The theory or doctrine of archetypal ideas, according to which their originality does not reside in any phenomenal reality, such as in a particular object or man, but in the universal idea of the object or man. The phenomena of any particular thing equals the instantaneous, perishable semblance of the indestructible essential form or idea. These indestructible ideas are outside of the time-space continuum, and therefore are infinite. They compose the object or whole of all knowledge and aspiration which form the one and absolute real Being, the Platonic supreme idea of the Good.
It is upon this idea of Good that Plato’s teachings of the good life for the individual and state were based. This formed the Platonic value system.
Closely associated with this theory of ideas was the doctrine of reminiscence or recollection as a theory of knowledge; that is, the soul absorbed ideas from a previous existence. It is from this previous existence that the idea of perfection of all things is derived; the remembrance of such perfection exists with the soul; therefore, all worldly things are recognized as imperfect replicas of its perfect form. For example, when one writes or prints letter such as an a, b, or c, he realizes his letters are not perfect but knows such perfect letters do exist in the ultimate Good.
It cannot be estimated the amount of influence that Platonism exerted on Aristotle, and the Greek and Roman philosophers known as the Stoics, Marcus, and especially the Neoplatonists who more keenly developed the theory of ideas as well as the more mystical aspects of Platonic thought.
Platonism also greatly influenced the Greek and Roman Churchmen. They eagerly used Plato’s theory of ideas, and his one and absolute real Being was God. Added to this was the impact of Platonic philosophy on the scholastics of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. There was a Platonic revival in the 19th century, and the study of his writings continues to this day. A.G.H.