Circling Around the Circle: Plato’s World of Forms

You probably think that you have seen a circle. In fact, there is something on this screen right now that you think proves that you have seen a circle (ahem ahem– the WordPress logo). But alas, the circle and you were never meant to be–at least, not in this realm of existence.

You see, you and the circle have quite the Romeo-and-Juliet relationship; lovers fated to be apart, only able to reconcile their love beyond the veil. Admittedly, you may not have as strong of feelings for the circle as Romeo had for Juliet, but the tragic tale remains. You cannot be with the circle because it does not exist as you do; the only place where you too can be is in The World of Forms. Let me explain.

We see a pencil drawing of a circle and are comfortable calling it circle. But is it really?

A circle is a 2D object with an infinite number of points equidistant from the center. This causes two problems for our example. For one thing, it is impossible to have every point  equidistant from the center. It may be a drawing looking like a potato or one in which there is only one atom off– in either case, that rendering of the circle is not a true and perfect circle. Now let’s think about the mark that was made to draw the circle. Let’s say someone used a pencil to draw it. How was it drawn? A layer of graphite–many layers of graphene– was put down to make that mark. ‘But’, you say, ‘a circle is 2D!’. And you are right on the money. That layer means that the “circle” (despite it not being perfectly round) is actually a cylinder, which is a 3D shape. Let’s get real; that thing may as well be power plant smoke pipe for how much of a 3D cylinder it is.

‘So, I’ve never seen a circle? How do I know about it then? How do I know it exists?’

Well, although we’ve never seen it, it definitely exists. The circle is the concept that is behind us calling things circular, drawing circles, studying circles. We just can’t bring it into our reality or form of existence in its pure form, much like how the resurrection stone from Harry Potter can never fully bring back someone from the dead. The perfect, pure circle exists in what Plato calls the World of Forms–something like a VIP section in a club for abstract forms. The real circles are perfect and get free drinks while the imitations of the circles–the things that we have seen–are still in line outside of the club.

So there you have it. The tragic tale of why you and the circle never were and never shall be. Plato goes on to give you more reasons why this could never work out, but I didn’t want to crush your spirits. If you feel up to it, take it up with Plato on what’s keeping you and your true love apart.

You’re probably wondering now what you can even trust in this world anymore. Don’t worry, we’ll go over that in the future. Maybe. If I’m still here. If I ever was here. If anything was here. If here exists. If existence exists.



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