Is a theory of forms essential to an understanding of philosophy
Debate Rounds (3)
We see all we recognize in life by forms, and if we grasp something only with sense we can only grasp it phenomenologically, and if we can relate what we see, and classify it, we have a formal understanding of it, a concept, or a form. For example, every one knows what a dog is. They can recognize the physical form of a dog, so they feel no need to go to a dictionary to define the dog. Though this definition may be helpful it is not complete. A dog is more than its definition, and yet this form, this idea, this concept does give the sense of the dog on evidence. The name is not the thing. The definition is not the thing. The form is not the thing. But when Schopenhauer said such as: The world is my idea; or the world dies with me,- he was pointing at these forms as the reality we know in phenomenal evidence. And to each of these realities we know as forms we give our individual sense. My world is not your world, but may share common characteristics.
In my opinion, a theory of forms is essential not only to philosophy but to life and to understanding. As an axiom I would suggest that all forms are forms of relationship. In the classification of: Dog, the form in telling what it is- defines it against what it isn't. No dog is a cat, and cat and dog as classifications are in relation to each other and to all other things. These forms are also all forms of relationship in the human sense as well. Some people are dog people, and some people are cat people. Some people are both sorts of people. Some are purists, and some like mutts; but even with no liking for dogs or pets people still relate to each other through the form. In the past, it used to be possible for all people to relate through shared forms of supernatural beings like angels or devils that all took for granted, and all took to be real.
The clear sign of a dead form is that people no longer relate through it, and for example I offer the form of the Ptolemaic Universe which was once a shared form of relationship and is not a footnote in history.
What this change signifies, and what this abandonment of one form for another reveals is the entire course of human history in a nutshell. Humanity cannot change its basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter which are each forms. Nor can we part with our knowledge as forms of understanding. When one form of understanding does not answer our needs we must abandon it for one better suited our needs, and this changing of old forms for better forms is the complete story of human accomplishment and adaptation. We cannot evolve, or at least have not evolved significantly since humanity departed in its wandering until the present. We have always adapted to our reality by means of our forms.
In the past, and perhaps as a matter of course, humanity has been rather unconscious of its forms. Most people learn to act and think through forms as concepts without consciousness that all elements of knowledge and belief exist as forms; and yet, when change was called for, as when humans gave up their tents for a dungeon, they did so even if the natural conservatism of humanity challenged such change.
A theory of forms allows the changes humanity needs to make to be made consciously. And here I offer the example of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, and all these founding fathers had a working understanding of forms and this is shown by Jefferson's use of the term. This was no blunder, and no fumbling out of history into a new reality. The American Revolution was the first conscious attempt to change social forms to arrive at a new social relationship through these new forms.
So; here is a theory of forms that I find helpful. Forms are primarily of two sorts. Physical forms hold all of our understanding of the physical world that can be measured and made the subject of experiment. Math, or really, number, meaning the one number, number: 1; stands as a transitional concept between these physical forms of the physical world, and the spiritual seeming world of moral forms.
Moral forms which are more generally called transcendent concepts are all the virtues and vices, and every quality of humanity that is a subject of dispute, but not of certain knowledge as we might have of the physical world. Put simply: Physical forms may be conceived of as having being and meaning. Moral forms have only meaning without being. Just as great physical forms can be built out of an understanding of elementary physical forms even to the level of the atomic structure; social forms like governments, or institutions like law or education can be built upon moral forms. For example, Just as Aristotle concluded that governments are created for Good, the good for which our government was established to achieve are clearly stated in the preamble of the constitution. If people do not compare our progress against our intention it is because they cannot do so without their complacency being revealed. As is usually the case with social forms; the general good and the common good are traded for some individual good until the whole purpose of the government is run off course. Then revolution become necessary to rejuvenate the society unless it will be destroyed in some other fashion, usually through war and invasion.
Now; forms, moral forms become the goal and purpose behind the creation of social forms. For example, there is the moral form of love that finds its social form in marriage. The relationship at its most informal is only love, and at its most formal is simply marriage. Between these two, the relationship and the social form is the means of determining the health and happiness of every form and relationship. Relationships are dynamic. Forms are static. Because these two poles are opposite, they can be used to plot the course of every form of relationship in two dimensions as with an X and Y axis. And this is true of all relationships even the most lonely and obscure. All forms are forms of relationship, and all relationships have their forms and formalities. When Abelard said that (Ius), Justice is the Genus, and (Lex), Law is a species of it; he was correct that there was a relationship and wrong to relate Justice and Law to biology.
Justice is the relationship we seek because we all need justice as human beings. Law is a social form designed to achieve Justice in a social setting according to formal rules agreed upon which spare people the dynamics of relationships that make of each person their own judge and jury. Law is not designed as a substitute for wise judgment, but is at its best, a support of wise judgment. Only when law is turned to another private aim does it become a impediment to justice. At that point the social form begins to fail.
It is important in a theory of forms to consider the purpose of social forms. Our consciousness of moral forms is of long duration, and our human experience with social forms is ancient. If people of every age have to date been concerned with virtues primarily under the heading of honor, Honestum equalling Moral Good- it is because they found life without that moral form impossible to endure. In every instance I know of, every primitive man was as concerned with his honor as any likely adversary or friend, and in fact, out of honor and the need of honor many a man might feast his enemy in his own household, as if his dearest friend. He might give his daughter if it might buy peace, and agree to fight another day as honor required. This is an element, the relationship- without form- that all social forms are built upon.
What other reason has human kind for forms? The primary reasons for forms of relationship are for survival and recognition. Through our forms in the physical sense we survive, and cooperate. Like uniforms, in a world free of proof of our own being, meaning will suffice. As we are recognized, so we recognize, and find our meaning. We are realized, made real, and survive; and also are recognized in the form as real and can sense in that recognition and meaning the reality we cannot objectively prove.
I know I have the right to exist outside of the fire of Hell because God Himself paid for my sins with His own blood, so I am justified in His resurrection, forgiven of all my sins, and secure in faith, His good faith gauranteed by His own Word, written in the blood of His covenant to give eternal life to all who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
I cannot prove I have the right to exist outside of the fire of Hell, but I know that I do have this right as it is God's gift paid for by His own blood to secure my pardon from Hell. He took my punishment so I can be forgiven, and I am forgiven as I have received Him and He is my Saviour. My home is heaven.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.
Is this not what Jesus said of the Priests: Do as they say; not as they do. What the priests did in their formal relationship with God was not good. That is why they show up in the story of the Good Samaritan. What is the good of a religion that cares more for making money than for service to humanity? Look at what Jesus did: He touched the sick. In the famous words of St. Bob Dylan: Before you can heal the sick you must first forgive them. Who have you touched today? Who have you engaged deeply with in a dynamic relationship. You have had as much of me today as anyone. Do you feel touched by me. Because I would touch you. I am not afraid of your disease. I recognize you as human, which is part of the purpose of forms, and more than that, I want to help make you real.
All of this talk about the hereafter does not make you seem real, and quite the opposite. Jesus said as much in the question of the many spouses: who would you be married to after death. Jesus said: You cannot imagine, my paraphrase; and it is because we tend to look at the next life as an extension of this life, and this is because no matter how hard we try we cannot imagine death as the nothingness it likely is. But if you truly believe, while you lie and rot; isn't the love of God enough to make heaven for you? And while we should, like Job, Curse God and Die; we do not, because if we cannot be certain of God's love for us, we can always be certain of our love of God by giving our only lives for the caring of God's own children. A God who has created the cosmos has no need of a relationship with me. I am the one who needs the relationship with God. Yet, I am not given a reward in this relationship; but a task: To care for my fellow human beings; and if I recognize this as a form of relationship, one in which I get what I need while helping the other to get what they need; how do I go about this other than consciously?
