Talk:Platonic realism

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  • In the article, the text is: "...what does it mean to say that this particular apple is a copy of the form of applehood? Does it mean the apple is the same shape as the form? Probably not; the form, after all, is not supposed to have a shape because it is not spatial. What would it mean to say that apple participates in applehood? Is that like membership in a club, somehow? It is not clear."
    • I'm trying to relate Forms to sets. Would it be correct to say that an apple is one of the set of apples, and that the Form of apples is the same as the set of apples? Or would it be more correct to say that the Form of apples is the set of criteria that determine whether an object properly belongs to the set? Alan Nicoll 19:07, Feb 4, 2005 (UTC)

It's difficult to answer your question, because it depends on the meaning of the word "set". If with the "set of X" we mean some factual aggregate of material objects, this is certainly not the interpretation of "Form" by the Platonic Realist himself. But some would say it's the only rational content that could be given to an otherwise inane concept. The Platonist, and certainly the modern one, would surely agree more with your second description, that it's a set of criteria. But he would warn against the mistake to again see such a set of criteria as some factual aggregate of actual ideas in the minds of actual people (which despicable heresy goes under the name of mentalism) or of actual social rules in an actual society (sociologism,conventionalism). The set of criteria should in his view be seen as an abstraction; indeed an abstraction that is more fundamental to the concept of set than the respective aggregates of material objects - and so he would say that the Form of an apple is indeed the set of apples: in abstracto.

--MWAK 11:06, 18 Apr 2005 (UTC) (who happens to be one of the few Platonic Realists presently immanent in this timeline group and thus is singularly qualified to answer questions about the true nature of Platonic doctrine ;o)

It depends on what you mean by "criteria", but Platonic Forms cannot be sets of objects, by my lights. That is because sets are extensional entities - two sets are identical if and only if they have the same members. But if, for all pairs of non-synonymous predicates (or properties), there are two corresponding Forms, we have two Forms even when the predicates are extensionally equivalent (true of the same things). But we cannot have two Forms for two extensionally equivalent sets, because extensionally equivalent sets are the same set, and (I think) there is at most one Form per object (or property). (Iolasov 14:59, 23 March 2007 (UTC))

Aristotelian realism[edit]

It would be nice if the same author wrote an article on Aristotelian realism to contrast with the Platonic variety, esp. as there are already articles on conceptualism and nominalism. The possibility of realism about the abstract without a commitment to Platonism is an intringuing one.

That would be very nice indeed as that writer is Larry Sanger, a professional philosopher and cofounder of Wikipedia! :o) But the subject is extraordinarily controversial and complicated. Part of the problem is that Aristotle's public works have been all but lost — we today "only" have the Corpus and there are many uncertainties about authorship and date of creation. But even more problematic is that Aristotle developed his thoughts in opposition to Platonic Realism: so to judge his thought we have to understand the nature of Plato's as well.

--MWAK 20:48, 25 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Here is the basic form defined. A driveway is the subject and all kinds appear as generalized driveways. This abstract driveway is then the subject and to cause the set than.

"And to cause the set than" denotes Plato's form. A twice thought for the abstract. And the abstract abstraction is the level of difficulty. To abstract all that is, correctly, identifies a form of natural existence. Just like left and right as an existent relation, Plato's form denotes a subject abstraction and clearly becomes a class of inference.

I can write all day on this subject if there is any interest.

A subject of forms therefore denotes a relation of the abstraction to the particular set. A sly thought is the degree of confusion over the meaning of his form. A kind of inference appears!

Articles on Platonism[edit]

Note that this article more or less competes with Platonic idealism, and that there is a whole raft of articles on Platonism, which perhaps ought to be consolidated into fewer. A Platonism template might also be useful. --HK 14:42, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

This is what I said at Talk:Platonic idealism:

  1. Although Platonic Realism is indeed sometimes called Platonic Idealism, the concepts are not congruent. Many would deny that Plato's idealism entailed a realist stance. And Platonic Realism is a more general philosophical position, while "Platonic Idealism" is typically reserved for the views of Plato himself. It's therefore best to keep two articles.
  2. Some repetition is inevitable and often a lot of repetition is quite functional.
  3. If there are any perceived contradictions, try to solve them. But be wary. Sometimes they are merely perceived :o).
  4. A Platonism template would be very nice of course.
  5. Wikipedia should be in a permanent state of improvement. Try to fight the understandable but ultimately disastrous tendency to "consolidate". Or was it a euphemism for "merge"?

