-1

What does "idea" in the following text mean?

Smith concluded the letter by declaring that his unbelieving friend approached ‘as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit’.

None of the meaning that I could find for "idea" (concept, notion, point, thought, belief, estimate, ...) means anything in the above text. And how could someone approach an "idea"?

  • Concept and notion both have plenty of meaning in this context, even if you don't agree. – oerkelens Oct 24 '17 at 17:56
  • 'Idea' means to me something transitory, a light bulb moment. But a concept is a permanence. – Nigel J Oct 24 '17 at 21:23
2

In this case, idea is being used to mean a concept (Look at definition 1-b), specifically

an idealized concept of 'a perfectly wise and virtuous man'

If you're having trouble parsing that, it refers to the mental image a person would conjure if they were told to think of a wise and virtuous man. The passage is implying that the 'unbelieving friend' comes close to this conjured ideal.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.