First of all i would like to state my understanding of 'Plato's theory of forms' (very short version; excuse my poor english):

The platonic ideas are much more than mere representations in the human mind. Rather, they are an objective metaphysical reality. The ideas, not the objects of sense experience, represent the actual reality. The world of ​​the ideas and the physical world are first separated and the human as a thinking being is capable of (completely without sensory experiences through sheer power of thought) gaining knowledge. Such as through a telescope individual areas of the world of ideas are illuminated but it is not possible to achieve the 'complete' knowledge.Plato's allegory of the cave describes this process metaphorically extremely accurate.

I now have the following train of thought: Is it perhaps possible or even in Plato's philosophy that a human being after he was born, just has forgotten everything, as he passes from the ideas in the physical world? But all knowledge is still hidden in him and he only needs to realize everything 'once again'? I am drawing a connection between this assumption and the 'savant-syndrom'. For example: The savant 'Anthony Thomas "Tony" DeBlois' started playing the piano at the age of two. Beyond that Wikipedia says:

He specializes in jazz but can play just about any other type of music as well. A savant, he plays 20 musical instruments and has held concerts worldwide but also has his own band, Goodnuf. He can play about 8,000 pieces from memory.

Is not this a proof that all knowledge is already available? It only needs to be brought forth respectively in people with savant-syndrom the transition between ideas and sensory world have been different?

  • I'm not sure what distinguishes "realizing hidden knowledge" from "learning knowledge"
    – Dave
    Jul 25, 2014 at 22:18
  • @Dave if you have to learn something new then you never knew it..like the "normal" process of learning. But what if you already knew everything and just forgott it after you have passed from the ideas in the physical world? isn't the savant syndrome some kind of proof?
    – Ubuntix
    Jul 28, 2014 at 6:25
  • At what point did a person (regular or savant) have the knowledge, prior to being born, in order to have lost it at birth (or there abouts)?
    – Dave
    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:06
  • well..isn't the birth like the transcendent idea of human beings become reality in form of a unique person? People have the ability to gain knowledge. This capability must be included in the 'form of people' in some way. Does the pure 'idea' ('A Form is an objective "blueprint" of perfection') of human beings already have all the knowledge?
    – Ubuntix
    Jul 28, 2014 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


In the first part of your question, about recollection as a theory of knowledge, you've restated the theory of knowledge in Plato's dialog called The Meno. (This is also discussed more briefly at the end of The Republic.) Briefly put, every soul on the way to being born into the physical world has simply has forgotten everything while passing from its pure state into the physical world? But such souls still have access to all knowledge and merely need to recollect what was forgotten in order to regain the forgotten knowledge.

For Plato's proof of this theory in the Meno, the character of Socrates guides an uneducated slave boy through the process of deducing some geometric axioms. This is not all that different than the savant in the supplied example.

But Plato's example, as well as the savant example, fall into the category of being illustrations or likely stories rather than demonstrations of the truth of the theory. At best the two examples show correlation between two people and what things would look like if Plato were correct in his theory of knowledge. There needs to be additional evidence to demonstrate the truth of the theory. Depending on what means by "truth", different types of evidence might be called for. In the modern scientific sense of "truth", one would need many replicated trials with experimental controls in order to conclude that recollection of the Platonic forms is the only possible (or at least most likely) explanation. Philosophically speaking, the examples are mostly irrelevant so long as there are no counter-examples. The proof of a philosophical theory generally depends on it having no errors in logic or internal consistency and no available counter examples in the world. For example, the law of contradiction is presumed to be true because it is internally consistent and there are no ready counter examples of a object and its opposite being identical.

  • Dialogue with Meno's slave...that's a good reference, which i have almost forgotten. I will investigate this context. Thank you!
    – Ubuntix
    Aug 1, 2014 at 7:38

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