A combination of the Greek word, meta, which translates to “after,” “beyond,” “along with,” “among,” and “behind,” and the Latin term, physica, that simply means the science of matter and physical properties. Philosophers refer to this term to theorize about the different elements of the world in which we live and the world that truly exists. One of the most prominent philosophers is Plato, who set the foundation for many modern philosophers on their perspective of reality through reason.
Plato believed in two separate realities; the physical and the immaterial. He claimed that a dividing line existed between the two worlds, and the immaterial or intelligible is of more importance in the discovery of truth than the physical properties of our world. Comprised of intangible properties but that can be seen through logic, the immaterial world is grasping the reason behind the idea of an object and separating those elements from the subject. Plato explicates the physical world as anything or objects that is identified by one of our five senses.
Within the physical world are two subsets, image and tangible object. Image refers to the shadow or reflection of the image. In addition, the physical object is self explanatory; the object distinguished by touch, taste, smell, or sight. Although primarily disconnected, the two worlds cannot exist without each other and the knowledge that pertains to both. For example, Plato utilizes a ball as the subject to form an analogy of the collaboration between the two realities. From childhood, we are taught that a ball is a ball based on others perception and knowledge of it; not our original thought.
The ball exists in the world of appearances, physical. However, its intangible properties such as, roundness, exist on a parallel plane. Plato describes that plane as the world of Forms. In an effort to further enlighten us, Plato sets guidelines for the properties to forms. First, forms are objective; ideas exist through reason and not experiential. Objects that we perceive are reliant upon our experiences and verbal confirmation of the object and not the actual perspective of the object. Therefore, one can surmise that our senses are isleading, and the reality in which we live is different from others and the true reality. Next, forms are transcendent. The property remains true in spite of time and space. Third, forms are eternal. As aforementioned, Plato believes forms are unchanging; true concept behind an object is unchanging, redness. The form is separate from our subjective image. True comprehension lies in individually analyzing each separate form that comprises the object and identifies it as what we perceive it as.
Forth, forms are models; truest essence of an idea to which an object copies the form and combines it with other elements to create a copied version of a sample of the form. Fifth, forms are intellectual species; can only be determined through reason separating the being from the object. Lastly, forms are perfection. In its purest state, a form is a singular entity. A material object collects bits of forms and its perfection making the object itself impure.
A material object cannot be perfect in its existence because it is but an imitation of several forms that only alone are perfect. Plato’s concept of reality or the simultaneous existence of the two realities are at best intriguing and worthy of exploring. However, as he himself stated, we can never come in direct contact with the immaterial world. Therefore, how can true knowledge be acquired or ascertained? Once again, it is not until we are no longer part of this world that we may finally discover the truth behind this vast universe and the world or worlds in which we reside.