Arguments in favor of ideas

Plato’s theory of ideas can be understood from three perspectives :

a) Ontological : Ideas are things in themselves. They are the real entities, having an independent existence, depending neither on the world not God. They are non-spatial and non-temporal (i.e not belonging to this space and time)

b) Logical : Ideas are independent of sensuous experience. They are known through Reason of Rational Insight.

c) Teleogical : Ideas are purpose oriented. They are all directed towards the Idea of Good. Particulars exist to bring in actuality these ideas. The Idea of Good is beyond all ideas and rules and hence regulates them all.



– Beyond all ideas, but cause of all ideas too.
– Attracts all towards itself, like light attracts insects
– Ultimate reality/Highest Idea : Substratum of Universe, it occupies the same place as the God of Spinoza, Brahm in Advaita

Highest in the hierarchy of ideas, above even idea of god, absolutely free, self existent real. Everything in the world participates according to idea of good. It is the truth and beautiful. Purpose of human life is to realize the idea of good. Good brings teleological purpose to everything as the universe. It is the cause of the Universe. Indescribable as it is, not sensible.

Plato thus through this Idea of Good proposed longing and love for GOOD as the only way to attain the idea of good. This love is selfless and not directed towards any particular.

Now coming to the question in the topic, what all can be the arguments to justify Ideas/Universal? What all are the arguments that Plato gave? Well there are a few :

– Objects of this world are perishable and subject to change. Even empirical knowledge is subject to change. We can only opine about this world, but not gain universal, undoubted and unchangeable knowledge. This knowledge can be gained only of ideas, which have eternal existence.

– There are many particulars in this world, but they all have a common nature. Therefore, while particulars are many, their idea is one.

– Plato argues that we can understand the concepts of things which do not have existence anymore. Example : Dinosaurs, because their ideas are eternal. Plato uses metaphors/analogies to explain his theory of ideas such as analogy of cave, metaphor of equality.

Additionally, Plato propounds that ideas have a hierarchy from lower to highest ideas. The idea of good is the highest idea. All ideas are derived from the idea of good, but PLATO has not explained this further. This is the mystical aspect of his theory (This was later developed by Hegel, who explained how the absolute ideas unfolds through reason. The coming articles will deal with his philosophy in detail.)