What you say here at least answers my question :o). I'd like to add that Platonism is a very interesting and complicated subject, that can be treated from many subtly different aspects. A "raft of articles" wouldn't be amiss.--MWAK 16:04, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

Plato is bullshit[edit]

I dont expect to be able to put this in the main article, so it is here for your consideration. He is one of the first thinkers and does not deserve more than anecdotal consideration, his ideas are hilarious to a modern man. Granted we must treat him with respect, but dont let that trick you into thinking that he has any meaningfull thing to say in the 21st century. 23:17, 17 October 2006 (UTC)

(It is this comment that is hilarious)thomas —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:04, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

And you would be the epitomal "21 century-Man", I suppose? ;o) Any evaluation of Plato of course depends on your philosophical opinion. These opinions today vary wildly. I've often noticed that people changed their views on him after actually reading his work, instead of relying on largely anecdotal renderings of it... And there is always the troubling possibility that you only consider some ideas to be hilarious as a defensive reaction, because you despair of being able to understand them. --MWAK 08:46, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
Oh, Plato was a smart guy in his time and for all times, and the article have evolved enough to vaguely reflect this, even though some improvements in formulations can still be made. For C++ programmers Plato was obviously perfectly right: no object orientation without abstract classes, instantiations and inheritance. ... said: Rursus (bork²) 20:50, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

Analogies to Computer Science/Object oriented Programming[edit]

The language for much of the article talks about 'instantiations', inherence, forms, etc... Sounds very much like inheritance/etc... from computer science. Perhaps this is deliberate, perhaps written by a comp. sci. person, perhaps it's totally my perception. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 13:51, 20 March 2007 (UTC).

The jargon used is very much standard and rather a bit older than computer science. So if there is indeed a causal connection, philosophy is the origin :o). --MWAK 14:50, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Platonic Idealism and Articles on Universals[edit]

In the first paragraph, until now, it said, "Confusingly, this stance is also called Platonic idealism," phrased thusly to draw attention to the apparent contrast between correlating Platonic idealism and realism. Although MWAK says the concepts are not congruent, many would deny that Plato had a realist stance, and defines the difference between Platonic realism and idealism, I would make the additional argument that platonic universals are ideas that can be real, and that Plato would say the ideal realm is the real one. For example, justice is an idea until, like peace, it is enforced. --ZLRS 10:24, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

The major source of a possible confusion of course lies in the fact that in standard philosophical jargon, idealism and realism are seen as different stances. Certainly the Platonic "idealism" is quite different from the German Idealism of the 18th and 19th century. So that is a cogent reason to make the reader aware of this problem.
I personally would agree that Plato considered the ideal world the real one. However, this does not mean Platonic Realism unproblematically coincides with Platonic Idealism. It depends on your interpretation of Plato's thought. So the best way, I feel, to solve this woulkd be to state that a certain interpretation is the cause of using "Platonic Idealism"for "Platonic Realism".
A last point is that among the examples you gave of Platonic Ideas, Peace is not one Plato is emphasizing the transcendental nature of. Can't we just stick with Truth, Beauty and the Good? :o) —Preceding unsigned comment added by MWAK (talkcontribs) 16:39, 25 November 2007 (UTC)

Question concerning last paragraph[edit]

"...The response reconciles Platonism with empiricism by contending that an abstract (and thus not real) object is real and knowable by its instantiation. Since the critic has, after all, naturally understood the abstract, the response suggests merely to abandon prejudice and accept it."

With regard to the last paragraph, either I am misreading it or not fully understanding it. If Platonism holds forms to be archetypal and non spatio-temporal then how is it that an instantiation could give knowledge of its form other than by sparking some process akin to remembering as Plato describes?

You might view an apple and generalize from there to multiple apples all sharing similarities, but that seems to lack the notion that there is some ideal form of applehood that all apples make reference to. A generalization might make an abstraction out of apple but it does so by containing less information than any specific instance of an apple. Whereas, I thought, in Platonism it isn't that the form contains less information but rather is perfect, and all instantiations are flawed copies. (talk) 07:32, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

They could be "flawed" copies by having too much "information". Now "apple" is a very problematic concept in this respect. Let us first consider the (slightly less problematic) concept "circle"; it could be argued (though, to complicate matters, Plato himself would probably have disagreed :o) that all material circles are imperfect by deviating, however small, from the ideal. But it would take a much longer — indeed arguably infinite — mathematical formula to describe them.
To return to apples, the problem is that the early Plato clearly confused the concept of the ideal as the abstract, with the concept of the ideal as the optimal form within a set of related forms. Later in life he began to realise this, as is obvious from the Parmenides. The doctrine of Platonic Realism in the philosophical tradition is about the first concept. But many more popular books emphasize the second — perhaps because readers favour perfect apples over abstract ones ;o).--MWAK (talk) 12:22, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

Changed a paragraph in the section Forms. The example given was of a perfect circle only an atom thick. It said that it would not be perfect because it would still be a series of lines but I regard atoms as closer to points in my mind so I found the example confusing. I changed it to something I thought was more intuitive. Achannel (talk) 06:58, 2 February 2011 (UTC)

Plato and Spirituality[edit]

The whole confusion about Plato's doctrine can be traced to the refusal of contemporary (agnostic/materialistic) philosophers to consider something that was truth for the ancients sages: the reality of the spirit; the immortality of the human's soul, who is reincarnated in successive lives; and that this soul has an evolutionary path to go which is what gives purpose to existence. This is evident and clear in the dialogues of Plato. (talk) 00:15, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

Well, it's true that Plato believed in the immortality of the human soul and reincarnation (BTW only a minority of the "ancient sages" agreed with him, unless such an agreement is a condition for being sage ;o) but there is no direct connection with Platonic Realism. I'm afraid that if you try to grasp the concept of Form by vaguely considering it a "piece of spirit" you have missed the point entirely. You would then still treat it as if it were some concrete object — be it of a spiritual nature — and the point is that it is an abstract object. Neither dualism nor monistic idealism are directly implied by Platonic Realism and historically both dualist and idealist philosophers have indeed tended to reject Platonic Realism.--MWAK (talk) 06:03, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

