Plato’s Metaphysics: Being and Becoming

Perhaps Plato’s greatest contribution to Western philosophy is the idealism embedded in his Theory of Forms, which in essence breaks down existence itself as not only a physical world of inanimate and animate objects, but a theory of knowledge and understanding which is based upon the notion that a) the understanding of a thing is predicated upon the existence of a true Form, or Idea of a thing without which the understanding, or even the thing itself, could not truly “exist:, and b) that such Forms or Ideas existed eternally as intellectual constructs upon which our understanding of the world around us was based.  It is from this premise and starting point that we must begin to try and grasp Plato’s perspective on not just reality and knowledge, but also ultimately his views on universal creation as well as his conception of the human Soul, all of which underpin not just his ethical philosophy but also his socio-political philosophy as reflected in the Republic and Laws most notably.

One of the primary themes that underlies all of Plato’s works, and can be especially seen in the Timaeus and Phaedo among other of his prominent works, is that the principles of reality or the known universe, and the very meaning of life and the pursuit of wisdom and understanding are not just worth exploring, but represent the very highest goal of life – the end of the philosopher.  His means of exploration, and perhaps the most defining characteristic of the Hellenic philosophical tradition which he so greatly influenced, is the role of reason and argument in the form of dialogue, logos and dialectic respectively, in ascertaining these universal truths, even if absolute truth or certainty is not completely possible given the limits of human understanding.  Whether or not he believed that absolute knowledge (sophia, phronēsis) was altogether possible or not is debatable and this is perhaps one of the great mysteries of Platonic philosophy as we try to understand it through the metaphors, analogies and arguments he presents and explores throughout his dialogues, the method and means of communication of these ideas and principles in fact lending itself to skepticism which was a hallmark of many of the philosophers which succeeded him at the Academy.

With respect to the nature of what can truly be known, from which any definition of reality can be drawn, Plato’s teachings as we understand them through his dialogues establish the first and foremost tradition of skepticism in Western – Indo-European really – thought.  This tradition, which starts with Socrates and clearly influenced Plato significantly, establishes the grounds of epistemology – the study of knowledge (epistêmê)– which is reflected in the philosophical tradition which Plato leaves behind at the Academy which he founded in Athens circa 387 BCE.  This tradition of skepticism” represented the core intellectual stream of thought emanating from the Academy subsequent to Plato which provided the basis for other currents of more materialistic and empiricist philosophical schools such as Stoicism and Epicureanism which has a much more broad definition of knowledge, each playing a strong role in the development of Hellenic philosophy in the classical Greco-Roman period.

Plato’s teachings were founded upon the principle, again believed to have been a legacy of Socrates himself, that there were significant intellectual limits upon that which could be truly known given that knowledge itself was predicated on the a priori existence of Forms or Ideas without which any understanding or comprehension of the physical world of matter comprehended by the senses is possible.  For Plato considered knowledge itself to be a type of “recollection”, which was part of his argument for the immortality of the Soul, which was the “form” of the body, one of the primary themes of the Phaedo, a dialogue which circulated in antiquity under the title of On the Soul.

Probably the most comprehensive literary expression of Plato’s notion of knowledge, the distinction he draws between the intelligible world (higher form of knowledge) and the visible world (lower form) comes from the Republic, expressed in what has come to be known as the analogy of the divided line.

“Conceive then,” said I, “as we were saying, that there are these two entities, and that one of them is sovereign over the intelligible order and region and the other over the world of the eye-ball, not to say the sky-ball, but let that pass.  You surely apprehend the two types, the visible and the intelligible.”  “I do.”

“Represent them then, as it were, by a line divided into two unequal sections and cut each section again in the same ratio (the section, that is, of the visible and that of the intelligible order), and then as an expression of the ratio of their comparative clearness and obscurity you will have, as one of the sections of the visible world, images.  By images I mean, first, shadows, and then reflections in water and on surfaces of dense, smooth and bright texture, and everything of that kind, if you apprehend.”  “I do.”  “As the second section assume that of which this is a likeness or an image, that is, the animals about us and all plants and the whole class of objects made by man.”  “I so assume it,” he said.  “Would you be willing to say,” said I, “that the division in respect of reality and truth or the opposite is expressed by the proportion: as is the opiniable to the knowable so is the likeness to that of which it is a likeness?”  “I certainly would.”

