Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Tuesday April 6, 2004

Filed under: General — m759 @ 2:45 AM

Ideas and Art, Part II

"We do not, of course, see  ideas."

— Roger Kimball, Minimalist Fantasies, 2003

"Idea (Lat. idea , forma , species ; Gk. idea , eidos , from idein , to see; Fr. idée ; Ger. Bild ; Begriff )

Probably to no other philosophical term have there been attached so many different shades of meaning as to the word idea. Yet what this word signifies is of much importance. Its sense in the minds of some philosophers is the key to their entire system. But from Descartes onwards usage has become confused and inconstant. Locke, in particular, ruined the term altogether in English philosophical literature…."

The Catholic Encylopedia, 1910  

James Hillman, A Blue Fire , p. 53:

"For us ideas are ways of regarding things (modi res considerandi ), perspectives.  Ideas give us eyes, let us see …. Ideas are ways of seeing and knowing….

Our word idea  comes from the Greek eidos , which meant originally in early Greek thought, and as Plato used it, both that which one sees — an appearance or shape in a concrete sense — and that by means of which one sees.  We see them, and by means of them.  Ideas are both the shape of events, their constellation in this or that archetypal pattern, and the modes that make possible our ability to see through events into their pattern.  By means of an idea we can see the idea cloaked in the passing parade.  The implicit connection between having ideas to see with  and seeing ideas themselves suggests that the more ideas we have, the more we see, and the deeper the ideas we have, the deeper we see.  It also suggests that ideas engender other ideas, breeding new perspectives for viewing ourselves and world.

Moreover, without them we cannot 'see' even what we sense with the eyes in our heads, for our perceptions are shaped according to particular ideas …. And our ideas change as changes take place in the soul, for as Plato said, soul and idea refer to each other, in that an idea is the 'eye of the soul,' opening us through its insight and vision."

Hillman does not say where in Plato this extraordinary saying, that an idea is the eye of the soul, occurs.  He is probably wrong.

Both Kimball and Hillman seem confused.

A more sensible approach to these matters is available in Brian Cronin's Foundations of Philosophy:

"3.4 An Insight Pivots between the Abstract and the Concrete

On the one hand, an insight is dealing with data and images which are concrete and particular: Archimedes had one chalice, one King, and one particular problem to solve. On the other hand, what the insight grasps is an idea, a relation, a universal, a law; and that is abstract. The laws that Archimedes eventually formulated were universal, referring not only to this chalice but also to any other material body immersed in any other liquid at any time or any place. The insight is constituted precisely by 'seeing' the idea in the image, the intelligible in the sensible, the universal in the particular, the abstract in the concrete. We pivot back and forth between images and ideas as we search for the correct insight. First let us now clarify the difference between images, ideas and concepts…."

— From Ch. 2, Identifying Direct Insights

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