Suppose you have an unripe banana that is yellow with a greenish tint. We could say that this banana partially embodies the platonic ideal of yellowness. We could also say that to a lesser degree it embodies the property of greenness. Then again, we could say that it's the perfect embodiment of #cff000ness. There is no limit to how specific our platonic ideals can get. What stops us from considering this banana the platonic ideal of itself?

If we say that two bananas are similar because they both share in the properties of yellowness and banana-shape-ness it's because we have the man-made abstraction of "yellow" and "banana-shape". From a mathematical point of view, they will always have subtle differences in colour and shape. Is there a transcendental reasoning for this abstraction?

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    Eidos (see Theory of forms) are about essence and not color. A banana is a banana irerspective of its color. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 13:00
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    Haecceities and tropes are two kinds of things, not especially distinct per the concept of them, out of which this notion of "the Platonic Form of an individual thing" can fall. However, introducing a Form for every individual seems to devalue the point of introducing Forms at all, so one would have, perhaps, a sort of retorsion argument against Forms, here. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 14:31
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    As per (good) answer below, every effort to read philosophical thesis from the point of view of modern science (in a broad sense) is meaningless. The One, the Good... and lastly the Banana. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:05
  • The issue is that Plato was not committed to explain, in the modern sense, how mundane objects and facts works. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:06
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    Even Kronecker thought God created the natural numbers...
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 13:41

1 Answer 1


Although Plato's Theory of Forms presents as a consistent, "scientific" system of metaphysics, it doesn't really hold up under scrutiny, and there's a strong tradition of thought that it was never actually meant to. Plato's philosophy in general is riddled with inconsistencies. Almost none of it is possible to follow through with in an rigorous manner, such as suggested by your question.

For quite a long time, the assumption was Plato was just getting things wrong, or being sloppy. That's largely how Aristotle and his followers took it, and it's still a live and popular view. But several centuries after Plato's death, a new school of thinkers, led by Plotinus, formulated the "Neo-Platonic" interpretation of Plato's work. Under this view (which I personally hold), Plato's mistakes and inconsistencies are deliberate. He's trying to explain concepts and ideas that he does not believe can EVER possibly be contained, directly conveyed, or fully explained in ordinary language. Instead, he's giving us an elaborate set of metaphors and analogies meant to guide us towards the Truth without ever embodying it.

In the Neo-Platonic universe, there's only one truly REAL entity, which Plotinus called "the One" but that Plato calls the "Form of Good." We might visualize it as being like the sun in the center of the solar system. In orbit around it are less real, less perfect copies of the Form of Good. Close in, and almost identical with the Form of Good are things like the Form of Beauty or the Form of Love. At a further remove are things like the Form of a Chair or the Form of a Banana. And all the way out here in the ordinary world, are even more degraded copies, like an actual chair or actual banana. But all those other "Forms" besides the Form of the Good are really just metaphors, things to lead you to thinking about the Form of the Good. Plato discusses them at length, but he isn't really committed to their metaphysical existence (at least not in this read). So the Neo-Platonic answer to your headline question is "1".


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    I upvoted this answer, and FWIW I would like to add that when Kant uses the word "ideal" over and above "idea," he defines his usage, that extra letter in the word, such that there can be only one ideal proper, however many are the ideas surrounding it. And of course the transcendental ideal is God, so it appears that we have a nice little bit of Plotinus popping up in Kant, of all places! Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:03
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    +1 Authoritative response.
    – J D
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:39
  • Zen Buddhism is revealed to be just "footnotes to Plato"... (along with everything else)
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 23:41

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