If the Platonic realm is to exist, can it be perceived if it is to be purely isolated by itself? Rephrased, how is the platonic realm perceived to be? Can it be imagined by itself without reference to the physical realm?

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    It isn't sensible, but rather intelligible -- you may wish to revisit the divided line
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:14
  • I believe @JosephWeissman means sensable, rather than sensible.
    – nwr
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:52
  • @NickR Sensible has dual meanings, and keeps to the older one in the philosophical world. Sensable is a fairly recent coinage and is generally considered a misspelling of sensible. Jul 8, 2015 at 15:04
  • @ChrisSunami You're absolutely right. I hate to admit that I was too lazy to consult a dictionary. English has never been my strong point.
    – nwr
    Jul 8, 2015 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


According to Plato, ideas are conceived only by intellectual intuition. Typical Platonic ideas are the beautiful, the true, the good, the just. Ideas strongly affect the objects of the perceptual world: An object is beautiful because it participates at the idea of the beautiful - according to Plato.

The clearest exposition of the ascent from the world of perceptual objects, i.e. our every-day world, to the realm of Platonic forms is described in Diotima's speech in Symposion, notably 210ff. In plain words, it is the process of continous abstraction.

The first harsh critique and rejection of the Platonic theory of Forms is due to Aristotle: Metaphysics, 990b ff. Aristotle started as a student of Plato at the Academy in Athens.

  • Elaborate on the "process of continuous abstraction" please.
    – loser
    Jul 7, 2015 at 21:14
  • The process advances from one beautiful body to many beautiful bodies, to all beautiful bodies, to beautiful action, to beautiful laws, to beauty in sciences and eventually to the idea of the beautiful; see Diotima's speech, loc.cit.
    – Jo Wehler
    Jul 7, 2015 at 21:45

The answer to the question seems to depend on the perspective with which it is asked. First, from the perspective of a world where sensible objects never existed: Without an imperfectly beautiful object, we wouldn't be able to recollect the form of perfect beauty. The process of abstraction would never get started. So in this case, the answer is 'no'. Second, from the perspective of Plato: if we are talking about our world where sensible objects do exist, it seems that Plato would say that we can contemplate purely abstracted forms. In fact, he says that the person who escaped the cave would prefer to remain outside of the cave and contemplate the Ideas, rather than go back into the cave (516 c-e). So, the answer would be 'yes' in this case.

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    – user2953
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