Proposed merge to Platonic idealism[edit]

  • Proposed. "Platonic realism" and "Platonic idealism" are synonymous. "Platonic realism" is just realism about ideas. "Platonic idealism" is realism about ideas. Which synonym you pick is just based on whether you put the emphasis on the 'realism' or the 'idea' part of the sentence. Since one can be a 'realist' about almost anything, whereas being a 'thing-ist' tends to presuppose that you're a realist about that specific thing, 'idealist' is the more specific / explanatory term. -Silence (talk) 01:58, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Opposed: Not idealism, however I'd take it that "Platonic idealism" is meant somewhat pleonastically. On the other hand, Platonic realism clearly implies something more radical (as seen from an anachronistic standpoint of idealism v realism).—Machine Elf 1735 01:41, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
  • What is the difference between Platonic idealism and Platonic realism? In the modern context of idealism vs. realism, obviously 'Platonic realism' is (or both terms are) inaccurate, since Plato can't be both a realist and an anti-realist, but both articles are trying to describe the same view, espoused by the same person. To look at the name "Platonic realism" anachronistically is to look at it inaccurately; if the title suggests such an anachronistic significance, then that is a further reason to support the merge.
  • You call 'Platonic idealism' redundant (a strange claim, albeit understandable for people already well-versed in Plato's views -- i.e., people who don't much need these articles), but what it is is unambiguously relevant and accurate; 'Platonic realism' is a much thornier term, since in point of Fact Plato is a nominalist about 'universals' (common natures) in the traditional classical and Medieval sense. -Silence (talk) 01:58, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Opposed: You seem to forget that "Platonic Realism" is a general philosophical stance, and thus not simply identical to Plato's point of view about the subject. So it is not true that "both articles are trying to describe the same view, espoused by the same person". It is extraordinarily difficult to determine what Plato's views were and there is little consensus about it. E.g. your claim that Plato is a nominalist about universals, is likely only to be acceptable if one is a nominalist oneself — not to a realist about abstracta. Most modern Platonic Realists are not realists about "ideas" but about abstract objects. Arguably there is no important modern stance called "Platonic Idealism", so that article is better suited to treat Plato's writings as such.
  • In general it is problematic to merge articles about philosophical terms because this presupposes a professional consensus about what objects they refer to. Such a consensus is however, exceedingly rare. Your statement "what it is is unambiguously relevant and accurate" strikes me as wildly optimistic!--MWAK (talk) 09:45, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
  • That's all well and good; if an argument can be given that the terms genuinely and consistently refer to distinct objects, I'll gladly drop the merge proposal. But just arguing 'They're philosophy names, so they can't be merged!' is, obviously, not Wikipedia practice or policy. :) Here is my challenge to you: 1. Cite a single sentence in Platonic realism that does not directly concern Platonic idealism or the Theory of Forms. 2. Cite reputable non-Wikipedia sources that establish that 'Platonic Realism' isn't the theory of Forms, and/or that Platonic Realism isn't Platonic idealism. This should be extraordinarily easy to do if, as you say, the terms are so difficult to correlate. 3. Explain why the first two sentences of Platonic realism define Platonic realism as Platonic idealism, and vice versa. "As universals were considered by Plato to be ideal forms, this stance is confusingly also called Platonic idealism." This has all the makings of a POV fork; one group of editors found the name "idealism" confusing, the other found the name "realism" unexplanatory, and here we are today. 4. Provide evidence that Platonic Idealism or the Theory of Forms aren't "general philosophical stances," and that Platonic Realism is a "general philosophical stance", so that this criterion can be used to distinguish one or more of the pages. If you can't substantiate the claim that only one or two of these three pages is a 'general philosophical stance,' your argument can't get off the ground.
  • "your claim that Plato is a nominalist about universals, is likely only to be acceptable if one is a nominalist oneself — not to a realist about abstracta." - Er, no. I'm (usually) a realist about universals. I just recognize that from a classical and Medieval perspective, a 'universal' is generally defined as 'one thing inhering as a whole in many.' Platonic Ideas aren't multiply inhering; they are particulars transcending time and space, and their relation to property-instantiations is causal and extrinsic rather than constitutive and intrinsic. Regardless, I'm not proposing that we move the article to Platonic nominalism; I'm just pointing out that calling him a realist is confusing and at least a little contentious (Paul Spade disputes it, as does Donald Brownstein in Aspects of the problem of universals), whereas no one has ever disputed that he has a theory of Ideas/Forms. Using the somewhat more self-explanatory, transparent title resolves the problems. (Also, no one is disputing that Plato is a realist about abstracta. You can be a realist about abstracta without being a realist about universals, and you can certainly be a realist about universals without affirming abstracta. Platonic realism is specifically 'realism about ideas qua universals.') -Silence (talk) 16:48, 25 November 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps it might clarify matters if we bring to mind the origin of the terms. Of course neither "Platonic Realism" nor "Platonic Idealism" are classical concepts. They are recent inventions born from the modern use of "Idealism" and "Realism". The first typically refers to the British and German Idealism in its several forms. However, as Plato had an Ideenlehre, a distinction was useful between this "idealism" and the British/German one. So the term "Platonic Idealism" has the nature of a contradistinction and by the same nature emphasizes the historical thought of Plato himself. The other term, "Realism", is the context of "Platonic Realism". Among Realists there are those who are realists about abstract objects. They are called Platonic Realists. "Platonic Realism" is not a contradistinction to Realism — Platonic Realists are very much Realists — and is as a term much more ahistorical — if only, as you pointed out, because it is problematic to what extent the historical Plato was a realist himself.
This article was created in 2001 by Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and professional philosopher. It was completely set within a Realist context, discussing the position that universals would have a transcendental reality. Logically, Sanger gave it the title "Platonic Realism". The reference to "Platonic Idealism" had its origin in November 2005 when an anonymous user,, began changing every instance of the word "(Platonic) realism" into "idealism". I reversed these edits because given the Realist context using "idealism" would be inappropriate and confusing. But I also thought: "The dude/dudette has a point; it might conceivably be called "Platonic Idealism" even in a Realist context, so I best mention that, if only to reduce the possibility of any future edits of this nature".
The same Realist context means that the title "Platonic Realism" is much more adequate and precise than "Platonic Idealism". Of course for the historical Plato his Platonic Realism, such as it was, would have been an essential and salient part of the totality of his Ideenlehre. Certainly I would have great trouble finding any references denying that! But even for him it wouldn't have simply coincided with it. After all, there are important religious, ethical, political, logical, mathematical and epistemological aspects to the Ideenlehre, apart from the primarily ontological. As regards modern philosophers, using within a Realist context the term "Platonic Idealism" is simply confusing or a poor choice of words. A claim that e.g. Frege or Moore espoused Platonic Idealism would surprise the reader until realisation set in that Platonic Realism was meant.
Now it might be retorted that within a Platonic Idealism article the Realist context, including later developments, could be given a separate chapter, e.g. under the heading "Platonic Realism". That is obviously true. However, under the principle of Summary Style, it would then be preferable that a separate article existed. This has the additional major advantage that any reader encountering the term within a Realist modern context — which might well encompass the vast majority of such encounters — is immediately directed to the technical meaning of the term instead of having to distil it from a complex account of the thought of Plato. Also thereby the danger is averted that future editors, not convinced of the relevance of modern Platonic Realism to the largely historical phenomenon of Platonic Idealism, might scrap these parts entirely.--MWAK (talk) 20:36, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
An excellent argument, and a fantastic instruction in the history both of these articles and of the relevant terminology. We must note, however, that the term 'realism' here arose not in the context of the debate over abstracta, but in the context of the debate over universals. The problem of universals was a key justification for Plato's doctrine (yes, for Plato himself), and remained a live argument throughout the Middle Ages and to the present day; it was the question of the nature of properties and 'shared natures' that people were worried about, and not the vaguer question of whether nature is exhausted by concreta. Platonic realism presupposes that there can be abstracta (if by 'abstracta' we merely mean 'things transcending the sensible world'); the real substance of the doctrine is that the important class of abstracta is the cause for all properties, and it is realism about this independent-cause-for-properties that is denoted by 'Platonic realism'. Perhaps by association the term has also come to mean realism about abstracta (again, in the sense of insensibilia) generally, but this is far more anachronistic and modern than the idea that Plato's view of forms is 'idealistic' (which is trivially true if we define 'idealistic' as any view that assigns central importance to things it called "ideas," more substantively true if we define 'idealistic' as any view that assigns central importance to some qualitative, non-spatiotemporal entity). Indeed, we must recognize that when we call Plato's Forms 'abstract' we always risk conflating one property Forms and modern abstracta have in common (that they exist outside space and time) with the properties Forms and modern abstracta don't, as usually understood, have in common (e.g., abstracta don't cause spatiotemporal events; when metaphysicians—sorry, theoretical physicists—speak of branes, for instance, they are speaking of entities that transcend our space-time continuum, but they wouldn't necessarily conclude that such entities are abstract). Here's a summary of the salient point:

