Plato is looked at as one of the greatest and most influential thinkers of all time. He was very good at using other enlightened philosophers in his writings and characterizing them into roles. Plato created another world of his own in his dialogues to explain his philosophy that was distinct from our own. Therefore, it is not surprising that his epistemology was based on a reality that was outside of the one we ordinarily identify.
Plato had the idea that the true nature of anything is the most important for the true comprehension of knowledge. For example, we all know a cat when we see one. No matter what color, size, type, etc, we are always able to recognize them. They are four-legged, pointy eared, and meow. We have come to recognize what a cat is based on these ideas.
In Plato’s dialogue, Euthyphro, Socrates says, “I’m afraid, Euthyphro, that when you were asked what piety is, you did not wish to make its nature clear to me, but told me an affect or a quality of it, that the pious has the quality of being loved by all the gods, but you have not yet told me what the pious is…do not hide things from me but tell me again from the beginning what piety is.”
Plato’s point was there had to be some characteristic that makes pious things pious. Plato continues his epistemology based on his idea of The Forms. In these Forms, he believed was an independent realm of existence where perfect and unchanging types of these concepts are held. These ideas apprehend the essence of all intelligible things on this planet. Plato said that we can understand innate forms only through specific objects we distinguish on this earth.
We have a generic understanding of a cat because of the existence of a perfect form that is outside our normal realm of thinking. With this state of mind, all objects that we see are simply imperfect models of concepts that perfectly exist in the Forms. This applies to everything in the world, even humans. We all have similarities that make us a human and the perfect form we have created for ourselves is something we see glances of, but is showed to us by God.
Plato goes on to explain that these forms carry out into mathematics, as well as ethics. He explains that, even though we understand Pythagoras theorem where he explains that a square of a hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, there is no existence of a perfect triangle in nature.