Ideas as the Original Nature of Things

Ideas as the Original Nature of Things

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Greek philosophy up to the Sophists and Socrates was largely based on the study of nature, and therefore the first philosophers were called natural philosophers (physikoi). The doctrine of Ideas was, in the last instance, a doctrine aimed at explaining nature (physis).

As a matter of fact, in the Phaedo, where the doctrine first appeared, it is clearly stated that the ideas were born from an inquiry into nature. But Plato, with a great thought move that will almost completely change the course of philosophy after him, has replaced the physis, which previous thinkers saw as consisting of the visible universe and the mental truths on which the visible universe is based, with ideas that have a completely independent existence from the visible universe. He understood the word “physis” as the visible and conceptually definable essence of something to a certain extent (Soykan, 1993: 34), and used the word “physis” to mean idea in many parts of his works (Wedberg, 1989: 81). So, according to Plato, physis is not the visible universe as understood by previous philosophers, but the world of ideas, and ideas are also the nature of sensible things.

The fact that everything in the sensible universe is oriented towards its idea, that it tries to resemble it, is a result of its natural tendency to realize its nature. Since things take their nature from their ideas and only the idea is perfect and complete, everything turns to its idea in order to be complete and perfect, and as it turns to its idea, it turns towards its own nature, the fullness of its nature (Devlet, 597a; Phaidon, 103b; Parmenides 132b). In short, ideas are the “reason”, “purpose” and “perfection/completeness” of the existence of sensible things (Popper, 1989: 40-41). Since the highest idea is the Good idea, which alone represents Goodness, Beauty and Justice, and everything in the universe is directed towards it by its nature, the one who realizes his idea, that is, his nature, becomes good, beautiful and just to that extent. Conversely, in order for something to be good, beautiful and just, it must resemble its idea as much as possible, that is, it must realize its nature as much as possible. This judgment forms another important basis of Plato’s understanding of existence, morality and society.

In the Phaedo dialogue, the doctrine of ideas is revealed as a result of a nature investigation. Plato often uses the word “physis” instead of “idea” and understands ideas as the true natures of visible things.

All visible things are naturally oriented towards their ideas, for the ideas constitute the nature, the completeness, the perfection of the visible things. Thus, something that is oriented towards its idea becomes oriented towards its own nature and tries to be completed and perfected.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook