The account of the Platonic ideas in the Meno is the simplest and clearest, and we shall best illustrate their nature by giving this first and then comparing the manner in which they are described elsewhere, e.g.
The souls of men returning to earth bring back a latent memory of ideas, which were known to them in a former state.
The magnificent figure under which the nature of the soul is described has not much to do with the popular doctrine of the ideas. Yet there is one little trait in the description which shows that they are present to Plato's mind, namely, the remark that the soul, which had seen truths in the form of the universal, cannot again return to the nature of an animal.
I am inclined to think that similar remarks apply to the general idea of "imageless thinking," concerning which there has been much controversy.
It is said to be one of the merits of the human mind that it is capable of framing abstract ideas, and of conducting nonsensational thought.
A Frenchman imagined the idea of suppressing this obstacle."
but he is a scoundrel, that Frenchman," said Mazarin, "and the idea is not so ingenious as to prevent its author being tied up by the neck at the Place de Greve, by decree of the parliament."
Just as in the Jewish prophets the reign of Messiah, or "the day of the Lord," or the suffering Servant or people of God, or the "Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings" only convey, to us at least, their great spiritual ideals, so through the Greek State Plato reveals to us his own thoughts about divine perfection, which is the idea of good--like the sun in the visible world;--about human perfection, which is justice-- about education beginning in youth and continuing in later years-- about poets and sophists and tyrants who are the false teachers and evil rulers of mankind--about "the world" which is the embodiment of them--about a kingdom which exists nowhere upon earth but is laid up in heaven to be the pattern and rule of human life.
Tried by this test, several of the Platonic Dialogues, according to our modern ideas, appear to be defective, but the deficiency is no proof that they were composed at different times or by different hands.
I was agonized with the idea of the possibility that the reverse of this might happen.
My journey had been my own suggestion, and Elizabeth therefore acquiesced, but she was filled with disquiet at the idea of my suffering, away from her, the inroads of misery and grief.
They had no idea of the fact, but they themselves were my apostles, and their works preached my doctrines.
Ideas can never utterly perish, so these beliefs linger on in our midst, but they do not influence the great mass of the people, and Society has no support but Egoism.
Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man's ideas, views and conceptions, in one word, man's consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?
What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed?