An Introduction to Plato’s Theory of Forms

1. What are Forms?

According to Plato, Forms or ideas are non-mental entities and do not depend upon human mind. The main point on which he bases his theory is that it is only by studying them that genuine knowledge can be obtained. Plato’s views on reality have been extensively discussed and analysed by philosophers over the years. In this essay, I will be discussing what Plato meant by Forms, how we can know about them and what the Good is.

Plato believed that there were two realms in which things existed: the Ideal Realm and the Material Realm. He thought that everything in the Material Realm was a shadow or an imperfect copy of something in the Ideal Realm. For example, a table in the material world is a shadow of the Form of Table which exists in the Ideal Realm.

The Form of Table would be perfect; it would have all the properties that we think of when we think of a table, but it would also have properties that we don’t even know exist. For example, the Form of Table might have the property of being indestructible. We would not know this about tables in the material world because they can be destroyed.

Plato thought that the only way to gain knowledge about the Forms was through reason, not through sensory experience. This is because sense experience can only tell us about things in the material world, which are imperfect copies of the Forms. Therefore, if we want to know about something in its true form, we need to use our reason to access the Ideal Realm where the Forms exist.

2. How do we know about Forms?

Plato believed that there is no learning, only recollection. He thought that before we are born, our soul exists in a state of blissful ignorance in which it has direct knowledge of the Forms. However, when we are born into the material world, our soul becomes trapped in a body and forgets its true nature.

The only way to regain knowledge of the Forms is through recollection. This means that when we see something in the material world and recognise it as being beautiful or just, for example, it is because our soul remembers its direct knowledge of those Forms from before we were born.

3. What is the Good?

For Plato, the Good was not just a moral concept; it was also ontological, meaning that it was concerned with being or reality. He believed that there was a Form of Good which was the highest Form and which everything else participated in to some degree.

The Good was not just good in itself; it was also beautiful and just. This means that it had all three of these properties to perfection. Furthermore, Plato believed that because the Good was perfect, it was also unchanging and eternal.

4. What is justice?

Plato’s view of justice was similar to his view of the Good; he thought that it was an objective quality which could be studied rationally. Justice is often thought of as being fair or treating people equally; however, Plato thought that justice went beyond this definition.

He believed that justice was concerned with harmonious orderliness both within an individual and within society as a whole. This means that for Plato, a just person is someone whose soul is in harmonious order, and a just society is one in which the different parts of society are working together in harmony.

5. What is the relationship between the soul and the body?

Plato believed that the soul was immortal and that it was the true self. The body, on the other hand, was mortal and was merely a vehicle for the soul. Furthermore, Plato thought that the soul was trapped in the body and that death was the release of the soul from the body.

He also believed that the soul was divided into three parts: the appetitive, the emotional and the rational. The appetitive part of the soul was concerned with desires and pleasure; the emotional part was concerned with feelings and emotions; and the rational part was concerned with reason and intellect.

6. Are the Forms good?

Plato thought that the Forms were good because they were perfect. This means that they had all the properties that we associate with goodness, such as beauty, justice and truth. Furthermore, he believed that because the Forms were unchanging and eternal, they were also good.

7. Is there a highest Form?

Plato believed that there was a highest Form, which he called the One. The One was different from all other Forms because it was simple and uniform; it did not have any properties or characteristics. Rather, it was the cause of all other Forms.

The One was also perfect and good in itself; however, Plato did not believe that it could be known by human beings. This is because our minds are not capable of comprehending such simplicity. Instead, we can only understand the One through negative theology, which is when we say what it is not rather than what it is.
In conclusion, Plato’s theory of Forms is a complex and fascinating philosophy which has been the subject of much debate over the years. In this essay, I have discussed what Plato meant by Forms, how we can know about them and what the Good is.


Plato's theory of forms posits that there is a realm of abstract objects that exist outside of the physical world. These abstract objects are the perfect versions of everything that exists in the physical world, and our understanding of them is what allows us to understand the physical world.

This theory explains the nature of reality by positing that the physical world is an imperfect copy of the realm of Forms. Our understanding of reality comes from our understanding of these Forms, which are perfect and unchanging.

Some criticisms of this theory include the idea that it is too idealistic and does not take into account the role of perception in our understanding of reality. Additionally, some argue that the theory does not adequately explain how we can access this realm of Forms.