“Consider then again the way in which we are to make the division of the intelligible section.”  “In what way?”  “By the distinction that there is one section of it which the soul is compelled to investigate by treating as images the things imitated in the former division, and by means of assumptions from which it proceeds not up to a first principle but down to a conclusion, while there is another section in which it advances from its assumption to a beginning or principle that transcends assumption, and in which it makes no use of the images employed by the other section, relying on ideas only and progressing systematically through ideas.” [1]

Here we have Plato’s fundamental distinction drawn, in the analogy of a “divided line”, the world of the visible, that which can be perceived by the senses, and the world of intelligibles, i.e. thoughts and ideas divided into two unequal portions of a line, the intelligible portion being given greater emphasis and therefore greater (relative) size than its counterpart that represents the visible world.  Then each of these sections is divided again into two unequal portions of the same ration relative to each other, with the larger proportion of each subsection is sized based upon its relative clarity from an intellectual standpoint.

The smaller of the two segments of the visible portion of the line, i.e. the visible world, is made up of first images – shadows, reflections and the like – which are less “real”, more “obscure”, than the “things” which they represent in and of themselves, i.e. that which makes up the larger portion of the visible world part of the line because the “things” themselves are have more intellectual clarity or definition that the “images” or “shadows” of things.

Likewise, and analogously, the intelligible world is also divided into two unequal sections – of the same proportion.  The first of which, the smaller subsection, consists of the treatment of the images of things, and via various assumptions and conclusions various ideas or “theories”, abstract conclusions are drawn, i.e. “bottom up” or “deductive” reasoning of sorts.  The second section, the larger subsection of the intelligible world does not deal with things themselves, or even their images or representations but only deals with ideas in and of themselves and based upon pure intellectual reasoning – dialectic or logos – progresses from various assumptions or theses up to an ontological first principle or set of principles, i.e. bottom up logic or “inductive reasoning” of sorts.

dividedline-svg

Plato’s Epistemological worldview, i.e. the Analogy Divided Line[2]

Plato then goes on to use this analogy of the divided line as a representation, and relative worth or value, of four different types of knowledge, essentially using the divided line to describe his epistemological worldview.  Each section he describes as “affections of the Soul”, our perhaps better put, “capabilities” or “faculties” of the human mind.  The largest section of the line represents the clearest, the least obscure, and the closest depiction of Truth or Reality and is representative of conclusions drawn by use of pure Reason (logos), the faculty of the mind which deals only with ideas in and of themselves and reaches conclusions from principles up to the greatest and highest principle, i.e. the Good (segment DE).

This type of knowledge is followed then by lesser knowledge which is arrived at by the faculty of understanding, which draws various conclusions based upon “thinking” about not just abstract ideas in and of themselves but also about things and images as well (segment CD).  So although this type of thinking, like geometry for example, still deals with the intelligible world and therefore is of higher value than the “visible” realm of perception, is nonetheless of lesser value than conclusions drawn via pure reason and using pure ideas because this type of knowledge does deal with objects, even if they are simply images or representations of physical objects or things.

These two types of thinking that are categorized in the world of intelligibles are then followed by lower forms of knowledge which deal directly with objects of the visible world, the higher of which Plato refers to as “belief”, or “opinion” which deals with objects of the senses that exist within the world of visible world itself, what one might call the material world or the domain of  physics (segment BC), and then the lowest form of knowledge which he describes as “conjecture” or “imagination” (segment AB) which deals with not things in and of themselves but their shapes or images and deals with the likeness of visible things.[3]

In this section of the Republic, which precedes his more graphic metaphor of his Theory of Forms as told in his Allegory of the Cave, albeit wrapped up in the middle of a socio-political work, does represent from a Western standpoint the one of the first prolific and well-articulated forays into the world of metaphysics, i.e. the exploration of the true nature of reality that underlies the world of the senses, and attempts to explain our place in this world and the illusory and shadowy nature of the objects of our perception independent of any religious or theological dogma.  It also illustrates the prevalence of geometry and mathematics as a one of the primary means to which this reality can be understood, a marked characteristic of not just the Platonic philosophical tradition, but the Western intellectual tradition as a whole.[4]

It is in the Timaeus however, one of the later and more mature works of Plato where he expounds upon his view on the nature of the divine, the source of the known universe (cosmological view), as well as the role of the Soul in nature.  And although Plato, and Socrates as represented by Plato’s earlier works, rejected the mythological and anthropomorphic theology that was prevalent in Ancient Greece, Plato does not completely depart from the concept of a theological and divine or supra-natural creator of the known universe, at least as reflected in the words of Timaeus in the dialogue that bears his name.

