( From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
An idea (Greek: ιδέα) is a specific thought which arises in the mind. The human capacity to generate ideas is associated with the capacity for reason and self-reflection. Ideas give rise to concepts, which are the basis for any kind of knowledge whether science or philosophy. However, in a popular sense, an idea can arise even when there is no serious reflection, for example, when we talk about the idea of a person or a place.
The view that ideas exist in a realm separate or distinct from real life is a venerable theme in philosophy. This view holds that we only discover ideas in the same way that we discover the real world.
In philosophy, the term "idea" is common to all languages and periods, but there is scarcely any term which has been used with so many different shades of meaning.
Plato utilized the concept of idea in the realm of metaphysics. He asserted that there is realm of Forms or Ideas, of which things in the world are mere imperfect reflections or instantiations.
From this it follows that these Ideas are the sole reality (see also idealism); in opposition to it are empirical thinkers of various times who find reality in particular physical objects (see hylozoism, empiricism, etc.).
In striking contrast to Plato’s use of idea is that of John Locke, who defines “idea” as “whatever is the object of understanding when a man thinks” (Essay on the Human Understanding (I.), vi. 8). Here the term is applied not to the mental process, but to anything whether physical or intellectual which is the object of it.
Hume differs from Locke by limiting “idea” to the more or less vague mental reconstructions of perceptions, the perceptual process being described as an “impression.”
Emmanuel Kant defines an "idea" as opposed to a "concept". "Regulator ideas" are ideals that one must tend towards to, but by definition may not be completely realized. Liberty, according to Kant, is an idea. The autonomy of the rational and universal subject is opposed to the determinism of the empirical subject.
Wundt widens the term to include “conscious representation of some object or process of the external world.” In so doing, he includes not only ideas of memory and imagination, but also perceptual processes, whereas other psychologists confine the term to the first two groups.
G. F. Stout and J. M. Baldwin
G. F. Stout and J. M. Baldwin, in the Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, define "idea" as "the reproduction with a more or less adequate image, of an object not actually present to the senses." They point out that an idea and a perception are by various authorities contrasted in various ways. "Difference in degree of intensity", "comparative absence of bodily movement on the part of the subject", "comparative dependence on mental activity", are suggested by psychologists as characteristic of an idea as compared with a perception.
It should be observed that an idea, in the narrower and generally accepted sense of a mental reproduction, is frequently composite. That is, as in the example given above of the idea of chair, a great many objects, differing materially in detail, all call a single idea. When a man, for example, has obtained an idea of chairs in general by comparison with which he can say "This is a chair, that is a stool", he has what is known as an "abstract idea" distinct from the reproduction in his mind of any particular chair (see abstraction). Furthermore a complex idea may not have any corresponding physical object, though its particular constituent elements may severally be the reproductions of actual perceptions. Thus the idea of a centaur is a complex mental picture composed of the ideas of man and horse, that of a mermaid of a woman and a fish.
In anthropology and the social sciences
Diffusion studies explore the spread of ideas from culture to culture. Some anthropological theories hold that all cultures imitate ideas from one or a few original cultures, the Adam of the Bible or several cultural circles that overlap. Evolutionary diffusion theory holds that cultures are influenced by one another, but that similar ideas can be developed in isolation.
In mid-20th century, social scientists began to study how and why ideas spread from one person or culture to another. Everett Rogers pioneered diffusion of innovations studies, using research to prove factors in adoption and profiles of adopters of ideas. In 1976, Richard Dawkins suggested applying biological evolutionary theories to spread of ideas. He coined the term 'meme' to describe an abstract unit of selection, equivalent to the gene in evolutionary biology.
Relationship of ideas to modern legal time- and scope-limited monopolies
Relationship between ideas and patents
Patent law regulates various aspects related to the functional manifestation of inventions based on new ideas or an incremental improvements to existing ones.
Thus, patents have a direct relationship to ideas.
Relationship between ideas and copyrights
In some cases, authors can be granted limited legal monopolies on the manner in which certain works are expressed. This is known coloquially as copyright, although the term intellectual property is used mistakenly in place of copyright. Copyright law regulating the aforementioned monopolies generally do not cover the actual ideas. The law do not bestow the legal status of property upon ideas per se. Instead, laws purport to regulate events related to the usage, copying, production, sale and other forms of exploitation of the fundamental expression of a work, that may or may not carry ideas. Copyright law is fundamentally different to patent law in this respect: patents do grant monopolies on ideas (more on this below).
A copyright is meant to regulate some aspects of the usage of expressions of a work, not an idea. Thus, copyrights have a negative relationship to ideas.
Work means tangible medium of expression. It may be an original or derivative work of art, be it literary, dramatic, musical recitation, artistic, related to sound recording, etc. In (at least) countries adhering to the Berne Convention, copyright automatically starts covering the work upon the original creation and fixation thereof, without any extra steps. While creation usually involves an idea, the idea in itself does not suffice for the purposes of claiming copyright.
Relationship of ideas to confidentiality agreements
Confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements are legal instruments that assist corporations and individuals in keeping ideas from escaping to the general public. Generally, these instruments are covered by contract law.
Are ideas restricted for usage by law?
Depending on the particular subject, they might be. This has evolved to become a confusing and little-understood area of the law, coloquiallly known as intellectual property. Some legal experts reject the term intellectual property, because (they say) it is purposefully used to oversimplify matters. Detractors posit that the term is intended to divert attention from the original purpose of modern forms of (time- and scope-limited) intellectual property (to promote the progress in science and art), into creating the illusion of a moral prerrogative that enables ideas to be privately owned. More on this controversy can be found in Intellectual property.
The colloquial expression "I have no idea" may be used in any situation where a person is ignorant of something or chooses not to reveal what they know.
Peter Watson, Ideas: a history from fire to Freud, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2005.