A scene from The Canterbury Psalter (12th century)

Plato’s Chair

Websites that talk about how Plato teaches that there’s the form of chair, Chair Itself, chairness: A billion.

Places I found the word “chair” in a CTRL+F search of the complete works of Plato: 3

Number of times anybody in Plato was talking about the Form of Chair Itself: 0.

What a strange habit to have become so widespread in explaining Plato’s forms. Chairs. Heck, everybody knows about Plato’s chair. Everybody but Plato, apparently.

Plato does have a section in Republic book II where Socrates makes a first move in the direction of teaching about forms by asking about how craftsmen make furniture. But what he asks about are beds and tables. With surgical precision he avoids mentioning chairs.

I will now provide an exhaustive survey of chair references in Plato in English.

1. In Euthydemus, Socrates says you can pull chairs out from under people and they’ll fall down.

2 and 3. In book 1 of Republic, the very old and unphilosophical Cephalus is sitting on a padded chair and has a circle of chairs around him.

That’s it. Plato’s comprehensive chairology according to a, um, computer-assisted search of the corpus.

In this paper I will argue that, contra conventional wisdom, Plato’s doctrine of Chair demonstrates not his theory of forms, but his status as founder of gerontology, the theory of gravity, and practical jokes.

All practical jokes in the history of the West are just footnotes to pratfalls in Plato.

About This Blog

Fred Sanders is a theologian who tried to specialize in the doctrine of the Trinity, but found that everything in Christian life and thought is connected to the triune God.

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