Student: So Plato, you have spoken about these things called Forms and I’m a bit confused. Maybe you can help me understand.
Plato: First you should tell me what you already know.
Student: I know there is a Form for the Good, Beauty, Justice, and even Existence.
Plato: Of course. These are some of the Higher Forms of which all wise men are concerned. We wish to know what is good in order to do good. The higher part of the soul of man, which I call the rational soul, aspires to know what is good and right to do. The Good is the highest and most valued goal of the soul, because once the Good is known all other knowledge is made available. To know the Good is to know the essence of all good deeds, and it is know the essence of all things in this world. All of life originally comes from the Good, which means that all life partakes of the Good to some degree, and that which seems not good is merely lacking in the Good, or has very little of it. So if we could know the Good we would know how the universe works, because it undeniably works according to Good.
Knowledge of the Good leads us to the pattern of the universe, just as knowledge of what a person believes is Good leads us to the pattern of his action. You must agree that we all act according to what we think is good, and the reason some people act in ways not so good is because they have yet to see the Good or are deluded by their false opinions of what it is. Therefore, you can see the importance of knowing the Good, since good action will proceed from this contemplation.
Student: But Plato, tell me more about the Good. What is the Good? Tell me so I can be a good person and act in a good manner.
Plato: I could tell you what is good in certain circumstances, but that would not necessarily lead to a knowledge of the Good. If we were to make a long list of all those acts we believe are good; this collection would still not be a knowledge of the Good. What we must discover is the principle of Goodness itself, and then we can properly apply this principle to actions and circumstances. As I have said, knowing a collection of particular instances of goodness is not the same as knowing the principle itself. But I did not say that the former knowledge cannot help in the latter, because our experiences with particular instances and our dialog about these can bring us the recollection of the Good within our own psyche. As with all Forms, the experienced world given to us through the senses can help lead us to the Form, because all things and all events partake of, or embody, the Forms. In other words, the Forms do in fact exist in this world we experience. They are the realities of which we intelligibly know, and we know of them not from the senses but from the rational soul.
Student: Does this mean that Forms can be known from the world we sense?
Plato: Many “friends of dualism” have misunderstood my teachings and have dogmatically split the Forms from this sensible world of change.
Yet, Socrates and myself, though known for our contemplative natures, are profoundly interested in this experienced world, and it is the Forms which actually explain this world. The Forms exist non-physically in a realm we can call the mind. They are mental and intelligible, as distinct from being actual physical objects. Yet still, the Forms of the knowing mind, which are absolutely Real, exhibit their power of Being in this world of sensory phenomena. A misunderstanding arises because the Forms are not known sensibly, but are none the less involved in the sensible world. The senses cannot understand the world, but the Intellect of mind can, and the means of this understanding are the Forms of Knowledge. Actually They are Forms of Understanding, of understanding the world, the only world there is. One of the great values of the Forms is their meaningful use in dialogue and dialectic. The Forms are the intelligible and permanent furniture of dialectic and understanding, the real, eternal and objective Thoughts concerning Reality. We can dialectically and contemplatively work with the Forms without imposition from the physical, sensible world. So in this way, the Forms are detached and independent from the physical world. Yet, They are in the sensible world and intimately concerned with it.
Student: How is this Plato, that the Forms exist in this world but are not the same as the things in this world?
Plato: The Forms are the Intelligible qualities and principles animating these things and revealing the true meaning of them, but They are not the particular things themselves. What we experience from the senses is the world of particulars, which could also be called the world of change because all things are in flux, as Heraclitus pointed out. Now, we see the particulars and the changing events of this world, but this experience is not real knowledge. You can imagine any idiot having sensory experiences of various things and events, but that idiot has no clue as to what those particulars mean, what they are, or what they do. The experience of a virtuous deed or of a beautiful body requires us to recognize such and such as virtuous or beautiful. The idiot, or the senses alone, sees Helen of Troy, but how does one know Helen as beautiful? Do you not recognize the Form of Beauty in Helen?
