Plato and Aristotle
3. Concept of the Idea
Plato’s concept of an idea is not entirely clear, even though it is one of the central terms. The background to this confusion is the fact that we have been meeting it since the early dialogues, though Plato continued to reflect and thematise it during various periods. Therefore, taking into account the scope of a period and a particular dialogue, we can distinguish different understandings of the concept of ideas. Etymologically, the expression “idea,” like “shape” (eidos) has its origin in the expression “see,” respectively in the form of aorist idein. Therefore an idea is represented by what is “seen,“ it is a definite “form“ of things according how we distinguish them. But according to Plato an idea does not represent what we can see with our eyes, but with reason (cf. Kratochvíl, 143).
In early dialogues an idea corresponds to ‘assessment’ or the definition of something. So Socrates asks ← 25 | 26 → Euthyphro in the eponymous dialogue: what is (ti esti) piety. The answer should clarify the idea of piety, i.e. give its definition. If a person has knowledge of something, she can express its idea. Socrates mentioned his expectations for the interpretation of assessment as follows: “So tell me now... is the pious not the same and alike in every action, and the impious the opposite of all that is pious and like itself, and everything that is to be impious presents us with one form or appearance in so far as it is impious?” (Euthyphro....
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