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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

But in this he is answered by Parmenides


4.

POSITIVE EXPOSITION OF THE DOCTRINE OF IDEAS.--Ideas may be defined according to the different sides of their historical connection, as the common in the manifold, the universal in the particular, the one in the many, or the constant and abiding in the changing. Subjectively they are principles of knowing which cannot be derived from experience they are the intuitively certain and innate regulators of our knowledge. Objectively they are the immutable principles of being and of the phenomenal world, incorporeal and simple unities which have no relation to space, and which may be predicated of every independent thing. The doctrine of ideas grew originally out of the desire to give a definite conception to the inner essence of things, and make the real world conceivable as a harmoniously connected intellectual world. This desire of scientific knowledge Aristotle cites expressly as the motive to the Platonic doctrine of ideas. "Plato," he says (_Metaph._ XIII. 4), "came to the doctrine of ideas because he was convinced of the truth of the Heraclitic view which regarded the sensible world as a ceaseless flowing and changing. His conclusion from this was, that if there be a science of any thing there must be, besides the sensible, other substances which have a permanence, for there can be no science of the fleeting." It is, therefore, the idea of science which demands the reality of ideas, a demand which cannot be granted unless an idea or conception is also the ground of all being.
This is the case with Plato. According to him there can be neither a true knowing nor a true being without ideas and conceptions which have an independent reality.

What now does Plato mean by idea? From what has already been said it is clear that he means something more than ideal conceptions of the beautiful and the good. An idea is found, as the name itself ([Greek: eidos]) indicates, wherever a universal conception of a species or kind is found. Hence Plato speaks of the idea of a bed, table, strength, health, voice, color, ideas of simple relations and properties, ideas of mathematical figures, and even ideas of not-being, and of that, which in its essence only contradicts the idea, baseness and vice. In a word, we may put an idea wherever many things may be characterized by a common name (_Rep._ X. 596): or as Aristotle expresses it (_Met._ XII. 3). Plato places an idea to every class of being. In this sense Plato himself speaks in the beginning of the Parmenides. Parmenides asks the young Socrates what he calls ideas. Socrates answers by naming unconditionally the moral ideas, the ideas of the true, the beautiful, the good, and then after a little delay he mentions some physical ones, as the ideas of man, of fire, of water; he will not allow ideas to be predicated of that which is only a formless mass, or which is a part of something else, as hair, mud and clay, but in this he is answered by Parmenides, that if he would be fully imbued with philosophy, he must not consider such things as these to be wholly despicable, but should look upon them as truly though remotely participating in the idea. Here at least the claim is asserted that no province of being is excluded from the idea, that even that which appears most accidental and irrational is yet a part of rational knowledge, in fact that every thing existing may be brought within a rational conception.


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