The contemporary distinction between abstract and concrete is not an ancient distinction. Indeed, there is a strong case for the view that despite occasional anticipations, it plays no significant role in philosophy before the 20th century. The modern distinction bears some resemblance to Plato's distinction between Forms and Sensibles. But Plato's Forms were supposed to be causes par excellence, whereas abstract objects are normally supposed to be causally inert in every sense. The original "abstract"/"concrete" distinction was a distinction among words or terms. Traditional grammar distinguishes the abstract noun "whiteness" from the concrete noun "white" without implying that this linguistic contrast corresponds to a metaphysical distinction in what they stand for. In the 17th century this grammatical distinction was transposed to the domain of ideas. Locke speaks of the general idea of a triangle which is "neither Oblique nor Rectangle, neither Equilateral, Equicrural nor Scalenon; but all and none of these at once," remarking that even this idea is not among the most "abstract, comprehensive and difficult" (Essay IV.vii.9). Locke's conception of an abstract idea as one that is formed from concrete ideas by the omission of distinguishing detail was immediately rejected by Berkeley and then by Hume. But even for Locke there was no suggestion that the distinction between abstract ideas and concrete or particular ideas corresponds to a distinction among objects. "It is plain, …" Locke writes, "that General and Universal, belong not to the real existence of things; but are Inventions and Creatures of the Understanding, made by it for its own use, and concern only signs, whether Words or Ideas" (III.iii.11). -Rosen,

Platonic realism is realism about universals. But at least a few prominent thinkers define this exact view—without changing its content—as a form of nominalism, the opposite of realism (in this domain). So the term is at least contentious and confusing, if not demonstrably inappropriate. I have no personal stake in the dispute; it just happens to be a nice side-effect that by merging the article topic we can cover the dispute rather than weighing in on it. (I take it that there is no comparably substantive dispute regarding whether Plato's view involves Ideas or Forms, so Platonic idealism or Platonic formalism or Platonic Form, etc. would all be an improvement as an article title.)
You argue that 'realism' is a demonstrably apt term for the doctrine, whereas 'idealism' is embroiled in a messy dichotomy. I don't agree. Granted: 'Idealism' and 'realism' are very complex, contentious, multifaceted terms. Not granted: 'Realism' is less contentious than 'idealism'. On the contrary, realism is the far more equivocal term, and in its ordinary usage 'realism' precludes Platonism in a way that 'idealism,' at least on the face of things, does not. (Even Platonic realism, as the phrase is often used, precludes Platonism, if by 'Platonic realism' we mean the belief in causally inert abstracta.) Since my claims are independent, I'll lay them out in list form:
  • First, 'Platonic realism' in a context-neutral environment is confusing, because by 'realism' one usually understands 'belief in the concrete world out there,' whereas Plato doubted the ultimate reality of such a world. So on the ordinary understanding of realism, Plato's view is 'Platonic anti-realism'.
  • Second, 'Platonic realism' within the context of debating abstracta is confusing, because the doctrine in question, if it entails causal inefficacy, is not Platonic. If it's causally inert numbers that one is being a 'Platonic realist' about, then Plato himself is not a 'Platonic realist' (or at least not a conventional one).
  • Third, 'Platonic realism' within the context of debating universals is confusing, because by traditional definitions of 'universal' Plato was a nominalist (i.e., an anti-realist). So once again his doctrine is better characterized, relative to the relevant domain of discourse, as 'Platonic anti-realism'.
  • Fourth, 'Platonic idealism' in a context-neutral environment is not confusing (or at least no more confusing than 'transcendental idealism', 'absolute idealism', 'subjective idealism', etc.; all these terms have their problems), because the primacy of 'ideal' elements is indeed an excellent (preliminary) way of characterizing the Platonic doctrine in question. Certainly it pinpoints the doctrine's subject matter better than "Platonic realism" does.
  • Fifth, 'Platonic idealism' within the context of differentiating British, German, etc. idealisms is not inappropriate or misconceived (the common denominator seems to just be the rejection of materialism and of 'even-handed' dualisms), and it is no more anachronistic than are realism or abstraction.
What do you think? I'm not wedded to the choice of the name 'Platonic idealism'; at this point I'm only convinced that some merge is necessary, and that 'Platonic realism' is a confusing place to which to merge. What do you think of merging to a new article with a name like Platonic Form or Platonic theory of Forms, which could include (in its section on the historical influence of Plato's theory of the Forms) two separate subsections for the theory's subsequent influence in the Problem of universals and its influence in the Problem of abstract objects, respectively? If either of these subsections grew large enough, I'd be fine creating a new daughter article, but I don't think this page currently has enough content (once you notice how much overlap and repetition there is between the three pages; also, seven of this article's paragraphs are only 1-2 sentences long) to warrant that. An integration of this sort would be extremely valuable to the POV of all three once-articles on this subject matter, since it would allow us to more clearly draw distinctions where there are distinctions to be made, by being able to mention both interpretations of the doctrine in the same breath. If we ever did need a daughter article for Platonic theory of Forms, I think a more well-defined and encyclopedic candidate would be something like Platonic theory of Forms in the Middle Ages or Modern responses to the Platonic theory of Forms, rather than a title as ill-defined as "Platonic realism". -Silence (talk) 21:58, 26 November 2011 (UTC)
If a single article were to be created with Plato's doctrine as its topic, I agree that "Platonic Idealism" is the proper term. It better describes the whole of the doctrine, whereas "Platonic Realism" would be only a part of it. My point is that a merger would be an inferior solution because the latter term has a meaning much broader than simply "the Realism of Plato". The first three points you make support this. Plato's view is 'Platonic anti-realism'? Very true in that sense, but then "Platonic Realism" cannot be simply equated to the "Realism of Plato" and the separate concept merits its own article. Plato's forms are causally inefficient and Plato himself is not a 'Platonic realist'? That possibility only underscores that autonomy of Platonic Realism in relation to the historical Plato. Plato propounded an 'Platonic anti-realism' as regards universals? A tantalizing thought but if true, an account of Plato's doctrine on universals could only be the starting-point of a correct rendering of Platonic Realism.
Within a integrated article of Platonic Idealism, focussing on the doctrine of the historical Plato, the modern Platonic Realism stance would have only a very minor part to play — as you indicated, a subsection — which would be right and proper as the context would be historical. In the context of modern Realism the stance can be fully developed in its own article. The difference in contexts also makes the perceived redundancy largely illusory. Yes, the "same things" are treated — but from a different angle. Of course "Modern responses to the Platonic theory of Forms" is a nice title. But the mission of us, Wikipedians, is not to partition reality and attach well-defined labels to it. Our task is much humbler. The term Platonic Realism exists; a person might encounter it; he consults us to discover its meaning; we provide it as best as we can. We should never delude ourselves that we are anything more than a glorified dictionary. Now, in what way would it serve the interest of said person if this article was turned into a redirect?--MWAK (talk) 16:34, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
  • You make a lot of good sense. Really, my reason for wanting to conflate the articles was partly visceral and emotional; I find 'Platonic realism' a terribly unfortunate misnomer (seeing that the doctrine as we're understanding it isn't Platonic, and the actual Platonic doctrine isn't in any conventional sense realist), and would prefer to nip that meme in the bud. But my view (and the view of the two scholars I cited who agree) is in the minority, and in the end it's just a terminological issue. I would prefer that the concept in question be called Abstractionism or Abstraction realism or Abstraction Platonism, to distinguish it both from Plato-style views about universals and from Plato's actual views (including his views on universals and abstracta, which, I take it, was to whole-heartedly reject the existence of both). But I don't get to make up the names. The Stanford Encyclopedia, which I consider highly authoritative on such issues, calls the doctrine we're talking about 'lower-case-p' platonism ( ), to distinguish it from Plato's actual doctrines: "Platonism in this sense is a contemporary view." Accordingly, I think the least ambiguous, most informative title for an article like this would be Modern Platonism or Platonism in modernity or something of the like... but Platonic realism is OK. We just have to rewrite the page to make clear its distinctness from Platonic idealism (which can be merged with Theory of Forms), i.e., Plato's actual views (or as near to them as we can get).