Student: I see. The senses do not reveal goodness or beauty, because they are just dumb. It is the Intellect, or the rational character of the soul, which recognizes these divine qualities and virtues.
And it is not that the Intellect has to analytically or inductively work out from accumulated experiences what is good or beautiful and what is not; but that Good and Beauty are recollected within the Intellect.
Plato: Yes. However many times we might experience beautiful bodies and virtuous deeds, even if they are the finest of examples, and however large our collection of these examples; we still must already have an innate knowing of the Good and the Beautiful - otherwise how could we recognize these qualities when we see them? And my dear Student, we do know them in the world. The Forms are found right here in this world of experience. They make up this world, manifesting in greater or lesser purities. But we know of the Forms within the psyche, and They are found in the world when They are recognized or recollected intelligibly by the rational soul.
Student: Then how are the Forms recognized in this world that we sense? How do the senses mediate this knowledge? There must be some kind of connection between the senses and Knowledge, between the objects as sensed and the Forms as known.
Plato: Good insight. You are right in pointing out that we experience this world by way of the senses. And I have said that the senses are dumb, and that the Forms are not sensed. Surely, we cannot sense morality or virtue. These are Forms known from within. Yet, we can find examples of morality and virtues in the world we sense. The answer to your question may come with further inquiry and as this dialogue proceeds, but I can give a few clues. The Forms have a power to reveal Themselves intelligibly even through the senses, and our Intellect, or rational nature of the soul, finds the meaning in sensed phenomena. Forms are the meaning found, that which gives understanding to the sensed world. The sensed object or event reminds us of a certain Form, because it a) has that power of the Form within it and b) has a similar approximate structure patterned after the paradigm Form.
Student: So the world leads us, or reminds us, to a knowledge of the Forms, and this Knowledge informs us about the nature of the world.
Plato: The Forms give us objective knowledge about the world and who we are. In fact, the Forms are distinct forms of objective knowledge. Each Form is a certain knowing or Noesis or recollection.
These Forms are not “things” that we know but are the knowings themselves. Thus, the Form of Beauty is the knowing of Beauty. That knowledge is the Form. It is not knowledge about Beauty but of Beauty that we seek. We can have theories and hypothesis and thoughts about Beauty and what is beautiful, but this is not the same as the actual knowing of Beauty Itself. Would you rather know about Beauty, and maybe even be able to describe certain principles of Beauty to others, or would you rather realize or actually experience Beauty?
Student: I see your point. The knowing of Beauty and Goodness is what I aspire to, and this is different than images and descriptions about That which can only be known directly.
Plato: Yes. Noesis is the highest and most direct knowing. It is not achieved through ordinary thought, reasoning, or even dialectic. It is the spontaneous awakening of Forms within the psyche. It is the illumination of the Forms. It is the recollection of Knowledge. All else which we often say is knowledge is actually either hypothesis, beliefs, images, or illusions. Granted, the process of dialectic, using hypotheses and examination, can help give birth to these Forms of Knowing or Noesis; but the birth itself, or the awakening, is a spontaneous occurrence of the soul. I can only be a midwife to this and help you recognize what is true knowing from what is mere belief or opinions.
Student: Then, if I realize the Good will I be good?
Plato: You will be good because you will know Good. You become Good through the knowing of Good, and you will manifest the Good when you finally know the Good. The Good engenders the good, but only when its vehicle, which is you, has recollection or realization of It. And in the knowing of the Good, you, meaning the soul which does know, is in fact good, or has become good through the knowing of the Good.
Student: It sounds very mystical.
Plato: It’s only mystical when you have not yet attained this knowing, when it is still a great mystery. But if you were to realize the Good you would understand what I’m saying as if it were as simple as tasting wine. The knowing of which I speak is direct.
It is a pure Vision, which makes it different and higher than mere hypothesis or beliefs. This Vision or Insight of a Form, the highest of which is Good and Beauty, is an actual condition of the psyche.
