The Ideal Ideal of Ideals

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

  • Psalm 145:3-8

“In the Republic, Plato describes Socrates posing questions about the virtues, or moral concepts, in order to establish clear and precise definitions of them.  Socrates had famously said that ‘virtue is knowledge,’ and that to act justly, for example, you must first ask what justice is.  Plato decides that before referring to any moral concept in our thinking or reasoning, we must first explore both what we mean by that concept and what makes it precisely the kind of thing that it is.  He raises the question of how we would recognize the correct, or perfect, form of anything – a form that is true for all societies and for all time.  By doing so, Plato is implying that he thinks some kind of ideal form of things in the world we inhabit – whether those things are moral concepts or physical objects – must actually exist, of which we are in some way aware.
“Plato talks about objects in the world around us, such as beds.  When se see a bed, he states, we know that it is a bed and we can recognize all beds, even though they may differ in numerous ways.  Dogs in their many species are even more varied, yet all dogs share the characteristic of ‘dogginess’, which is something we can recognize, and that allows us to say we know what a dog is.  Plato argues that it is not just that a shared ‘dogginess’ or ‘bedness’ exists, but that we all have in our minds an idea of an ideal bed or dog, which we use to recognize any particular instance.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Plato (427-347BC) was a student of Socrates.  In his written story of Socrates in action, he creates the foundation for his “World of Ideas” where there is an Ideal, or perfect form, of every moral concept and physical thing.

When I was studying philosophy, I can remember so little.  We spent the summer on a crash course.  But when he got to the subject of the “World of Ideas,” he spent a great deal of time illustrating the Ideals.  Then, the professor took out a fingernail clipper and clipped one of his fingernails.  He held up what he had removed from his fingernail and he said, “This is a fingernail paring.  It is a physical thing, therefore, in Plato’s ‘World of Ideas,’ it must have an Ideal fingernail paring in it.  We all can see it.  We can all recognize it.  Thus, we must all be comparing what we now see to the Ideal fingernail paring that exists somewhere.”  The professor then threw his fingernail paring in the trash can.  He then said, “That is just stupid.  Plato started seeing the fallacies of his philosophy when you remove refuse that is not needed or broken from the original physical thing.  As I throw away my fingernail paring, Plato started losing his faith in his ‘World of Ideas’ and throwing it away with the rubbish.”

As for the examples used above in the quote, I have seen examples where something was used for a bed, but it was not a bed.  I slept on a swooning couch once, the kind that the seat was sloped like a ski slope, to conform to a lady’s back (just not mine) rather than have a flat seat and the arm and back for one side being shaped to accommodate swooning.  It was not a comfortable night’s sleep.  If it had been flat, it might have sufficed.  And as for dogs?  Some breeds simply fail to resemble dogs.

Yet, all dogs are descendants of the dog “kind.”  Noah did not take two of every breed of dog onto the ark, but he probably took a pair of wolves and all dog breeds came from that pair.  And for those that read that statement as me teaching “evolution,” you can explain the same thing through genetic mutations and adaptations of the DNA in the parental “kind.”  Yet, all “evolution” of the bed is simply man-made.

Yet, Plato, and Socrates before him, were looking for that “ideal” without finding it.  It makes you think though.  Plato has described a heaven, of sorts.  Plato is reasoning that there was something that was perfect before something caused everything to mutate into something less than perfect, and the knowledge of those perfect things is imprinted within each of us.  Plato, among all the ancient philosophers that I have written about prior to this, has come the closest to seeking and finding God.  For if he had taken his “World of Ideas” a step farther, he would have to ask who made the Ideals?

God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  Thus, He created the Ideal of all things.  Everything in the Garden of Eden was pure and without blemish.  It was indeed Ideal, but then man sinned and was sent from the Garden.  And as the generations passed of all things that had once been pure and without blemish – yet now blemished, changes occurred, and things changed a bit.

But looking back at the Garden, God was the Ideal of Ideals, for He created all the Ideals.  And as God is as pure and unblemished now as He was before He created all things, He is the Ideal Ideal of all Ideals.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. Plato’s form is at once fascinating and also more questions arises…

    Liked by 1 person

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