Date of Thesis



Among the philosophical ideas of Plato, perhaps the most famous is his doctrine of forms. This doctrine has faced harsh criticism due, in large part, to the interpretations of this position by modern philosophers such as René Descartes, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant. For example, Plato has been interpreted as presenting a ¿two-worlds¿ approach to form and thing and as advancing a rationalist approach to epistemology. His forms have often been interpreted as ideas and as perfect copies of the things of the visible world. In this thesis, I argue that these, along with other interpretations of Plato presented by the moderns, are based on misunderstandings of Plato¿s overall philosophy. In so doing, I attempt to show that the doctrine of forms cannot be directly interpreted into the language of Cartesian, Lockean, and Kantian metaphysics and epistemology, and thus should not be prematurely dismissed because of these modern Platonic interpretations. By analyzing the Platonic dialogues beside the writings of the modern philosophers, I conclude that three of the most prominent modern philosophers, as representatives of their respective philosophical frameworks, have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of Plato¿s famous doctrine of forms. This could have significant implications for the future of metaphysics and epistemology by providing an interpretation of Plato which adds to, instead of contradicts, the developments of modern philosophy.


Plato, Doctrine of Forms, Recollection, Modern Philosophical Interpretations and Misunderstandings, Rene Descartes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, metaphysics, epistemology

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Jeffrey Turner