The psyche is the vehicle or chariot of understanding. It is the place of understanding. In fact, it is the condition of understanding. And in actuality it is the understanding itself, because all that the psyche really is is knowledge. Some of this knowledge is illuminated and some is not though potentially inherent, and the actual condition of the psyche (vs. its potential condition) is determined by what is illuminated.
Student: But Plato, you say the psyche is a vehicle, then a place, then a condition for understanding, then the understanding itself or knowledge or illumination of knowledge. As a student of philosophy I demand a bit more clarity.
Plato: What may appear as illogical from below can be seen as perfectly intelligible from above. You must seek to grasp whatever you can according to your present insight, and maybe latter you will understand what is difficult now. The rational soul, which is the true “you”, can ascend higher and higher into greater illumination, if one continues to make efforts in the contemplative and dialectic arts. Your soul is your Being, and it is in a certain condition at any one time, that condition being its understanding or knowledge.
This knowledge or knowingness is the real substance or condition of the soul, which is to say that knowledge is the Being of the soul.
But even this can be misleading, because knowledge, Being and soul are really the same, though we use the terms in different ways according to the need of the dialogue.
Student: If I acquire a greater knowledge of the Forms does my Being grow or become greater?
Plato: In one sense yes and in another sense no. You see, the True Being is the Good Itself, and Being contains all knowledge within It.
All Forms of Knowing and Being are within, or at least available to, the rational soul, the higher psyche of man. The psyche is made up of the substances of these Forms, or we could say that the powers of these Forms are within the psyche. Now, the difference between you and Fred is a difference in illumination of the Forms. All is potentially within both you and he, but the actual condition, vs. the potential condition, of your psyches is different. One of you is more illuminated. So, as knowledge is illuminated, which is understanding, the condition of the soul becomes brighter with the Light of Intelligence. And as the Form of Beauty is illuminated the soul becomes more beautiful, and as the Form of the Good is illuminated the soul becomes more good. Thus, the condition of the psyche or Being is actually growing, brightening, refining, and becoming what it truly is and is meant to be.
Student: So Being and becoming are intimately related. The Being of the soul is in a process of becoming. That must be the meaning of education and the purpose of Socrates as a midwife. He was assisting in bringing Being into birth, bringing Forms or Knowledge into illumination. And the dialectic he used, consisting of dialogue and examination, was a tool for this awakening. And the world of appearances can lead us to knowledge, but the knowledge, the illumination is an inner event.
Plato: My dear Student, there may be hope for you after all! You are beginning to sound wise. Remember that the education of the soul and the illumination of wisdom is brought to birth through our dialogue and intercourse. We are lovers of wisdom and we find the Great Goddess Sophia within ourselves, which is where we will find all the gods and powers of the Cosmos. We are here together because we love each other. We love the Wisdom, the Good, and the Beauty in each other, and when we recognize these divine qualities in the other we want them ourselves. We want to possess this soul of awakened qualities and intercourse with her. And if the love is strong, there is nothing that can stop the lover from reaching the heart of the beloved and embrace that beloved with the most erotic intensity of longing. Something deep is shared between the two lovers, such as ourselves, which is Wisdom, Goodness and Beauty, and thus we come to share in each other’s Being, and eventually realize there is only one Being, just as there is only one Wisdom, one Good, one Beauty. So I ask you, where is Socrates? Who was he and who is he now?
Student: You frighten me Plato. I feel I know what you mean but I am afraid to answer. I want to become wise like you and Socrates. I want to become good and do good things. I want to know the Forms. I want to know the Good.
Plato: Knowledge of the Good makes us wise, and with this wisdom we will know what is good and how to produce what is good. The illumination of the Good illuminates all other knowledge because all other knowledge is of the Good. The Good is like the sun illuminating and nourishing all below it. All knowing is conditioned by the Good, which is Itself the unconditioned and self-evident highest Principle of Being.
Student: Does this mean that there is a hierarchy of knowledge with the Good standing at the top?
Plato: Yes. The Good is not only ontologically prior to all other Forms of knowledge, but it also unifies all of the Forms and thus all of the world embodying those Forms. You see, the Good is actually Being Itself. It is the essence of all Being and the ultimate aim of all becoming.
