Plato’s Theory of Ideal Forms: An Explanation

Plato’s closeness and admiration for Socrates can be cited as his inspiration for the Theory of Ideal Forms. The Socratic dialogues in which Plato argues through Socrates’ lens are evidence of Plato’s admiration for his teacher. Fundamentally, the dialogues form the basis of this theory, whereby Plato posits that the current world is certainly unreliable as it is ever-changing (Macintosh, 2012). However, Plato believed that since this material/physical world experienced through the five senses cannot be reliable due to lack of permanence, there exists a permanent and highly reliable world of ideas/ knowledge or forms. These ‘ideal forms’ that exist in a non-material, “abstract world that is independent of minds in their own realm” are the perfect and the only real forms that possess accurate knowledge (Macintosh, 2012, n.p). As such, Plato stresses that the objects experienced via the five senses are representatives or alternate forms of the real objects conceived from the non-material abstract world. This line of thought suggests that whatever humans attempt to replicate, through recalling, may it be a building, drawing, or a physical object like a table in this unpredictable world must be existent in another perfect form/world. Plato also adds that this true knowledge can only be found among those who understand this plurality of phenomena and, thus, can distinguish and replicate, more accurately, the true reality (Macintosh, 2012). Five properties including self-prediction, independence from the particulars, perfection, permanence and simplicity have been cited as common in Plato’s ‘forms’(Lacewing). There are comparative possibilities between Plato’s forms and concepts covered in other literature. Take, for instance, how Plato uses the ‘allegory of the cave’ parable to underpin the need for electing knowledgeable leaders. Also, the concept of multiverses and multiple realities is slowly gaining traction in modern-day Physics. Also, the concept of beauty being in the eyes of the beholder reinforces Plato’s ‘forms’.
Lacewing, M. (2019). Plato’s theory of forms: From sense expereince to the forms [Ebook]. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. Retrieved from
Macintosh, D. (2012). Plato: A Theory of Forms | Issue 90 | Philosophy Now. Retrieved 8 November 2019, from

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