I was reading that the platonic forms have the following principles

 1. Commonality 
 2. Separation 
 3. Self-Predication 
 4. Purity 
 5. Uniqueness 
 6. Sublimity

But if there is a Platonic form of Existence (in the same way as beauty or the good) then the fourth principle says that this form is made up entirely of existence. But then all the other forms have the principle of purity to. So the form of Beauty contains only beauty and nothing from the form of existence. So it doesn't exist and neither do any of the other forms - which doesn't seem right.

What have I done wrong here. Where is my flaw in this reasoning?

Many Thanks

  • First you are doing nothing wrong. Moreover if you arrived at paradox it is a SURE thing you are doing EVERYTHING right. I suggest that Plato asks us to see that Beauty CAN be separated from the Existence, so he tells that it is "independent" idea. Conception. The highest feeling. But it is no possible without existence.
    – Asphir Dom
    Apr 24, 2014 at 11:06

2 Answers 2


I think you've become confused with the theory. Forms are in fact universal intelligible concepts that all exist in a higher level with all the characteristics you have listed. So form of Beauty exists just as form of Existence exists. Form of Existence is not unique because of its existence (because all other Forms similarly exist) but because of its essence. Uniqueness of Forms is underpinned by the fact that Forms exist separately and each have a unique essence. So Beauty and Existence as forms are mutually exclusive both in existence (being separate) and essence (distinct/unique in nature) while they both exist.

  • thank you for that. So does your interpretation rest on a difference between essence and existence. I know that this one of Avicenna's insights. Is it possible to add a bit more? With the form of Existance is there and essence of existence within that form seperate from the actual existence that all the forms would have? Apr 26, 2014 at 14:58
  • @CrabBucket, I just noticed I made a serious semantic slip. Forms have separate existence and distinct essence. Please reread the edited version of my answer.
    – infatuated
    Apr 26, 2014 at 15:22
  • More simply put, you are simply confusing existence as referring to the actual being of things with Existence as a Platonic Form.
    – infatuated
    Apr 26, 2014 at 15:24
  • But the purity aspect of the property of forms in the question leads me to believe that forms are made up entirely and only of what they represent. So the form of Beauty is made of pure beauty and nothing else. So the form of Existence is made of existence and nothing else. The form of Existence is wholely and totally existence. (the form of) Existence is existence, the whole of existence and nothing but existence. There is no difference. Or is there - if you can clarify why this is wrong then that would be great.Thanks Apr 26, 2014 at 15:43
  • @CrabBucket See, right when you say "form of Existence is wholly and totally existence" you confuse Existence as a form (marked by a capital "E") with a general notion of existence in your predicate. Also imagine if your assumption is true then no other form can exist; and that no existence (with small "e") could be beautiful (with small "b") and in fact no particular object can be described by more than one universal while this is not true.
    – infatuated
    Apr 26, 2014 at 16:12

The best answer, although it may be unsatisfying, is that it's a mistake to ever take Plato too literally. At root, everything he says is just a metaphor to help people conceptualize a deeper level of Reality that defies more straightforward explanations.

This is particularly true of the Theory of the Forms, which rapidly falls apart if you try to make too much of a science out of it. As mentioned in this article, even in the dialogues themselves, Plato admits to certain inconsistencies and paradoxes stemming from the details of the theory.

The point of it all, as is true of every word Plato wrote, is to make you think past superficial appearances to the deeper truths that they hide.

  • eXactly. So OP asked you what do you think about it? Past superficial. He tried to think and it does not work.
    – Asphir Dom
    Apr 24, 2014 at 9:58

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