Student: So it is both the cause of all things and the aim of all things?
Plato: It is what the higher soul ultimately searches for. It is the greatest question there is, the greatest cause, and the greatest end.
There is nothing of higher dignity. It is the greatest power of the universe.
Student: So how can I know this power and how can I make it act in my life?
Plato: The knowledge of the Good will empower your actions. But this knowledge is not like a recipe-book or a rule-book. It is not a knowledge of many good ways of action. We can easily realize that there is not one manner of good for all circumstances, so the Good is not a certain plan or a form of action. And like I have said, a Form is not about a collection of things or of actions. It is a knowing, and the Form of the Good is the moral intelligence which can inform our actions. It is not mere information but is the Intelligence or Knowingness which informs us about goodness. It is the Power which informs us of what is good.
Student: So then the Form of Good is a power. But you said it was a knowing. Is it the power which gives the knowing or is it the knowing itself which is a power?
Plato: The knowledge of Good is a power which gives us the understanding of what is good in the world. The Knowledge of Good, or Form of Good, is how we recognize good in the world. And the good that we recognize is that same Goodness which we know. We only recognize the Good in this world because of our knowing of the Good intelligibly within our psyche. Thus, the Good is the power of knowing the Good in this world. The Form is a power of knowing, and a power that knows or recognizes Itself.
Student: But then what about the Form of Beauty? Is it the power of knowing Beauty in this world?
Plato: Yes, the Form of Beauty is the power of knowing Beauty in this world. The Form of Beauty is the knowing of Beauty itself, and from this Form of Beauty-knowledge we can recognize its manifestations in this world. Yet the Form is not just epistemological but ontological as well. Beauty and the Good are a Form of knowing and a Form of Being. These Forms are definitely real. They are powers which make the things and events in this world. The Good produces good and Beauty produces beauty. The more a thing partakes of the Form of Beauty the more it is found to be beautiful, and the same with the Good. So the Forms not only inform the world but They engender the world as well. The Forms are both Knowledge and Being. And the Beingness gives real substance to things in this world. It is what makes things what they are. Or in other words, the Form of Being is the true nature of what a thing is. We say someone is good or their actions are good because the Good is living or embodied in that. We say someone is beautiful because the Beautiful is engendered in that particular form. We might even say that a bed is a bed because the Form of Bed lives within that particular. The Form of Bed is the reality of that particular, the meaning of it, and cause to it.
Student: What I hear you saying is that the Forms are ontological powers or substances within things, that the Forms are what is truly real and the things of this world are temporal manifestations of these Realities.
Plato: Temporal indeed! The things of this world are in continual flux. They come and go, but the Forms eternally remain as essential Realities and Knowings. The Forms are also pure and always remain purely themselves, while things in this world can never perfectly manifest the Forms. We can know the Forms intelligibly in their purity and singularity, and we can even recognize these pure Forms in the world of things, but no particular thing manifests the pure and perfect Form.
Student: But that doesn’t seem to make sense. You say we can recognize the pure Form in this world but nothing here manifests that purity.
Plato: That is correct. The things of this world are not pure nor perfect manifestations of the Forms. Yet, what we intelligibly recognize is the Form itself. We look at Helen of Troy and recognize the Form of Beauty. The Beauty we recognize is the same Beauty recognized in my wife. There is only one Beauty, and we either recognize It or not. It is the power that moves us to that recollection and feeling of Beauty. Yet, each of these women look different, and each of them have at least a few flaws. Each lacks perfect Beauty to a certain extent. But when we are recognizing the Beauty we are not seeing the flaws or lack of Beauty. We are focused upon and are moved by the Beauty Itself in Its singularity. Still, the particular object of our attention is not wholly perfect. Beauty is certainly evident and recognizable, but we could also recognize that which is not beautiful or other Forms. But here, the Form of Beauty in its perfection is what we recognize, even if the particular person is not purely and perfectly beautiful. The imperfection is due to the mixture of various Forms in the whole body, the mixture of which is not wholly Beauty. If the container held only Beauty it would then be pure and perfect Beauty. If the container were to partake of more Beauty it would then be more beautiful. So, the quantity of a Form, along with the proportional mixture of many Forms, determines the nature and relative perfection of that object.
