About the word ’Veidos’

The word veidos is an ancient Greek word, the word that Plato uses in his writings as a designation of the good, true and beautiful primordial images, which are the imperishable elements of all real knowledge. The word veidos is given here in Greek ancient spelling. At the end of the 400s before our era, the v in the beginning of the word was also dropped in the written language (in speech it had already disappeared), so that the word has since been written eidos. I will shortly explain why the form veidos is preferable. Eidos is usually translated by kind, variety, form or idea. Usually they talk about the Platonic ideas, the Platonic doctrine of ideas and so on. It is essential not to lose sight of any of the several meanings of the word.

The word veidos is preferred, not only because it is older and more original, but above all because the connection with another branch of Indo-European thinking, namely the Indian, thus becomes clearer. In the most ancient Indian thinking, the word veda occupies a very important place. Veda is a Sanskrit word, which means knowledge, knowing and is linguistically the same as the Swedish word veta. Veda is not only the name of India’s oldest religious and philosophical literature but also the designation of higher, inspired knowledge in general. In the Indian tradition it is said that the wise men of antiquity, the Rishis, beheld veda and that veda is like a tree with roots in the sky and branches extending down to the Earth. Compare with what Plato says about seeing the ideas and that the ideas have their root, their origin and essential existence in a higher world. That veidos is something you see or behold is also clear from the word veidos’ origin. The root of the word is vid or id, which means see (compare with the Latin video, which of course means I see). The word veda is in basic form vedas, and it is therefore in the form vedas we should compare it with veidos, likewise basic form. The similarity of the two words is not accidental but is due to a common origin in the Indo-European language. The similarity becomes even clearer when you pronounce the Greek ei as the ancient Greeks themselves did, thus as a long e (similar to the Swedish word ved). In Sanskrit, e as well as o are always long vowels, pronounced as e in area and o in snow.

Seeing and knowing are closely related, partly coinciding activities. “All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.” This is how Plato’s disciple Aristotle begins his book metaphysics.* In our Swedish language we have the word inse, which connects the concepts of perception (se = engl. see) and knowledge (inse = engl. realize).

The explanation above is written by Lars Adelskogh

* Aristotele, Metaphysics, W.D. Ross, Book A 1

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