Plato and The Theory of Forms

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato's (420s-340s BCE) Theory of Forms delves into the idea that the spiritual realm is perfect and more authentic than the physical realm that the human beings reside in. Plato is famous for his tremendous contributions to change the way we perceive the world. This covers every single field,  everything from ethics to mathematics to logic. 

However, it is widely known and accepted that one of Plato's most significant contributions to philosophy was the Theory of Forms. In layperson's terms, Plato's Theory of Forms elucidates that the physical world that we reside in is not actually the authentic 'real' world. It is, instead, an ultimate reality that exists beyond this said physical world. Plato talks about this theory with the help of a few different dialogues, including the most popular one, called 'The Republic.' Many of the people who read Plato's theories have expressed how likely it is that Plato has taken some of the Theory of Forms from Socrates, who was his mentor. 

Plato's philosophy explores the existence of two realms: the physical realm and the spiritual realm. The physical realm is the material elements that we see, access and interact with on a regular basis. According to Plato, this physical realm is always changing, altering and is imperfect in multiple ways. Furthermore, the spiritual realm exists above, beyond and outside the physical realm. Plato considers this very spiritual realm as the Realm of Forms which is also known as the Realm of Ideas or the Realm of Ideals. According to Plato's Theory of Forms, it is asserted that the physical realm is a mere shadow or framework of the true authenticity of the Realm of Forms.

The Divided Line - Plato by Untwine Me


According to Plato, the Platonic Forms are merely some ideas of things that actually exist. These ideas delineate what each individual element is supposed to be like in order for it to exist like that specific material element. It can be explained through the help of an example: the 'Form' of human shows traits one must have in order to be seen and considered as a human. It is, therefore, a depiction of the idea of what humanness is in its true essence. However, it is significant to note that no actual human is the exact and perfect representation of the Form human according to the theory. They can be identical but every human is distinct in their own way and therefore, none of the humans are perfectly human. 

The Forms are abstract, idealistically perfect and unchanging concepts or ideals that go beyond time and space; they exist in the Realm of Forms and not the physical world. However, even though it's openly mentioned that the Forms are abstract, this doesn't imply that they are not real in any case. As a matter of fact, in Plato's view, the Forms are more 'real' than any individual and material physical objects. Therefore, concepts like Beauty, Justice, Evilness or Goodness are Forms. Individual objects like a rectangular table, a purple notebook, a just action, a hardworking woman, or a good person reside in the physical realm and are simply different examples of the Forms.

To conclude,  Forms are the essences of a variety of objects. Forms are the innate qualities that an object must have within itself to be that type of object in the physical world. This can be explained through an example:  there are multiple books in the world but the Form of “book-ness” resides at the prime core of all the books. Plato mentioned that the universe of Forms exists in a spiritual realm in relation to our own world which is the world of material substances that is the essential basis of reality.


Written by Ayusshi

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