Plato’s Theory of Ideas, What is the World of Ideas?

Plato’s Theory of Ideas, What is the World of Ideas?

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Plato’s theory of ideas is a philosophical system on which Plato built almost all of his philosophy. theory of ideas; It points to two different areas of existence, the world of ideas and the world of senses or the world of images. In this article, we will examine the theory of ideas in depth by distinguishing between the world of ideas and the world of senses within the framework of Plato’s theory of ideas.


Plato’s early works are called Socratic dialogues because they were written largely under the influence of Socrates. The main purpose of these works is to provide precise definitions of virtue and its subtypes.

In these works, Socrates emphasizes that the definition sought should focus on the immutable essence of virtue, not its variable aspects; but it does not clearly reveal what this essence is.

With Plato’s dialogue named Gorgias, which is accepted as a transition to the works of maturity, in which he started to reflect his own views, a visible change occurred in the course of typical investigations that we encounter in Socratic dialogues.

In this dialogue, for the first time, clear statements about what virtue is, and Socrates gives a definition of virtue for the first time. Therefore, Gorgias is accepted as a work in which Plato got rid of the influence of Socrates and started to develop his own views.

The reason for this apparent change is attributed to a trip by Plato to Southern Italy. In this geography under the influence of Pythagoreanism, Plato met with Pythagorean teachings and this acquaintance had important effects on the development of his thoughts.

Two doctrines marked the further development of Plato’s thoughts: “the doctrine of Ideas” and “the doctrine of the immortality of the soul”. These two teachings, which complement each other like two sides of a coin, form the basis of Platonic philosophy. So much so that it would not be an exaggeration to say that Plato’s understanding of existence, knowledge, morality and society ultimately derives from these two teachings.

It is clear that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was developed largely under the influence of the Pythagoreans. The doctrine of Ideas is a product of Plato’s admirable intellectual synthesis among the natural philosophers before him.


All elements of Platonic philosophy can ultimately be based on two important teachings; “the doctrine of ideas” and “the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.”

At first glance, the theory of ideas seems to have been developed as a response to the discussion of virtue left inconclusive in the Socratic dialogues.

The fact that the ideas mentioned in the Phaedo, the work in which the doctrine was revealed for the first time in its entirety, are related to moral concepts such as justice, beauty and goodness (Phaidon, 69ac) is an indication of this. N

Moreover, in Euthyphron (Guthrie, 1995: 114), in which Plato used the words “idea” and “eidos” for the first time, it is said that the definition of religiousness should focus on the unchangeable essence common to all different aspects of the religious. It is referred to by the words “eidos” (Euthyphro, 6de).

It turns out that the ideas are “What is the definition or essence of virtue?” to which Socrates did not give a clear answer. They constitute an answer to the question and correspond to the definitional succinctness he points to in the discussions. For example; There is an essence of courage which is common to all brave things and makes them all “brave”, and this is nothing but the idea of ​​courage.

Although Plato primarily talks about ideas related to moral concepts such as goodness, beauty and justice (Parmenides, 130b; Phaedrus, 250d), numbers (Phaidon, 101bc), natural and ordinary objects (Timaios, 51b; Sophist, 266b; Parmenides, 130c), even He says that man-made things also have ideas (State, 596a 597d; Sophist 265b; Kratylos, 389a). He gradually comes to the conclusion that all visible/sensible things in the universe have an idea.

The word “eidos”, which means “form”, “form” in Greek and which Plato sometimes uses instead of “idea”, means “appearance”, “shape” in Homer (Peters, 1967: 4647), later on “species”. Thucydides referred to this word when talking about the types of war and the Hippocrates when talking about the types of disease (Hardie, 1936: 11). In geometry, the word is used more in the sense of abstract “shape”.

On this basis, Plato’s understanding of being is based on the assumption that all sensible/visible things, our thoughts and concepts, are related to ideas with a reality that has an existence beyond the sensible world and independent of it.

For example, there is a single tree idea that gives its existence to individual particular trees in nature, and this idea has an existence independent of tree particulars. This is true of all sensible things. But ideas are not in a structure that we can grasp with our sense organs, they can only be known and comprehended by thought.

Platonic philosophy clearly distinguishes the visible/sensible area (aisthetos topos) formed by the things that appeal to our sense organs and the intelligible area (noetos topos), that is, the ideas. Thus, Plato put forward two basic assumptions of the doctrine of ideas.