assess such arguments without the critique of others? – Anthony Peter May 18 '16 at 3:47
• Piece by piece. Looking at your wall of text it is hard to tell what is or isn't important, and commenting on every sentence would take an even longer wall. You could break it up into steps, and ask about them separately starting with the most doubtful one. Or you could instead point out explicitly in what way your argument differs from Aristotle's own (if it is not by much) since people are likely already familiar with that, and can just focus on the differences. – Conifold May 18 '16 at 4:01