And this quantity and proportion determines the intensity of our recollection of a Form. In other words, we can more easily recognize the Form of Beauty when an object has more objective Beauty relative to the proportion of other Forms revealing Themselves.
Student: How then is the Form, which is known within, recognized in an object outside in the sensed world? Plato: The Form of Beauty is what produces the recognition of Beauty in that particular. We could only recognize the Beauty in that particular either if a) the Form of Beauty as an ontological substance or power were actually within the particular so that we see It as living through the object, or b) the particular object has enough resemblance to the transcendental Form of Beauty that we are able to recollect that Form within our psyche.
In both of these options the Form is ultimately real and known within the psyche. The difference is that in the immanent option of (a) the Form is substantially within the object and has the power to illuminate the knowing of Beauty, while in the transcendental option of (b) the object is more or less a copy of the paradigm of Beauty and it’s approximation to the Intelligible Form reminds us of that Form. In (a) Beauty would not be recognized in that object if there were an insufficient degree of Beauty substance/power manifesting or being in it, while in (b) Beauty would not be recollected or reminded within the psyche if the object did not sufficiently model or approximate the Form Itself. Which of these options do you think is correct?
Student: Both seem to be plausible. The first option shows Forms to be real powers manifesting in things, like the power of Beauty revealing Itself through Helen.
Plato: It also suggests that the Forms are the true nature or Being substantiating things. In this view, the Forms are ontological realities, not only existing in the psyche but also in the world.
Each Form or Power-Quality can manifest in the world to varying object partakes of certain Forms to varying degrees. The more of a Form that a thing partakes of, the more that thing embodies the Form, and the more the Form is evident to us. Thus, there is a qualitative difference in the amount of Beauty substantiating and qualifying a certain thing. Also, each particular thing is somewhat of a mixture of Forms, so the whole of the thing cannot be purely one Form.
Student: Now I have a few questions. First, is the Form less in Itself when it is less in a thing? Or does the Form lose some of Itself when sharing its substance with the things?
Plato: These are difficult questions. The Form Itself remains fully Itself, just as the color red remains red even when shared. And the substance or quality of red is not less red even when if it is weakly applied to paper. If more or less of a Form manifests in an object, the difference in degree is with the object, not the Form. Likewise if there is less of the Form, the less is with the object, not the Form. The Form is never changed or exhausted when being in things.
Qualities are not exhausted. No Studenter how many beautiful bodies exist, the Form and Power of Beauty remains what it is, unconditioned itself but conditioning things. The Form is not ontologically dependent upon the object or collection of objects participating in It, so It transcends what it is immanent within.
Student: I see that as possible. But I’m still unclear as to how one can recognize the singular and perfect Form of Beauty in objects which are less than perfectly beautiful or less than purely beautiful, due to the amount of that substantial Quality and the mixturing in of others?
