A question about Plato's theory of Forms. From what I've read, a Form is said to
This question is on to something important. The language is a bit inexact, as people’s language tends to get when they discuss Platonic Forms, but that is partly because Plato himself uses broad and sometimes shifting terminology to capture the essence of the Forms. To say the Forms are “ideal” could mean too many things; and Plato doesn’t often say they are “perfect.” More often he’ll talk about “the beautiful itself,” “the large itself.”
This absolute character of Forms does not follow from their unchanging nature – although you are quite right that Plato thinks they are unchanging. If anything, their quality of being unchanging follows from their “perfect” possession of whatever attributes they have. If the Form of the Large is large, and it’s absolutely large, then it can’t change, for change might make it larger or smaller. And if it became larger, then it hadn’t been abs0lutely large to begin with; if it became smaller, it would cease to be largeness as such.
Objects we can perceive are sometimes said to imitate the Forms, more often said to have the Forms in them; to “participate” in the Forms; to have a “share” of the Forms. But whatever language we use, it’s clear, as you say, that the Form of any quality is not among the objects of our experience.
So far so good. Now you move in toward your point. Is a Form “good” in the sense of how well it encapsulates its quality, or is it morally good? If we say less about “ideal” and “perfect” Forms and more about “absolute qualities,” then you can imagine that the question doesn’t quite come up in the same terms. And yet, even without Plato’s theory, we can articulate similar questions about any standards or ideals. We call a lot of things “good” to praise them; does this way of being good have anything to do with morality?
Well, sometimes the answer seems to be a clear Yes and sometimes a clear No. If you call someone a good political leader, you’re making a normative statement. You might also be saying that the person exactly fits the definition of a political leader, but fitting that definition exactly is morally loaded.
On the other hand, if you have a pipe wrench that works exactly as it’s supposed to and you call it a good wrench, even a perfect wrench, you don’t seem to be engaged in a moral claim.
To make things more complex, other cases could be taken either way. If someone is a good soldier (fits the precise definition of what soldiers are and do), are you always praising that person? Is that a normative claim? What about a good tax attorney?
Especially in some dialogues, Plato seems interested in making the Forms function in both ways you describe, as the most exact bearers of properties we know from experience, and in some manner as normative standards. In other dialogues he doesn’t pursue this double goal with the same sharp focus.
As for your final question, which seems to be your reason for writing: Would an immoral person have less “humanness” in them than a moral person?
I hope the answer doesn’t sound like a nit-picking appeal to what is and is not found in the dialogues, but it’s not always clear that Plato thinks there is a Form of the Human. And he doesn’t speak as if an immoral person were less human. He does speak of them as corrupted versions of what the human being could be. But the link you propose feels a little too easy, as well as too counter-intuitive, namely to think that somehow the performance of wicked deeds makes a person less of an example of their species.