Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

The Nature of Forms: Where Plato Went Wrong

I’ve been thinking about the way our thoughts and feelings relate to the external world, and considering the nature of our reactions to external things and how those reactions occur independently of the nature of the objects we perceive.

Allow me to elaborate a little.

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed in what he referred to as a realm of forms. Plato said that the reason why we can look at 100 different cats and identify them as cats is because there exists a realm of ‘ideal forms’ in which there is the perfect form of a cat, and when we recognise an individual cat it is due to a (subconscious?) connection we make to this ideal form. It’s not clear where exactly this realm is supposed to be, but nevertheless, this was Plato’s theory.

My own perspective is that the reason why we recognise objects in a common way (by ‘common’ I mean the reason why we can identify every cat as a cat and every dog as a dog) is because when we look at a particular object, God creates within our minds a particular impression — a thought and/or feeling. God does this with regularity in relation to different types of objects, and the form of an object only exists in so far as it is recognised by different beings with regularity. If He desired to do so, God could produce in me the same feeling I get when I look at a dog, when I look at a cat. A dog is only a dog in the embodied experience of being perceived as such.

In my book The Philosophy of a Mad Man there is a chapter entitled ‘Language and  Symbols’ and in it I discuss whether or not it’s theoretically possible to look at the number ‘2’ and have the experience of seeing a cat. I’m not talking about looking at the number 2 and pretending to see a cat, but actually having the experience of seeing a cat. I concluded in the book that this is absolutely possible, and I have actually had many experiences which lend weight to this argument.

There was a time many years ago when I experienced an episode of psychosis, and my whole world was transformed. People took on different meanings, objects took on different meanings, and experiences took on different meanings. I remember that during this episode I went to the hospital to see a psychiatrist, and something he said (I don’t recall what it was) gave me a profound revelation of the way in which everything I was experiencing was intrinsic to my mind. The entire dream world in which I had been living for several weeks collapsed in a mere moment.

Friends, the above example relates to you also and to the way you perceive the world, regardless of any psychosis you may or may not be experiencing. The things that you believe about your life; the stories that you tell yourself about your personality, your interests, your experience, your ambitions — all of this has no reality, it is held in your awareness by God but He could transform it entirely or bring it to nothing in a moment.

There are far-reaching implications to what I’m arguing in this post. Sometimes I gaze into the night sky and feel a sense of wonder and awe at the vastness of the Universe, but according to my arguments in this article, that is not because of anything intrinsic to the night sky, it is merely an embodied feeling. So I could just as easily look at my hand, or my cup of tea, or some other object and experience that same overwhelming sense of wonder and awe.

We can go even further along this line of thought and consider how the fact that we identify who we are with a human body is just a thought. There is actually a whole school of Eastern philosophy dedicated to unravelling the mystery of what we are referring to when we say ‘I’ (it’s know as ‘self-enquiry’).

Let’s end with a couple of thought experiments.

The next time you look at the number 2 on a page, pause for a moment and think about precisely what it is that makes you recognise that curly symbol as the number 2. And don’t put it down to some half-baked notion of your brain operating in a certain way, because I can guarantee that you know nothing about how your brain works, even if you pretend to know, as many people do, but no one actually does know, because our brains don’t create our experiences, God does.

And one final experiment. Look at the image that accompanies this post. Look at the puppy, then the kitten, then the puppy again, then the kitten again. Observe what happens in your awareness as you do this and have certain thoughts and feelings related to the different forms. This should help you to understand what I’m arguing in this post — that the way we perceive forms is due to our God-controlled thoughts and feelings rather than being in any way produced by the forms themselves.

Thank you for reading. I published a post a couple of weeks ago entitled ‘I Don’t Even Exist’ which is very relevant to the above discussion. You can read it here. My latest book ‘Puppets’ is actually a compilation of four of my other book releases, and comprehensively details every area of my life story and philosophy. Should such an epic undertaking be of interest to you, a list of retailers who stock the book can be found here.

(Image by Bao_5 from Pixabay)

14 responses to “The Nature of Forms: Where Plato Went Wrong”

  1. I just reread Deepak Chopra’s book, Metahuman, and he talks about how the world is simply consciousness having experiences, which I think is similar to what you are saying. If not correct me. I’m still learning and these ways of thinking are difficult for me to grasp because they are so far removed from my medical-trained mind that believed in neuroscience as an explanation for mind–brain-body-environment relationship

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie! Thank you very much for reading and commenting. I was very interested in the work of Deepak Chopra when I first got into spirituality and meditation. I’ve read some of his work (but not Metahuman) and am familiar with what you say about ‘consciousness having experiences’ which is a popular idea among New Agers.

      I do think it’s a good way of looking at things, but my understanding of God is that He (or choose your preferred pronoun) is personal and active, rather than merely being an impersonal ‘something’ that can be experienced, if you see what I mean?

      I’m so delighted that you’re thinking outside the box when it comes to the nature of consciousness etc, because the brain machine myth is so embedded in the contemporary zeitgeist that a lot of people unquestioningly take it for granted.

      God bless you and thank you so much!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. God, for me, has been a constant yet subtle force in my life. I suppose that would fit your description of personal and active. ☺️ Great topic! Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think people experience God in different ways so please never feel like you’re missing out if you don’t understand someone else’s perspective. I used to think everyone understood ‘enlightenment’ except me, and my struggle to come to terms with that nearly killed me (that’s no exaggeration!). You are perfectly where God wants you to be, that’s the truth.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks, I believe I am too. I just heard someone say today that some Buddist teachings say right from the beginning that you’ll probably never reach enlightenment so just take the pressure off of yourself. Lol, that makes me feel better.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It makes me so sad that you could think there’s something to be attained that you’re missing out on. There is no such thing. Do you think someone who is ‘enlightened’ doesn’t still have to put out the rubbish, go to the toilet, manage their relationships, pay the bills, deal with sickness (you get the idea)? They have nothing that you don’t have.

          Here’s my post entitled There Is No Enlightenment. It was written a long time ago but it’s still relevant. Take it or leave it 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. That reminds me, I need to put out the rubbish 😂

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I am with you Steven – There is no enlightenment 😇

            Liked by 1 person

          3. I’ll take a look, thanks.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Steven. I need to read it again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading, friend! By all means take your time because there was a lot packed into a few paragraphs 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting post. You nailed well Plato’s theory but he didn’t refer to God per se. However, this link to Plato’s ideals and to God has been one of the main dogma of the Church when it was founded. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks May! Yes that’s true what you say, Plato is often contrasted with Aristotle in that it was believed he thought of otherworldly things while Aristotle was very much ‘down to Earth’. Would that be a fair representation? I’m thinking of the famous ‘School of Athens’ painting where it has Plato doing this ☝🏻 and Aristotle doing this 👇🏻 (I think emojis were invented for this very comment! 😂)


      1. Lol you are so right! Those Greeks were inventive!

        Liked by 1 person

Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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