Once upon a time there was a woman, a beautiful woman, filled with life and vigor. She sat for a sculptor who tried to copy her in marble with his chisels. Unfortunately, the sculpture was just a manipulation of her true image. The sculptor could not capture her essence. A few thousand years later, a photographer took a picture of the sculpture which became yet another manipulation of the true woman. Finally, today a bored computer nerd decided she wanted to mess around with Photoshop to pixelize the photo and manipulate the poor woman once again. And on it goes. Who knows what someone might do with this image?
I’m sure you know what happens to a document when you copy it, and then copy the copy, and then copy the copy of the first copy. Do that long enough and eventually you cannot see what was on the original document. But the question is, does the original copy cease to exist? No.
The same is true for the woman. She still exists somewhere in time and space. Well, maybe not the flesh-and-blood woman, but the ideal of that woman, the perfect form of Woman.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato called this the Theory of Forms. He postulated that there is a spiritual realm that contains the blueprints of everything manifested in the physical realm. That vase, that music, that cat, those people, that government, that social relationship—everything— has a perfect and pure template in that realm. The world of forms“…is a philosophical theory, concept, or world-view … that the physical world is not as real or true as timeless, absolute, unchangeable ideas. According to this theory, ideas in this sense, often capitalized and translated as ‘Ideas’ or ‘Forms’, are the non-physical essences of all things, of which objects and matter in the physical world are merely imitations.” (Wikipedia)
Do scholars and philosophers still believe this explanation of how the universe turns? Not so much anymore. This classical worldview was one of the underpinnings of western civilization for centuries, at least that was what the Jesuits taught us in Philosophy 101.
So I sat down to screw around on a computer and make a pretty picture, and I ended up visiting with Plato one more time and letting him bend my mind.
If you would like to view a short, expedient explanation of this bit of Platonic philosophy and a very practical application of it, take a look here:
Image: “A Manipulated Woman” in Photoshop, LJGloyd 2019