  • P.S.: A new argument for merging Theory of Forms into the name Platonic idealism: The term "idealism" was actually first coined as the name for Plato's doctrine of Ideas/Forms. All other uses of the term "idealism" are subsequent and derivative. -Silence (talk) 22:28, 27 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Please stop splitting your "discussion" of the separate merge/rename suggestion at Talk:Theory of Forms, (not that your PS is either true or a valid argument to merge/rename that article). The haphazard scope of your suggestions are impossible to follow, sometimes as innocuous as renaming Theory of Forms to "Plato's Theory of Forms"… Perhaps your admittedly irrational motivation sheds light on your contradictory statements of intent, but either renaming or merging the historical article, Theory of Forms, to a "new" Modern Platonism article is not a good idea, obviously.
OTOH, merging this article to the platonic idealism stub (i.e., your new "modern platonism" chimera) is a bad idea because "platonic idealism" implies idealism in the modern sense, (although Berkeley himself was opposed to materialism rather than realism, which would be somewhat closer to the platonic sense). Arguably, a fully developed account of "abstraction" shouldn't even be attributed to Aristotle (much less Plato), but they're no precedent for the modern ease with which many scientists disavow what's "real". Regarding his mathematical universe hypothesis, Tegmark uses the qualifier "radical" to emphasize platonism in the classical sense, i.e., really real.
The modern sense of platonism, or mathematical platonism (the most directly relevant application) has likewise drifted. This is evident, for example, in the problem of access to the Forms, typically presented as an "argument against platonism", which begs a Cartesian mind-body question, where no substance dualism was intended. Plato's anamnesis solved a different problem: properly, the eternal Forms are reality, not a ghostly addition to a materialist presentism. The reality of the latter could be understood nonetheless, to the extent it supervenes upon the former. But a modern mind-body problem, with its implicit dualism, has eclipsed Plato's own problem of eternal necessity v temporal contingency.
Possibly due to your polemics, it's not clear to me what you think Plato's position would have been in regard to "causal inefficacy" of the Forms. Clearly, the presumptive causal closure of "classical" physics is an anachronism (on top of the misnomer). From an Aristotelian perspective regarding aitia less apropos than the formal, such as "efficient cause", the Forms require no explanation a posteriori. That does not make Plato an "anti-realist" any more than it makes him an "idealist".
Whereas I think "radical platonism" would be an example of a less problematic name than "platonic realism" in this context, "platonic idealism" only serves to obfuscate the distinction, rather than highlight it. In my opinion, the topic is sufficiently distinct from (modern) platonism to stand on it's own, which, as I've indicated, would have been a more realistic merge target, no pun intended… (just as I've suggested numerous times that Theory of Forms is a more realistic target, to no avail). The various articles on the problem of universals demonstrate how whimsically you've followed up on your "visceral reaction".—Machine Elf 1735 18:41, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
  • I don't think you understood my new suggestion. (The best evidence for this is that you give arguments against the things I went to great lengths to also argue against. Highlighting the distinctness of Plato's actual views from "mathematical platonism" and the like has been my entire purpose. It's particularly puzzling that you'd be unclear about "what [I] think Plato's position would have been in regard to "causal inefficacy" of the Forms", since a few lines above I write, "the doctrine in question, if it entails causal inefficacy, is not Platonic".) To phrase it in your preferred idiom, rather than as a merge: I'm suggesting we delete Platonic idealism and siphon its useful content into Theory of Forms, rename Theory of Forms to Platonic idealism, and rewrite Platonic realism without merging it. Having the two parallel article titles will make it easier to explain, in the first paragraph of each article, that Platonic realism is not Platonic idealism, and Platonic idealism is not Platonic realism. MWAK persuaded me that parallel structure of this sort would make it easier to draw the distinction between two theories or doctrines, whereas if one were a "theory" and the other an "-ism" someone might be more inclined to mistakenly infer that Theory of Forms is a component of Platonic realism, or Platonic realism of the Theory of Forms.
  • Platonic realism would then be about modern so-called "platonism" (the doctrine that abstracta exist), whereas Platonic idealism (merged with Theory of Forms) would be about Plato's actual views about the Forms. Clearer? -Silence (talk) 21:20, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
  • I do not understand why the merge tag has not been removed if you no longer intend to argue for this article's merge to platonic idealism. What's puzzling is that you simply repeat the same convoluted statement, but I will admit, it's clearly wrong in an exceedingly precise way. I simply thought you might have accidentally said the opposite of what you intend, given the tortured prose.
You don't appear to be trying to delete platonic idealism. I'm not sure what you think might be useful in Theory of Forms which it lacks. You've done another 180° in how you're characterizing your intention to merge/rename Theory of Forms into platonic idealism, and yet, you neither remove the merge tag nor submit the one article for AfD and the other for renaming… If clear means conspicuously wrong or perhaps just tendentious… clear as a bell.Machine Elf 1735 09:13, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Machine Elf, I'm interested in improving these articles. Do you share the same interest? I've been assuming that you do, and I won't hesitate to continue under that assumption, since you're clearly passionate about the structuring of the articles in question. If it's beyond your patience to engage in more constructive problem-solving regarding the best possible array of 'Platonism' articles, please don't let my various vices and inadequacies occupy your time or diminish the quality of your day! :) Life's too short, and there are surely tasks on Wikipedia more apt to your body of knowledge and skills than harassing or fixating on any other users. I welcome you to direct any further complaints about my moral standing, personality, or good faith to my talk page, so that they such comments won't obscure the more topical discussions ongoing. Best wishes, friend. -Silence (talk) 09:26, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
(If your questions expressed an honest confusion, I'll just dispel them by saying that I honestly couldn't care less about what bureaucratic tags are on what articles. Feel free to replace the merge tag on Platonic realism if you wish. Be bold. My only interest is in discussing the substance and organization of the actual articles.) -Silence (talk) 09:33, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Bravo. I don't know why you'd leave it to me to remove your merge tags when you've been so emphatic, but I don't require an explanation.—Machine Elf 1735 10:01, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
  • If I'm emphatic, it's only about the merge, not the tags. The tags' only function is to make passers-by and regular editors aware that there's an ongoing discussion pertaining importantly to the articles' being. Move, rename, or cleanup tags placed on the tops of the articles can serve that function equally well, at least in some cases. -Silence (talk) 05:49, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

