The Concept of Παράδειγμα in Plato's Theory of Forms
It is essential in any treatment of Plato's Theory of Forms to determine what sort of thing a Form is supposed to be. Much recent discussion of the Theory has been characterized by the assumption that Forms are exemplars: models or perfect instances of the property, relation, or kind for which they are named. 1 There seem to be two main reasons for holding this view. First, scholars have assumed that Plato regarded his Forms as self-predicative, as having the property for which they were named.2 Second, they have assumed that Plato must mean that Forms are exemplars when he refers to them as "paradeigmata," i.e. "paradigms."3
There has been a good deal of discussion of the claim that Platonic Forms are self-predicative, the result of which seems to be that the claim at present must be regarded as not proven.4 In this paper, I wish to address the other claim, that Plato's assertion that the Forms are paradigms commits him to the view that they are exemplars. In section I, I shall argue that the well-known weaknesses of this interpretation, and its incompatibility with Plato's own statements about the Forms, should lead us to reject it. In section II, I shall distinguish two senses of 11paradeigma," and examine those passages in which the term is used in connection with the Forms, in order to determine which sense fits the text best. In section III, I shall discuss the relative merits of the interpretation given in section II and the exemplar view.
Prior, W. J. (1983). The Concept of Παράδειγμα in Plato’s Theory of Forms. Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science, 17(1), 33–42. https://doi.org/10.1515/APEIRON.19220.127.116.11