Plato: Do you see how there could only be one singular Form of Beauty, just as there is only one singular Form of the Good? Otherwise, there would be two Forms of the Form, and this is not only illogical but would create conflict in the psyche. Indeed, there is only one Form of Beauty, which is what we know as beauty. It is that certain Knowing which we call Beauty. Now, the recognition of Beauty can be more or less intense. The recognition of Helen’s beauty is strong, while the recognition of my wife’s beauty is weaker. But it is still the same Being-Quality of Beauty that is recognized. The recognition is more or less intense, due to the power-intensity of that Beauty in the body. Still, the Quality Itself is recognized in its singularity and purity. What the object is and what we see with the eyes is a mixture of various Qualities. My wife is a fine example of being a mixture, although she often says that I’m the one who is mixed up. Many Qualities are manifesting in this one person. She is a mixture, but I can intelligible realize each singular Form within that mixture. Each is there and has not lost any of its substance, like if I were to add five different ingredients to the soup the essential substances of those ingredients would remain in the soup, although some would be hidden if they were overpowered by others. The more of one ingredient put in, the easier it is to recognize or taste it. If we can taste garlic in the soup, however weak it is, we know the one and only taste of garlic. It is the same form of taste, the same knowing, that we would we have if we were to taste my wife’s garlic soup, which doesn’t have much else in it. Then again, it may not be easy to recognize a certain Form within things because there is so little of It or there is so much of other Forms that the one we are looking for gets lost in the mixture. None the less, the wholeness of the substantial Quality is being manifested, not just a part of It. It may appear to lose its purity in the mixture, and appear as imperfect due to an insufficient amount being realized; but the whole Substance is there. It is meaningless to divide the Substance into parts because the quality remains the same. Alcohol is still alcohol no Studenter how little of it I put in the glass. I can put more or less, but I cannot divide the quality into more than one substance and put one half in glass A and the other different half in glass B. In reality, both glasses would contain the whole substance known as alcohol.
Student: You have given me a thorough explanation. So I wonder if the other option you had given can be correct, since this one seems to work so well. Still, the other option is inviting. The Forms seem to be ideals, which things can approximate to some degree of perfection. I would think that the Form would act as a kind of model paradigm for things to follow. In this sense, the Good is an actual ideal, pre-existent in the mind, of which we participate in to varying degrees of perfection. We come ever close in our approximation to this ideal Form. What I like about this view of the Forms is that it gives me something real to aspire towards. What I learned from the previous theory was that the Good and Beauty are substantial powers which produce the knowing of those Forms within my soul, and They manifest and are recognized more or less. I come to know the Good because the power of the Good makes Itself recognizable. But what kind of knowing is this?
Plato: It is direct knowing.
Student: But how will it help me?
Plato: The power of that Knowledge will be awakened in you, and so you will just know what is Good from what is not and your actions will follow from this wisdom.
Student: But I want to know what is Good, what it means, how it works, what is it like. I want to know what is Beauty, what does it look like or how do I know it when I see it. If I do have a direct Vision of these Forms, how do I know it is True if I have nothing Real to compare it with?
Plato: My dear Student, you are surely perplexed. Good! That is the sign of a pregnant soul, and maybe, I surely hope, you will soon give birth to a wonderful child of knowledge and insight.
Student: There must be some definable features or principles of the Good and the Beautiful. Even if it is a power having a substantial qualifying effect upon those engendered by it, the Form must have some kind of actual structure that patterns the thing participating in It. Even if the Form is a Quality, that Quality must have an efficacious structural pattern which guides the thing to be what it is. In other words, there must be certain definable characteristics of such a qualitative Form, or certain definable effects which are produced by It.
Plato: But as I’ve said Student, the characteristic and effect of the Good is Goodness Itself.
Student: But surely Plato, the Good must have some more characteristics other than just being Good! Is there not more one can say about the Good? The characteristic of Goodness must reveal some schematic form, some efficacious structure, some underlying pattern. Beauty must empower its objects in some characteristic way. There must surely be some elements or properties or patterns of which Beauty always reveals. Otherwise, how do we know if such or such is beautiful? Do we not recognize some elemental patterns which make Beauty what it is?
Plato: We know of Beauty because of the Vision or recollection of Beauty in our psyche. And yes you are right about what you say, but these characteristics “other than just being Good” are just that - they are other characteristics, but not outside of the Good. The Good is just what it is. Beauty is just what it is. It is a whole, singular Form. But within It there are a plurality of characteristics, a plurality of other Qualities or Forms. Thus, there are lesser Forms nested in the greater Forms, such as the Good, Beauty, Justice, and Existence. So you are right in that these great Forms, like the Good and Beauty have a certain determinate structure, schematic, paradigm, or pattern, but you need to see that this structure consists of a whole hierarchy of Forms under the One in question. Each one Form consists of a plurality of Forms. For instance, the Forms of Rest and Motion are within the Form of Existence.