This article is factually incorrect[edit]

Poor Plato.

Platonic realism is a philosophical term usually used to refer to the idea of realism regarding the existence of universals or abstract objects ...

This approach is subversively incorrect. Plato did his philosophy before his student Aristotle, and he was most emphatically opposed to Aristotle's reduction of philosophy to a single absolute realism of sensible objects. The "existence of universals" is an Aristotelian misrepresentation of Plato's idealism of Ideas.

Plato's realism, just like Aristotle's realism, is a theory of sensible objects, as developed by Plato himself, in the Dialogues.

Comments? BlueMist (talk) 21:18, 29 August 2013 (UTC)

Aristotelian formalism might not be a bad way to say that, according to Plato, sensible objects are like mere shadows of the real, eternal Forms. But I agree the "existence of universals" isn't nearly enough... still, "Plato's idealism of Ideas" is a bit confusing... perhaps Plato's realism of Ideas or realism of Forms?—Machine Elf 1735 02:59, 30 August 2013 (UTC)
First of all the article is not primarily about the thought of Plato — the interpretation of which is of course very contentious. It is primarily about the way the term is presently used. Obviously, in "the existence of universals", "existence" is to be understood in a broad Quinian sense, not as implying that universals would only have material existence! :o)--MWAK (talk) 16:00, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

You might be wondering why anyone would say that this article is plain wrong, given that the misunderstandings and distortions this article repeats can be easily documented. So much so, that I wouldn't even bother to ask for any references.