In the Timaeus, Plato describes a “likely story” as to how the world was created, leveraging again reason (logos) and dialectic, and heavy use of analogy and metaphor, to describe the creation of the universe as a product of the intelligent design of a creator, his Demiurge.[5]  In many respects, the ideas and postulates of the Timaeus represent an expansion on Plato’s Theory of Forms which he introduces in Phaedo and the Republic but follows its intellectual development into the idea of the Good, and its role in the creation of the cosmos (kosmos), the material universe within which we live.

He starts again by drawing the distinction between the intelligible and sensible worlds, that which he calls Being and Becoming, two terms that have come to define Plato’s epistemological and cosmological worldview.

Now first of all we must, in my judgement, make the following distinction.  What is that which is Existent always [28a] and has no Becoming?  And what is that which is Becoming always and never is Existent?  Now the one of these is apprehensible by thought with the aid of reasoning, since it is ever uniformly existent; whereas the other is an object of opinion with the aid of unreasoning sensation, since it becomes and perishes and is never really existent.[6]

Here again Plato makes a distinction between the physical, or visible, world which is subject to change, and the eternal and changeless world of intelligibles, the Intellect (Nous) which can only be apprehended by use of the mind and reason, i.e. is not perceivable by the senses directly and can be discerned in the realm of the mind or thought.  He draws the basic distinction between that which is subject to change, the “visible” or “material” world (Becoming), and that which is eternal and changeless (Being).  Knowledge of the former, which falls under the category of the natural sciences which is the main thrust and emphasis of Aristotle’s reality, or sphere of knowledge, is not rejected outright by Plato but is held subservient – due to its constant fluctuating and changing state – to the world of ideas and thought which is apprehended by intelligence (Nous) and reason (Logos) and which is changeless and eternal.

The realm of Becoming is always subjected to perishing at some level and therefore never truly “is”, or can be said to “exist” within the context of Plato’s epistemological and ontological framework.  It is conceived of by what he deems “opinion”, alluding to the fact that perception is subjective in nature and what one perceives or experiences is not necessarily the same experience or perception of someone else, or some other being for that matter.  It is perceived via the senses, i.e. not by reason.  Whereas the latter realm always “is”, Being, is changeless and eternal, and is conceived of, apprehended as it were, by reason, mind and intelligence alone.  It is not subject to change and therefore according to Plato it truly can said to “be”, or can be said to “exist” within Plato’s epistemological framework, hence the term Being that he allots to it.

It is within this context of Plato’s distinction between the world of Being and Becoming, as he describes it in the Timaeus here, that the connection between Plato and Parmenides is drawn.  In many ancient philosophical circles, Heraclitus is said to be the mother of Plato’s teachings where Parmenides is said to be his father and it is his later works, and again specifically in the Timaeus, that we see this distinction along the lines of Being and Becoming clearly drawn, representing the most mature form of Plato’s’ intellectual conception of knowledge, i.e. what can be known, what philosophers call epistemology.

Parmenides (late 6th early 5th century BCE) is known for his one work, known by the title On Nature, written in hexameter verse which although does not survive in full, is believed to survive mostly intact through quotations and excerpts of later philosophers and commentators, reflecting its significant influence on early Hellenic philosophical development.  Most certainly Parmenides is one of the most influential of the “Pre-Socratics”, and it is through the interpretation of his philosophy through Plato really, that this determination is made.  He is believed to have been born in Elea in Southern Italy and therefore is historically categorized as part of the “Italian” branch of early Hellenic philosophy – as per Diogenes Laertius, the same branch as Pythagoras who represents the first and earliest of this tradition and as distinguished from the Ionian branch within which Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, as well as the Cynics and Stoics, belong to.

In Parmenides’s poem, he describes a pseudo allegorical journey up into the gates of Heaven driven by a golden chariot where he is initiated into eternal wisdom, i.e. the mysteries as it were, by the goddess of wisdom herself represented by the goddess Night, the very same goddess who plays a critical role in the unfolding of the universe in the in the Orphic mythological tradition.  [In later classical Greek mythology, she is personified as Athena, the goddess of wisdom and the daughter of Zeus, and it is no doubt she who most represents the notion of wisdom (i.e. sophia) as Plato perceives and describes it, in particular its illuminary nature from an intellectual perspective.]