Student: You have now opened up a great vision for me. I can see a vast complex universe of Forms within Forms.
Plato: The method of realizing these hierarchies within the divinely ordered world of Forms is what I have called the dialectic of collection and division. We can examine a certain Form and discover the necessary characteristics and meanings within it, which are the divisions of the one Form. In this way, we are discovering what makes up a Form or what many Forms the one Form consists of. Moving in the other direction of this dialectic, we can discover the one Form unifying a group of Forms and standing as their ontological ground. The higher, unifying Form embraces, pervades and extends through its lower Forms. This upward dialectic is actually re-collection, because the collection the lower Forms bring about a recognition or recollection of the higher Form. Or in other words, the higher Form is recollected in the examination of the lower Forms.
Student: How does the world reflect this Cosmic structure of Forms? And how do these Forms effect the world?
Plato: You might picture each Form as a certain geometric pattern or shape which patterns or shapes those things participating in It. This geometric pattern also serves as an ideal to better approximate, just like the wheelwright tries to attain the most perfect circle possible in order to produce the best possible wheel.
Student: Can each Form then be definable or plotted out and approached like the circle? If we could just have an idea of what it should look like, or if we could know its characteristics, then we could better work with the Form and craft It into becoming.
Plato: We could think of the Form as being a certain design criteria or general pattern for things to follow. The Forms do have some kind of pattern and characteristic qualities. We could say that Beauty consists of harmony, proportion, balance, grace, so that these would be various qualitative Forms of the Form of Beauty. And if we were to design or craft something beautiful, we could use these Forms as the criteria of design and the ideals towards which we aspire. To use my famous analogy of the bed, of which so many philosophical whores have prostituted from, and in which I get so little rest, the Form of the bed is that certain design criteria which is common to all beds and ideally followed in order to craft the bed. The design criteria or the paradigm of a bed is not an exact form of a bed. The Forms are not like the objects we see and use in this world. One cannot picture in the mind the ideal Form of bed. That picture would be a particular example of a bed and can be used to craft the actual physical bed, but it is not the Form of bed. It is a form but not The Form. So, Forms are not really forms as we usually consider a form to be.
Student: But Plato, you just said that one could picture the Form as a geometric shape. Is not a shape a form?
Plato: Good. I’m glad your staying awake. I had said you might picture the Forms as geometric shapes, but I didn’t actually say they were shapes. It is useful to see the whole scheme geometrically, but we shouldn’t think of the Forms in too rigid of a way. The Forms have a kind of inner structure analogous to geometric patterns, but the pattern only structures, it does not rigidly determine shape. The structuring pattern allows for a certain degree of freedom in the actual detailed completion, though determining the essential, required structure. The ideal or Form of bed is not an exactly determined shape of the most perfect bed. I would not suggest that the perfect society make one uniform shape of bed for all to sleep.
Instead, I suggest it is possible for many different shapes and styles of beds to be participating, relatively perfect, in the ideal Form of bed. This is possible because the Form is a design criteria or structural requirement for the ideal. A thing should model after the ideal or approximate itself to It, not to a certain form you can see but to the structural requirement - a structure which consists of the required lesser Forms or characteristics nested within that Form.
Student: I see now how the Forms are ideals, but they are not overly specific ideals. You have called them paradigms, patterns, schematics, and inner structures. But if these ideals are not specific, then how can they guide us, or how can we be guided by them?
Plato: You do not need rigid and detailed instructions in order to be guided. General guidelines or principles are adequate. The ideals of the Good, of Beauty, and of Justice, provide us with all that we shall need in order to recognize the ideal-Form and to approach the ideal-Form. Inherent in the Form is the design-pattern, which is the ideal, and this ideal provides the guiding structure determining that which participates in It, so that the Good patterns things to be good and Beauty patterns things to be beautiful. That design-pattern or guiding structure of a Form is the same in all things participating in the Form, so we can find this common pattern in all things manifesting the Form. And this design-pattern is general and flexible, but not vague and ambiguous. It is a real structure with real criteria. In this way, we are able to recognize the Form of a thing because we recognize the pattern or structure of the Form, though this is still an instant recognition and not an analytical one. The pattern or structure also provides the ideal to which the particular object is a rough copy, and to which we might say it aspires toward. Each thing follows, better or worse, the ideal design-pattern of the Form. Or we could say that each thing is guided, according to its capacity, by the ideal design-pattern.
