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Headword: Εἰδέα
Adler number: epsiloniota,22
Translated headword: idea, form, aspect, figure
Vetting Status: high
Plato makes use of different names with the same meaning. At any rate he names an idea 'form', 'genus', 'paradigm', 'principle', 'cause',[1] [this form being] neither liable to change nor remaining [the same], and it is the same thing, both one and many things.[2] And again [he is using] only one name in different cases [as having the same] meaning. For example, what is ordinary, which means 'simple' and 'easy', such as Euripides [says] in the Likymnios: 'ordinary, rude, what is supremely good',[3] meaning simple and harmless. It is possible that when [one] lays down [something] also in what is evil, [one does the same] in any chance thing. Plato [says] in [his treatise] on the soul: 'Cebes, he said, you are looking for an ordinary thing'.[4] And he would also lay down [this] in any chance thing. For example, "it will be [no] ordinary thing."[5] [Meaning] a chance thing. [One] would also lay down [something] in what is simple with regard to any chance thing in this way. Plato [says]: 'this will be no ordinary thing, it seems, and will require not a little virtue'.[6]
Greek Original:
Εἰδέα: ὅτι Πλάτων διαφόροις ὀνόμασιν ἐπὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ σημαινομένου χρῆται. τὴν γοῦν εἰδέαν εἶδος ὀνομάζει καὶ γένος καὶ παράδειγμα καὶ ἀρχὴν καὶ αἴτιον καὶ οὔτε κινούμενον οὔτε μένον καὶ ταὐτὸ καὶ ἓν καὶ πολλά. καὶ πάλιν ἓν ὄνομα ἐν διαφόροις σημαινόμενον. οἷον τὸ φαῦλον, ὃ σημαίνει τὸ ἁπλοῦν καὶ εὐχερές, ὡς Εὐριπίδης ἐν τῷ Λικυμνίῳ: φαῦλον, ἄκομψον, τὰ μέγιστ' ἀγαθόν. ἁπλοῦν καὶ ἀπόνηρον λέγων. ἔστι δ' ὅτε τίθεται καὶ ἐπὶ κακοῦ, καὶ τοῦ τυχόντος. Πλάτων ἐν τῷ περὶ ψυχῆς: φαῦλον πρᾶγμα, ἔφη, Κέβης ζητεῖς. τεθείη δ' ἂν καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ τυχόντος, οἷον, φαῦλον πρᾶγμα ἔσται. τὸ τυχὸν πρᾶγμα. καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ ἁπλῶς τεθείη ἂν πρὸς τὸ οὕτω τυχόν. Πλάτων: πρᾶγμα δ' ἔσται, ὡς ἔοικεν, οὐ φαῦλον, οὐδὲ μικρᾶς δεόμενον ἀρετῆς.
This entry draws on (and rearranges) material in Diogenes Laertius 3.63-64.
cf. iota 96, phi 141. For the headword see also epsiloniota 23.
[1] For Plato’s identification of Forms with genus, paradigm, and cause see Sophist (253D-E; 254D; 256D; 259A: web address 1), Republic (472C-D, web address 2; 500E, where the Form is in fact a model or paradigm for the sensible things, which turn out to be mere copies), and Phaedo (98A-99B, where the distinction between what is cause in the sense of necessary condition and the cause in the strict sense –- the Form –- is made: web address 3).
[2] Probably a reference to Plato, Sophist 249A, where the subject under discussion is whether or not 'what is absolutely' (τὸ παντελῶς ὄν ), i.e. the Form, remains unchangeable and standing.
[3] Euripides fr. 473; cf. lambda 502 and generally OCD(4) 'Licymnius(1)'.
[4] Plato, Phaedo 95E. Actually, in omitting the negation (οὐ ) before 'ordinary' (φαῦλον ), the Suda text changes completely the meaning of the sentence and obscures it. If one follows Burnet’s text, with a reading that makes a better sense, we should translate: 'Cebes, you are not looking for an ordinary thing'. In fact Cebes' remarks aim at dealing with the cause of generation and corruption.
[5] cf. Plato, Symposium 213C (web address 4), where also οὐ appears before φαῦλον , and verb is in the perfect tense.
[6] Plato, Laws 918C (web address 5).
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5
Keywords: definition; ethics; philosophy; rhetoric; tragedy
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 17 September 2004@03:28:58.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (rearranged and augmented notes; added a keyword; cosmetics) on 17 September 2004@04:23:09.
David Whitehead (augmented n.3; cosmetics) on 17 September 2004@10:40:05.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics, links) on 17 September 2004@11:21:02.
Catharine Roth (another link) on 17 September 2004@12:29:00.
David Whitehead (tweaking) on 22 November 2012@08:48:28.
Catharine Roth (upgraded links) on 25 November 2012@23:36:40.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 3 August 2014@05:56:33.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 30 March 2018@17:02:12.


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