The problem is that many Aristotle and Plato experts, the people who actually have read most or all of both Aristotle and Plato, along with the literature of commentary, point out that Aristotle did NOT have an adequate understanding of Plato's theories! For example, see this discussion, and especially (Aristotle, Metaphysics A, 987b12-15)

Neither Plato nor Aristotle were shy about distorting and defaming their rivals. Be that the Sophists for Plato, or Plato for Aristotle. Later generations of theologians have dutifully copied the revered Aristotle's sentiments, to this day. ~ BlueMist (talk) 04:43, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

Again, you seem not to have understood that the article is primarily about the modern meaning of the term, not the thought of the historical Plato. And again, I must point out that in "existence of universals", "existence" is not to be understood in any particularly Aristotelian way. Personally, I would say that Aristoteles apparently did not understand Plato very well. But I'm unsure what exactly you think Plato or Aristotle really meant, because you have made that not at all clear! Also, it is problematic to state that Aristotle intended to defame Plato, as the Corpus exists of unpublished writings. And to presume a line of uncritical theologians is perhaps a bit simplistic :o).--MWAK (talk) 08:14, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
Nope. I understood quite well in the first place. It's all about the "modern" meaning. That modern meaning cannot be just "your" meaning, or "my" meaning, or even the theologians' meaning. (And yes, that is indeed one of the underlying problems. Theologians have a directed, biased Aristotelian lean. Should Wikipedia be an organ of the Church?)
We are not arbiters of meaning. The meaning of the term has to come from expert references. I hope we agree here. ~ BlueMist (talk) 14:16, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
Was there something in particular in this article that's "factually incorrect" or just Theologians and Aristotelians in general?—Machine Elf 1735 05:22, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
Although there seems to be agreement here that the subject of this article is not what Plato said or taught, but what is meant by referring to Platonic realism by today's scholars, the article is not constructed along those lines. The two topics are hopelessly confounded in the way the material is presented. There is no exposition of the modern view(s) and no contrast with what what Plato's writing's say, or how his proposals have evolved historically. There is no connection to philosophical context. The reference list and treatment of sources is almost non-existent. Brews ohare (talk) 12:06, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
Based upon what is contained in this article, it could be argued not that it is factually correct or incorrect, but that the subject is not a subject at all. Brews ohare (talk) 12:18, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
Well, the article presently provides a common interpretation of the term "Platonic realism". It is a philosophical stance, that can be, and has been, combined with a great number of other philosophical positions. This would make it difficult to trace it development through the centuries — though it could in principle be done. To explain why this stance is called Platonic realism, it is inevitable to give some impression of those elements in the thought of Plato himself that have given rise to this stance. To serve this goal, the impression given will primarily follow the interpretation of Platonic Realists, as it is the most relevant within this context.--MWAK (talk) 07:57, 7 September 2013 (UTC)
MWAK, In your comments from earlier years, I sense respect for Sanger's general knowledge, which was great for starter articles. Where a more correct understanding needs to start is with Realism, in its philosophical senses and in its guises. A good article on Realism can be found in the SEP, with bibliography. As you pointed out, Platonic Realism is not simple, and certainly not the same as Platonic Idealism. ~ BlueMist (talk) 22:05, 7 September 2013 (UTC)
Machine Elf , from what you've already said, it is demonstrable that you are not familiar with the subject matter. Shouldn't you leave the topic to editors? Please reverse your unknowing, bureaucratic undo. And reread the the following two sources:
The problem is that many Aristotle and Plato experts, the people who actually have read most or all of both Aristotle and Plato, along with the literature of commentary, point out that Aristotle did NOT have an adequate understanding of Plato's theories! For example, see this discussion, and especially (Aristotle, Metaphysics A, 987b12-15) ~ BlueMist (talk) 13:47, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
BlueMist: I take it that your focus is upon whether or not Aristotle properly understood Plato. Is this topic really important to this article? If Aristotle said A and Plato said B, is it really important to know what Aristotle thought Plato said? In fact, isn't what Plato said just an historical prolegomena to the greater purpose of explaining the modern view? In fact, isn't this whole article a misconception best discussed under other articles? Brews ohare (talk) 14:03, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
This article says this topic is the same as Platonic idealism. Do you agree? Are you really more concerned with idealism vs realism than with Aristotle's view of Plato? Brews ohare (talk) 14:13, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
BlueMist, comment on content, not contributors. Your sourcing is inadequate for your (seemingly irrelevant) claim that "Aristotle did NOT have an adequate understanding of Plato's theories!"—Machine Elf 1735 15:08, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
Brews ohare,
You are sensing my dilemma correctly. The article is dead wrong. That isn't because of what it says, which can be easily sourced, but for what is missing. In requesting discussion, I'm hoping for comments from people with a bit of specialized knowledge, so that the content can be rounded out to everyone's satisfaction. Instead, the discussion is being side-lined and stifled. Is this where Wikipedia is headed? ~ BlueMist (talk) 16:06, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
BlueMist, no one has stopped you from making changes or additions to the article. If you don't like the phrase "existence of universals" then change it... or at least make a suggestion. There is no dispute: the disputed tag was wholly inappropriate because the article doesn't actually contain any claims about Aristotle having an "adequate understanding of understanding of Plato's theories!"... that's just something you appear to reading into (several) articles.—Machine Elf 1735 19:43, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

Redirection from Platonic Forms[edit]

The page Platonic Forms redirects to Platonic Realism. I think it should redirect to the page Theory of Forms. If there are no objections I will proceed to make the correction.--Auró (talk) 21:40, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

Done.--Auró (talk) 21:21, 8 October 2014 (UTC)