Student: This notion of the Form as an ideal design-pattern is kind of different than the other notion we discussed previously. It seems less mystical and it gives me hope that the higher Forms of Virtue can be somewhat defined. And yet it implies an ideal structure that transcends this world, to which things are meant to follow or copy, but can never actually be.
Plato: It is true that the Forms transcend this world of flux, change, and becoming. When viewing the Forms as substantial powers, which you see as more mystical, They transcend this world because They are unconditioned and unchanged by it, but at the same time They immanently exist as the true Being-power within this world of becoming. When viewing the Forms as design-patterns, They transcend this world because They are unchanging perfect ideals not found in appearances, but at the same time They act as the inner schematic or structures within and guiding the world of becoming. Thus, the world of Being, which is the world of the Forms and also the substance/design of the higher soul, is intimately related with the world of becoming, impregnating it with meaning, power, and ideal structure.
Student: How then Plato, are the Forms impregnating, empowering, structuring, and informing the world of becoming while this world we experience is full of imperfections?
Plato: The world of Being and the world of becoming are dialectical divisions of the Form Reality. They are intimately related by a process of intercourse from the world of Being to the world of becoming. The world of Being impregnates the world of becoming. It gives life and wisdom, power and design, virtue and ideal, knowledge and meaning. The reason this world is full of imperfections, especially human beings, is because it is coming into Being. And it is becoming from Being. It is becoming Being, meaning that it is approaching the perfect quality and ideal structure of the Forms, of Being. The world of change is moving toward and approaching the perfection of the Ideal world of Forms. The soul is approaching the perfection of Being, which is its own inherent perfect Being, not yet realized. And this Perfect Being is the Beloved of the soul. Being is the Beloved of the one becoming. We, the soul, are in the process of becoming. Yet, it is Being that is becoming. Being becomes through this world of change. So, Perfection is coming into being or is in the process of becoming. Hence, there are imperfections in the world because the world is not yet fully transformed by the world of Being. Or in other words, the world has not yet fully come into Being. Being has yet to fully become. The Good is the Highest Ideal of which all aspire. It is also the Power that moves the soul to further reaches and awakenings of Knowledge. The Good is coming into being, it is becoming. We can say the same for Beauty. The soul’s awakening or recollection is also a becoming into being, because the awakening brings the Forms of Being into the actual condition of the soul. The soul’s condition is in a process of becoming, from Being.
The psychic condition is becoming from Being. The psyche is Being in essence and potential, and this Being comes forth, manifests, and conditions, in the process of becoming awake and self-evident.
Knowledge is the awakening of the Forms. And this awakening or recollection or knowledge is the actual condition of the soul, which is in a process of recollection, which is the process of becoming, a becoming of knowledge, knowing, noesis. The knowing is of Being, but the knowing itself is a becoming of Being. It is an awakening of the potential Knowingness, the Form. So, the soul’s awakening of its potential Knowledge is a becoming of Being. And until the soul and all souls have fully awakened and recollected the fullness and perfection of Being, the soul and the world will be imperfect and we will experience imperfections. The power of Knowing and the ideal design-pattern, both as aspects or divisions of Being, have yet to realize themselves, have yet to completely manifest. And our work, as aspiring souls, is to awaken the Knowledge within and follow the design of this Knowingness. We, as philosophers, as lovers of Wisdom, must contemplate upon the Forms and dialectically examine Them, and thus come to Know and awaken the Forms, and from here we are able to realize the design-patterns of the Cosmos and bring them into completion, through our actions and crafts.