Today I was reading about Plato’s theory of ideas and the allegory of the cave.
All of the sudden, one of Plato’s counter-intuitive points made sense to me. I am referring to Plato’s claim that the material world known to us through sensation does not really exist or, more precisely, that it has a derivative type of existence. In other words, for Plato, it is only the world of ideas that is really real. The material world, the world that we see, hear and touch, has a lower ontological status.
Plato’s theory is built upon a mathematical-geometrical version of truth. From within this paradigm, truths are eternal. Thus, the concept of a circle never changes, it is the material embodiment of circles, such as cart-wheels, that change.
Plato’s stance is, in part, a reaction to previous, pre-Socratic philosophies, above all to the opposition between the doctrines of Parmenides and Heraclitus. For them, change consists in something turning into something else. Change is ubiquitous, according to one point of view; change is impossible, according to the other. They both agree, perhaps, in the following: when A turns into B, B being something radically different from A, A needs to die for B to be born. A has to be negated for B to be asserted.
And if change means death, then things that change-as Plato claimed-don’t really exist. Or they exist ephemerally, they enjoy only a transient, fragile existence that depends on more fundamental, invariable concepts and structures.
If this is the case, then we, humans, don’t exist. Because our life consists in becoming something else, something different, all the time. And therefore, we stay alive by dying, we survive by killing ourselves.