Plato's Theory of Forms
Plato's Republic is one of the most influential philosophical texts of the ancient world. Plato uses dialogue between Socrates and others, including Plato's brother Glaucon, to explore the nature of knowledge and reality. This paper will discuss Plato's theory of forms as described by Socrates in The Republic. It will also briefly examine the divided line theory, and cave analogy as they relate to Plato's theory of forms, as well as explore the reasons that a "philosopher-ruler" needs to be familiar with the idea of forms in order to be effective. This discussion will demonstrate that Plato's theory of forms and the concept of a philosopher-ruler is essential to a lasting Republic.
For Plato, the concept of form refers to the eternal quality of things that exist apart from "copies" of things that we encounter in the physical world. In his cave analogy in Book VII of The Republic, Plato compares our view of the world to a man who was born in a cave with his back to the entrance and all he sees are shadows of forms. Plato believes that our view of reality is limited to "shadows," while there is a much more powerful reality that lies just beyond our grasp. This more powerful reality is the world of forms, upon which our perception of physical reality is based.