All forms are forms of relationship. Mathematics is a form mathematicians and scientist generally relate through, and yet everyone who understands the most basic elements of the concepts involved can relate through math.
Religion is also a form of relationship, with your God, if you believe; but also with anyone who generally accepts the same faith, or even a life of faith. But there is no doubt that many madmen also believed deeply and acted on their beliefs. Can you say you relate well with madmen only because they are people of faith? In the wider view, we can relate as human beings which is our ultimate form of relationship. If we are relating purely as human beings with some one who may not even hold our beliefs or speak our language does this mean we should not do so consciously. It is all the better if we understand forms when we try to relate to those we have nothing but our humanity in common with.
Consider language as a form. Do you grasp how people who cannot speak another common tongue can often relate through music, art, math, or science? They still have the form as a structure and that structure has rules, forms and formality; but just as important for them is the relationship. To understand the form is to grasp the relationship. To grasp the relationship is to understand the form. We see examples like religion where the form is empty of relationship. As a Catholic I would go through a certain set of physical motions during the course of a mass. It was like a mini workout: Stand up sit down kneel stand up sit down stand up turn around say hello shake a hand, and etc, which I called the Catholic hokie pokie. Everyone is going through the same formality and no one can say the meaning of it, and few do it with a true relationship in mind. Where I mostly went to church the conservatives did not mingle with the liberals. Many of the people were simply not at all friendly or engaging. The came and paid their God bot, and got out of the house.
So I understand this is not much of a counter; and yours seems like not much of a reply; but I still maintain some theory of forms is necessary to understanding, not just philosophy, but all forms of relationships. And this is because you cannot find a totally informal relationship any more than you can find a form entirely free of relationship.
If you want to talk about religious drivel I can drivel with the best of them.
Rather; I would urge you to do your best with all your mighty powers and see if you can conceive of your God. Which may be our God, but since such transcendent concepts are always subjective, you might have to own up to the way in which your God is unique to you.
My God is forgiving, and thank God because I am Guilty as sin. No joke. I spit in the eye of God and humanity. What do you think of that. And I cannot conceive of my God, but I am guessing Santa Claus with the Easter bunny and tooth fairy all rolled into one might describe him. Except the him part, because women are more my God. No male every created anything but a mess in the kitchen.
But back to the subject at hand. No one gives a shet about this debate. And I only posted it to get the privilege of voting and commenting on other debates. I do not think I am right about forms. I know I am right, and then it is only a question of whether people want to consider philosophy in a rational manor.
Let me give you an example. Duns Scotus who lived about the same time as Erasmus, who like Erasmus was a cleric- was the one most responsible for the official adoption of the idea of the Virgin Birth of Jesus as official Catholic Dogma. Erasmus understood the terms in the Bible correctly identified Mary the mother of Jesus as a young girl. In any event Duns Scotus was a nominalist who could say the name is the thing, that thought proceeds through words, which does not disagree with my conclusions; and at least points to our information on the thing named, its definition. Scotus was clear about the relationship of the concept or form- to the reality behind it. What he said was that between the thought and the thing, there is an abyss of difference, called heterogeneity, and yet there are areas of agreement called: Homogeneity, and the bridge between these two is called Analogy.
Your God, how ever you conceive of your God, is but an analogy for the God of reality that I presume, and you think you know exists. Still; the point of this exercise is to tell the use of forms. It is to understand what can be conceived of with some objectivity through forms, and where forms only provide the barest outlines of knowledge as when we talk of God, or love, or peace, or honor and on and on. And, If you can understand forms, you can use them as a judge of relationships, and you can use relationships as a judge of forms.
Religion is your form of relationship; but it is hard to say where or with whom you may fit in. I will not deny you, or your humanity. Sinner that I am, you are my brother. I only wish you cared for your own salvation as much as you seem to care for mine.
Your theories cannot secure your right to exist outside of Hell. The form of your theories is full of uncertainty, and can never be secure in it's own arguing.
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