And I'm getting a PhD in Political Philosophy at Maryland (like anyone cares). Whether or not the Ideas truly exist, or if they exist, if they are really accessible to human reason, are key problems in Platonic thought. Indeed, many scholars believe that Plato abandoned the forms later in life, with the Epinomis being one justification of that belief(if the work is not spurious). Certainly, as we learn in Parmenides, whenever a human mind gets hold of an Idea it necessarly becomes more concrete, and therefore declined, from its original nature. But while this is a difficult position from which to analyse the possible limits of human knowledge, or more importantly, wisdom, even without the forms it is possible to have an understanding of the Good. At least, enough understanding to live with others and perhaps even become virtuous. The key question to me is not whether or not Aristotle's notions of "essences (the thing itself)" or "substances (hypostasis)" are correct vis-a-vis Platonic forms, but in what ways they differ in their account of the best life. And this ought to concern you, as well, given your preoccupation with randian objectivism as a philosophy for living.
When I read Thus Spake Zarathustra, I was startled by the depth of Nietzsche's thought. As Heidegger pointed out, however, Nietzsche is too much for us; we must first spend ten or fifteen years with Aristotle, and then we may approach Nietzsche. Rand, coming nearly a century later, is not so impressive to me as a popularizer of a philosophy that was never intended for the mass audience.
Yes, I know.
"One must still have chaos within one to give birth to a dancing star." -Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra