Plato: ideas

June 11, 2008

“Almost 2,400 years ago, Plato made the case against cultural context. The best of all possible worlds, he thought, was one removed from the tainting influence of embodiment I even from the taint of human culture. Plato despised politics, just as, like a good Greek aristocrat, he despised the world of commerce. In fact, Plato believed that our embodied, everyday world was only a poor reflection of the real world, which for him was an invisible world of abstract ideas, or forms. This is the great Platonic reversal. It would seem obvious that the world of ideas depends on the world of the senses and culture, because people can’t come up with ideas unless they are alive in this world and find themselves in a particular cultural milieu. But Plato reversed the dependency. He argued that the embodied world of human culture is a reflection of an invisible world of abstract ideas. Moreover, the amazing reversal became a major influence on ancient culture and later Western culture. The French philosopher Descartes in the seventeenth century reiterated this reversal and made sure that it would remain part of Western thinking into the twentieth century.”

From: Bolter, Jay David and Gromala, Diane (2003), Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Transparency, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p. 136

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