General Engineering Introduction/Form Function



For Plato, human beings live in a world of visible and intelligible things. The visible world is what surrounds us: what we see, what we hear, what we experience. The visible world is full of objects that are primarily influenced by other local objects. Asteroids colliding in another galaxy do not cause us to sneeze. Local objects cause each other to change and this causes uncertainty.

Intelligible things or objects can be understood. Plato believed that everything can be understood. We may not understand it now. Understanding means unchanging human reasoning. Anything arising from reason alone, such as abstract definitions or mathematics, makes up this intelligible world. This is reality. The intelligible world contains eternal "Forms" (in Greek, idea) of things. The visible world is the imperfect and changing manifestation in this world of these unchanging forms. For example, the "Form" or "Idea" of a horse is intelligible, abstract, and applies to all horses. The Horse Form never changes, even though horses vary wildly among themselves—the Horse Form would never change even if every horse in the world were to vanish. An individual horse is a physical, changing object that can easily cease to be a horse (if, for instance, it's dropped out of a fifty story building); the Form of a horse, or "horseness," never changes. As a physical object, a horse only makes sense in that it can be referred to the "Form" or "Idea" of horseness.

For more, read this wikipedia form article.



A google search of Form and Function does not result in a link to greek philosophy. Notice all the links claiming form and function are advertisements claiming:

  • beauty
  • feel
  • no need for a manual
  • obvious how it works

Most expect form and function to be related. Marketing and sales almost require them to be related in an obvious way. Anything too new, (unique form) may never sell even if it is the best thing since sliced bread.

There is another whole world of special products that engineers sell other engineers, scientists and technicians. These products may be kludgy, they may not be elegant. They may be puzzles of function. When is it necessary to make a combination of buttons, knobs, and software something a four year old can understand? When is it time to evolve the product's function rather than it's form?

Form Follows Function


Read the following: form follows function.

Form Factor


Read the following: form factor.