Theory of Forms Essay Sample

Published: 2022-11-11
Theory of Forms Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 891 words
8 min read

What is the Theory of Forms? This is a theory that seeks to answer the question, what is real? The theory is first introduced to us by Plato in dialogues he wrote between his teacher, Socrates and a friend called Glaucon. In his writings, the theory is simply put in such a way that things such as kindness, happiness, and justice have a form that can only be conceived in the mind. In his subsequent writings in a book titled The Republic, Plato widens the theory to say that the objects we see are lesser or weak manifestations of their perfect form in a space known as the intelligible world, (The Republic.Pp. 206) He says that there is a real world where objects are a depiction of their perfect forms in the intelligible world. That a table has a form more perfect than how we know it but we make it closest to how we are all familiar with it.

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Aristotle, who happens to be Plato's student, has conflicting opinions on Pluto's theory. According to Aristotle, a thing does not come into existence simply from thoughts. He believes that there must be the matter for a thing to come into being, (Metaphysics.Pp. 289). This is to mean that for a table to be in existence, wood has to be carved out and shaped into that particular item. According to Aristotle, for a thing to come into being, you combine the form and matter to form a solid substance.

Differences Between Aristotle's And Plato's View Of The Theory Of Forms

There are many differences in ideologies between the two philosophers, however, there are several key differences between their ideologies. According to Plato, there is a world apart from the reality which he named the ''intelligible '' world where forms such as justice, good and beauty can only be conceived in the mind. Plato makes the assumption that the things we see in the world are attempted manifestations of the perfect forms we see in the world. This is to suggest that an object in reality that is blue will have a superior form of blue. In an attempt to explain his theory, Pluto gives these forms the name 'Platonic forms'. He considers them the purest representation of any object on earth. To him, a matter is part of the form to enable it to come into being. (Wilber, 2018) These forms exist in a space that is timeless. They are also not bound by space. Plato's forms are ethical and he believes that it is the goal of every philosopher to understand this.

Plato, in an attempt to justify his theory, notes that even geometry students "use visible forms and make their argument about them, although they are not thinking of them but of things they are like" (The Republic Pp.206). He illustrates this by saying that you can draw a square and then a diagonal that cuts the square into two halves. However, you are not talking about a square and a diagonal but a concept of a square and diagonal which are forms. This is to say that a thing has the properties it has because it participates in the forms relate to those properties.

Aristotle introduces the concept of matter and form combining to form a substance. He rejects the theory of form but not the notion. To Aristotle, a form is a physical manifestation of an object. He out rules the existence of an intelligible world where everything has a pure form that is not manifested. According to Aristotle,'' a thing comes to be from its privation or subject which we call matter,'' (Metaphysics Pp.289) He also introduces the concept of ''hylomorphism'' which claims that each physical item is a form and compound. He believes that for a form to come into being there has to be the matter to make a solid object.

He goes on to explain that there is no way to have objects that we see and touch every day to be simple imaginations (Spelman Pp. 32-41). An idea conceived in the head is combined with matter and a substance comes to be.

In conclusion to all these, the two philosophers seem to be on different paths with completely different ideologies. However, a critical look at it reveals that when the two ideologies are combined, the answer to the question,' What is real?' is gotten. According to Plato, every object has a perfect form in the mind and then a less perfect form on the earth. Aristotle, however, believes in a matter and solid hard evidence. A combination of the two theories from my point of view would be a complete answer. The combined theory would state that if a thing can be formed as an idea in your mind and then be materialized into an object with substance then it is real.

Work Cited

Allen, R. E. (1970). Plato's Euthyphro and the Earlier Theory of Forms (RLE: Plato). London: Routledge,

Witt, C. (1994). Substance and Essence in Aristotle: An Interpretation of Metaphysics VII-IX. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Ainsworth, Thomas, "Form vs. Matter", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL

Spelman, Elizabeth V. "Woman as body: Ancient and contemporary views." Feminist theory and the body. Routledge, 2017. 32-41.

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