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I'm attempting to develop a pairing of worlds based loosely on Plato's theory of forms, such that everything in the physical world is a reflection of one or multiple things in the ideal world.

If we can say for example that a sword is the reflection of the ideal weapon (fighting tool) and the ideal knife (cutting tool), and that a window is the reflection of the ideal lens (viewing tool) and door (access point), is it possible to make a non-arbitrary, fixed list of under 25 things which would reasonably encompass all physical objects?

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closed as off-topic by Philipp, Ghanima, Scott Downey, ArtOfCode, Frostfyre Jun 8 '15 at 12:02

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – Philipp, Ghanima, Scott Downey, ArtOfCode, Frostfyre
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding Se! I think your question might be better ask at Philosophy SE. As it stand, it's not really related to building a world. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jun 8 '15 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ I'll ask it there if you think it best, however the purpose of my question is to populate the ideal world with a fixed number of things. $\endgroup$ – SecludedScribe Jun 8 '15 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean to categorize the things found in our world into 25 functions, or to create an arbitrary world with only objects from 25 functions? If the latter, then it is of course possible, it just will be a quite simple world with lots of complexity missing from it. $\endgroup$ – zovits Jun 8 '15 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ A fictional world, but one that is fairly similar to ours. I don't need ideals to encompass photons and dark matter, but anything a medieval scholar could reasonably conceive of. $\endgroup$ – SecludedScribe Jun 8 '15 at 10:58
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You could create a very interesting world by looking not only at the Platonic approach of ideal essences, but also at the more Eastern study of the relationships between them. That would give you remarkable variety to work with without having to increase the number of items too greatly. For example, you could have a combination of a door (ideal access point) and a sword (ideal fighting tool) in a relationship defined by the Chinese 5 elements. The door could lead one to create a sword (door generating the sword), the sword could create an opening (sword generating the door), the door could lead the sword to find an opening (Water door guiding the path of a Fire sword), or the sword could help the door position itself to define boundaries (Tree sword guiding the path of a Earth door).

By mixing the two, you also avoid ideals becoming too rigid. One can have as ideal of a blade as you want, but if it doesn't have relationships with other entities, it is too easy for sheer luck to eventually snap the blade in half.

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Well, to be very strict, you could get away with only one form: "The Form of the Good", which is the ultimate embodiment of all knowledge (including abstract ideas like Justice and Beauty), but this is a bit of a hand wave. Even in Platonic thought, The Form of the Good ranks at the top of the hierarchy of forms, implying there are a multitude of lesser forms which everything in the material world are reflections of.

Perhaps a better way to limit things is to move from "Platonic" thought to Pythagoreanism, which treats numbers as real things rather than values and implies all relationships (including the relationships that make things) are a result of mathematical expressions, ratios and so on. (There is actually a lot more as well as plenty of mystery about Pythagoreanism, but for what you are asking a quick introduction to the idea may suffice).

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Oooooh, interesting.

It's impossible to create a world based on the forms, because the basic idea is flawed, and based on everyone interpreting data the same way. Certainly, to create a list might be possible if you assume that everyone in your world -does- interpret all sensory information in the same way, such that regardless of any external factors affecting any given object, they can all see the forms associated with it.

The problem then becomes that you've asked for a list of under 25 forms, which is simply impossible the way Plato described the forms, because of the great variety of possible objects. If you want such a list, the only way I can think of doing it is as purely geometric shapes, so you'd take the simplest possible shapes that could describe a more complex shape, and make those the forms. Essentially, you'd be trying to describe the world by the polygons that make it up.

I think it worth mentioning how utterly ridiculous the theory of the forms is. It goes in the basket with Kant's categorical moral imperatives.

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This is essentially a task of categorization. You're asking if we can create a list of categories which encompasses all objects. Now, in the real world, 'objects' don't exist. They're artifacts of our perception's heuristics. And language, being a human creation, will always fail to perfectly describe the universe. It certainly isn't the universe's foundation. But in a fantasy world, this is all possible, since the author is the supreme god. You can hand-wave as much as you want, as long as you make it believable.

Here's my suggestion: use a list of no more than eight items, since the human memory is less effective with larger lists. Then, make those items broad enough to collectively encompass all things -- and make excuses for the things not explained in this way.

For example:

  • raw matter (stones, stars, planets, water, etc.)

  • creatures (plants, animals, humans)

  • concepts (words, gods, nations, emotions)

  • tools (weapons, implements, buildings, some ideas)

  • spaces (rooms, regions, dwellings )

So, to use your examples, knives, swords, and doors are all tools, but doors, together with houses (which are also tools) participate in the creation of rooms, which are spaces.

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