Plato was one of the most creative and influential thinkers in Western philosophy, his influence throughout the history of philosophy has been monumental. Born around 428 B.C, he investigated a wide range of topics, but his theory of forms, found in The Republic, is a critical part of Plato's philosophy. In this essay I will explain, evaluate and analyze Plato's theory of the forms. To better explain my view points on Plato's theory I will make use of the metaphoric "Divided Line" and the Analogy of the Cave.
Plato's theory of forms, known also as his theory of ideas, states that there is another world that exists separate to the material world that we live in, called the "eternal world of forms". Plato's theory proposed that objects in the physical world merely resemble perfect forms in the ideal world, and that only these perfect forms can be the object of true knowledge. This world according to Plato is more real than the one we live in. Through out his work Plato makes the distinction between objects that are real and concepts that exist in our minds. To better understand this we have to look at the characteristics that Plato bases knowledge on.
Plato says that knowledge must be certain and unquestionable, it must be infallible. The theory states that the forms are unchanging and are perfect and that the forms cannot be part of everyday life, because it is always changing and imperfect. So because of their stability and perfection, the forms have greater reality than ordinary objects observed in the physical world. The forms meet Plato's criteria of knowledge, they are certain, unquestionable and are infallible. Thus, true knowledge is the knowledge of forms. .
Plato states that the physical world is always changing and imperfect because he believed that there is a difference between that which we perceive with our senses and that which we understand innately with our minds, these objects of sense experience are mere shadows of the perfect forms, he rejects empiricism; the claim that knowledge is derived from sense experience.