We explain what ideas are, their history and how they are classified. Also, what are their characteristics, importance and how they are formed.

The ideas constitute the bases of any form of knowledge or knowledge.

What are ideas?

Ideas are understood to be mental representations originating in the human mind They can be the product of reasoning or imagination. It is considered the basic, fundamental act of understanding.

The human possibility of formulating ideas and mentally contemplating objects is closely related to concepts, creativity and the application of the intellect. Therefore, constitute the bases of any form of knowledge or knowing.

In the contemporary world, in which knowledge has proven to be a powerful tool for scientific-technological development, ideas are considered a valuable, original, worthy of attention. The various professional worlds are organized to treasure, promote and take advantage of new ideas.

See also: Intelligence

Origin of the word idea

The word “idea” comes from Latin, and in turn from Greekmeaning “shape” or “appearance”.

It’s about a derived from the Greek root eidowhich would be equivalent to “see”.

Said root is also present in the Latin verb video (“see”).

The latter is related to other terms from ancient languages ​​in the same sense, such as Sanskrit Véda (“I know”).

From such early times comes the equivalence between the idea and the visionin the sense that to devise is to “see with the mind.”

idea definitions

Ideas are mental reflections of existing objects in the real world.

Different fields of knowledge deal with ideas, and especially different philosophical traditions. Each of these has formulated its own definition of ideas, thus establishing four main points of view in this regard, which are:

  • logical perspective. According to this formal perspective, ideas are comparable to concepts or propositions, that is, formulations endowed with a concrete meaning.
  • ontological perspective. Ideas, according to this view, are mental reflections of existing objects in the real world.
  • transcendental perspective. According to her, ideas are what is meant to be understood and that reflect knowledge of a subject of study.
  • Psychological perspective. He maintains that ideas are a subjective mental representation.
You may be interested:  Power of Attorney

history of ideas

idea concept It began to be used in Antiquity, in different philosophical and religious traditions., interested in the nature of thought and reason. Initially, they were attributed to a “divine breath” or inspiration from the gods. This was the case in the Semitic (Jewish), Greco-Roman and Hindu traditions, to name a few examples.

During the Middle Ages a notion of idea prevailed, Coming mainly from the Platonic tradition, reincarnated mainly in the Christianity that dominated the West at that time. This concept reappeared in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, but with a new meaning.

The new notion of idea was based mainly on the studies of John Locke and René Descartes. These and other perspectives of the time had in common the appreciation of ideas as an expression of human reason, which was a new universal value to replace faith.

Later David Hume introduced the distinction between ideas and impressions, planting thus the differentiation between ideas and feelings. During the 18th and 19th centuries this differentiation was the basis of the opposing philosophical and aesthetic movements of the Enlightenment and Romanticism.

The theory of ideas

allegory of the cave
According to Plato our senses only perceive “shadows” of reality.

One of the fundamental precepts of Plato’s philosophy is known as the Theory of Ideas or the Theory of Forms. The Greek philosopher postulated that the world is divided into two planes:

  • sensitive world. It contains sensible things that, as its name suggests, can be perceived by the senses.
  • intelligible world. It is the world of ideas, a perfect (ideal) world, which serves as a model and original to perceptible things.
You may be interested:  Legend Features

Plato explains it through his allegory of the cave: humanity is equivalent to a group of prisoners from birthtied and immobile in the depths of a cavern, being able to only look at a wall in front of them.

In this allegory, the real world is behind the prisoners, where the entrance to the cave (or a bonfire, depending on the version) is located, through which people carry various objects in their arms. The shadow of these objects is projected on the wall and the prisoners take them for real and true, unable as they are to know the real objects.

The world of ideas

According to Plato, the world of ideas or intelligible world is the place where ideas live. These are immaterial, absolute, perfect, infinite entitiesimmutable and independent of the physical or sensible world, which is a source of deception or distraction.

Only Pursuing knowledge and universal truth It is possible, according to the philosopher, to contemplate that ideal world. However, as he explains in his allegory, human beings are used to seeing the “shadows” of the sensible world. That is why we disbelieve whoever tries to show us the luminous path of intelligible objects.

Classification of ideas

ideas - perception
The ideas of sensation are the product of experience or perception.

There are numerous classifications of ideas, but it was Locke and Hume who formulated perhaps the most useful of them, which consists of:

  • Ideas of primary qualities. Simple ideas, closer to the perceptible objective qualities of things in reality.
  • Ideas of secondary qualities. Merely subjective ideas, which do not depend on objective qualities of things.
  • simple ideas. The most elementary and basic ideas, classifiable into:
    • Sensation ideas. They are the result of external experience or external perception, what we now call sensations.
    • Reflection ideas. They are the product of psychic experience or internal perception.
  • complex ideas. Those that are formed from simple ideas, based on relationships, modes and substances. These are divided into:
    • Mode ideas. Complex ideas that allude to properties incapable of subsisting by themselves, but instead derive from substances, properties or appreciations, such as the ideas of triangle, beauty or gratitude.
    • Relationship ideas. Ideas that arise from the comparison between one thing and another, such as ideas of priority, perspective or proportion.
    • Ideas of substances. Those that allude to concrete things that subsist by themselves, such as the idea of ​​stone, of person, of fire.
You may be interested:  Acculturation

Why are ideas important?

ideas are certainly one of the key concepts with which human beings reflect regarding his own intellect and reasoning ability. Studying the way in which we have conceived ideas since remote times is to trace a journey through the history of human thought in its different eras.

How are ideas formed?

neurons - ideas
Neurons connect with each other to form neural networks.

Currently, the functioning of the brain and the cells that compose it, the neurons, are partially known. However, it is unknown how exactly ideas are formed.

We know, for example, that neurons connect to each other to form neural networks. In addition, they communicate by transmitting electrical impulses through lithium atoms and other metals, generating electrochemical reactions.

These communications are given according to specific patterns and in specific regions of the brain. But what exactly these patterns mean, or how thought can arise from them, is a mystery yet to be solved.

What is a good idea?

Ideas provide an innovative or unpredictable solution to a problem.

Nowadays, good ideas are understood to be those that:

  • They provide an innovative or unpredictable solution to a problem.
  • They bring a fresh perspective or elements not considered to an analysis.
  • They inaugurate a complete area of ​​knowledge, knowledge or possibilities.
  • They give solutions to long-standing problems or considered unsolvable.
  • They are creative, revolutionary, productive.

Disciplines that study ideas

Ideas are studied by various disciplines, from philosophy and its numerous branches, to psychologypsychoanalysis, sociology and various meaningss.


  • “Idea” on Wikipedia.
  • “Theory of forms” on Wikipedia.
  • “Idea” in Dictionary of contemporary philosophy.
  • “Ideas (classification)” in the e-Torredebabel Philosophical Dictionary.
  • “How ideas are formed” on BBC Mundo.
  • “Idea”in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Would you like to share it?