In the excerpts that are extant from his poem On Nature, Parmenides distinguishes in very esoteric and almost mystical – and certainly cryptic – language that which is said to “be” or exist (to eon), or “true reality” (alêtheia), which he associates with thought and language and is wholly distinguishable from that which cannot in fact be said to exist in the same way, i.e. that which is not “real” and is wholly distinct from true reality (again alêtheia), due to its fluctuating and ever changing nature.

The thing that can be thought and that for the sake of which the thought exists is the same; for you cannot find thought without something that is, as to which it is uttered.  And there is not, and never shall be, anything besides what is, since fate has chained it so as to be whole and immovable.  Wherefore all these things are but names which mortals have given, believing them to be true—coming into being and passing away, being and not being, change of place and alteration of bright color.  [R. P. 119].[7]

In Parmenides, as we know him again through the quotations and comments of philosophers from the classical Hellenic period and later, we find what is believed to be the source of Plato’s epistemology where, in Vedic terms, the world of “name and form” which is in a constant state of change and flux, which falls in the domain of what Plato terms “opinion”, is held to be an inferior form of knowledge than the realm of the changeless and eternally existent world of ideas thought, as discerned by pure reason (logos), i.e. “true reality” which Parmenides calls alêtheia  and which Plato refers to as Being, again distinguished from that which is Becoming.  This bifurcation and sublimation of the material world for the ethereal or rational world ultimately provides the basis for Plato’s Theory of Forms and is the basis upon which he builds not only his theory of knowledge but also his cosmology as outlined in the Timaeus.

Furthermore, while Parmenides writes in hexameter verse, there is clearly a logical cohesion to his work, an argument or a case he is trying to make, to establish the grounds of being, in a classical philosophical sense, where he is attempting to justify and rationalize, and in turn provide the logical foundation for, his position of establishing that which “is” (to eon), or can be said to exist due to its eternal and unchanging nature which in turn again is distinguished from, and held to be of higher intellectual and philosophical value than, that which is subject to change and ultimate dissolution, i.e. the objective and material world.[8]

In this sense Parmenides work and philosophy that is represented therein is not only the forefather of Plato’s Being and Becoming as laid out in the Timaeus, but also the forefather of the means by which this distinction is established, i.e. by reason and argument which Plato presents in dialogue form using logic, or dialectic, which can be viewed as a more mature and evolved form of (written) communication of ideas and metaphysics than that which is used by Parmenides who follows in the footsteps of the earlier mythic poets Homer and Hesiod.

Transitioning back to Plato’s cosmology and its relationship to the worlds of Being and Becoming respectively in the Timaeus, we find a description which is markedly anthropomorphic in conception and yet at the same time rests upon his basic metaphysical delineation of reality between Being and Becoming – i.e. that which is permanent, eternal and unchanging and comprehended by reason (logos) and thought or ideas (eidôs), versus the sensible realm which is subject to change and “opinion” and therefore is characterized by an implicit creative and destructive process.

Again, everything which becomes must of necessity become owing to some Cause; for without a cause it is impossible for anything to attain becoming.  But when the artificer of any object, in forming its shape and quality, keeps his gaze fixed on that which is uniform, using a model of this kind, that object, executed in this way, must of necessity [28b] be beautiful; but whenever he gazes at that which has come into existence and uses a created model, the object thus executed is not beautiful.

Now the whole Heaven, or Cosmos, or if there is any other name which it specially prefers, by that let us call it, —so, be its name what it may, we must first investigate concerning it that primary question which has to be investigated at the outset in every case, —namely, whether it has existed always, having no beginning of generation, or whether it has come into existence, having begun from some beginning. It has come into existence; for it is visible and tangible and possessed of a body; and all such things are sensible, [28c] and things sensible, being apprehensible by opinion with the aid of sensation, come into existence, as we saw, and are generated.

And that which has come into existence must necessarily, as we say, have come into existence by reason of some Cause.  Now to discover the Maker and Father of this Universe were a task indeed; and having discovered Him, to declare Him unto all men were a thing impossible.  However, let us return and inquire further concerning the Cosmos, —after which of the Models did its Architect construct it?[9]

Here we see not only the implicit anthropomorphic, or perhaps better put anthrocentric, view of universal creation, but also the fundamental assumption of causality which rests at the heart of what is perhaps best terms his “theological” cosmological conception.  In other words, implicit in the existence of the universe as we know and perceive it, in fact implicit in the existence in anything, is some element of causality even if in this context he intends to mean “purpose” or “reason”, rather than a physical chain of causality which is how we have come to identify the meaning in the modern era of empirical science.[10]

Furthermore, he argues that the universe must have been “created” – i.e. has some sort of beginning in time and space as it were – because it exists within the sensible realm, the realm that is in and of itself defined by change, is apprehended by “opinion”, is subjectively perceived and is therefore – again by definition – in a constant state of flux which is bound by an implicit and eternally present creative and destructive process of Becoming.

[29a] Was it after that which is self-identical and uniform, or after that which has come into existence; Now if so be that this Cosmos is beautiful and its Constructor good, it is plain that he fixed his gaze on the Eternal; but if otherwise (which is an impious supposition), his gaze was on that which has come into existence.  But it is clear to everyone that his gaze was on the Eternal; for the Cosmos is the fairest of all that has come into existence, and He the best of all the Causes.  So having in this wise come into existence, it has been constructed after the pattern of that which is apprehensible by reason and thought and is self-identical. [29b]

Again, if these premises be granted, it is wholly necessary that this Cosmos should be a Copy of something.  Now in regard to every matter it is most important to begin at the natural beginning.  Accordingly, in dealing with a copy and its model, we must affirm that the accounts given will themselves be akin to the diverse objects which they serve to explain; those which deal with what is abiding and firm and discernible by the aid of thought will be abiding and unshakable; and in so far as it is possible and fitting for statements to be irrefutable and invincible, [29c] they must in no wise fall short thereof; whereas the accounts of that which is copied after the likeness of that Model, and is itself a likeness, will be analogous thereto and possess likelihood; for I as Being is to Becoming, so is Truth to Belief.

Wherefore, Socrates, if in our treatment of a great host of matters regarding the Gods and the generation of the Universe we prove unable to give accounts that are always in all respects self-consistent and perfectly exact, be not thou surprised; rather we should be content if we can furnish accounts that are inferior to none in likelihood, remembering that both I who speak [29d] and you who judge are but human creatures, so that it becomes us to accept the likely account of these matters and forbear to search beyond it. [11]

In this passage we find Plato, in the words of Timaeus in the dialogue, arguing that there must in fact exist a model upon which the cosmos (kosmos) is fashioned and that this model must be the “best” model, i.e. that which is eternal and changeless which he implies is the source of all things, i.e. the world of Becoming.  This model is based upon the Good, the Form of Forms, an eternal and changeless Idea which can only be apprehended – if it can be apprehended at all – by reason and thought and from which the world of Becoming is generated, or brought about from.

He equates the world of Being here to “true reality”, what he refers to as “Truth”, and the world of Becoming to the domain of “opinion” or “subjective belief”, lining up these two metaphysical principles which presumably derive from Parmenides squarely with his theory of knowledge. The former, the realm Being which is characterized by reason, thought and ideas, he considers to be the higher form of knowledge upon which the latter, the realm of Becoming which is forever changing and in a state of flux and is characterized by “opinion” and subjective belief, is molded from or shaped out of.

Plato then goes on, through the narrative of Timaeus in the dialogue, to describe in detail just how the divine craftsman, the Demiurge, establishes universal creation, what has come to be known as the “Cosmic Soul”, applying various rational, proportional, mathematical and geometrical (presumably of Pythagorean influence) constructs onto the primordial chaos out of which the four basic elements – earth, air, water and fire – as well as the heavens and earth and all living creatures therein came into existence.  But this world of Becoming, and the creative process which he outlines therein, attempting as best he can to provide a logical and rational account of creation in again what he refers to as a “likely” account, resting on and alluding to the limits of human knowledge in and of itself in understanding the reason and ultimate cause and process by which the universe comes into being, nonetheless presumes the universe to be crafted upon the model of the Good, a benign creator as it were that provides the foundation for the Judeo-Christian worldview.

[30a] For God desired that, so far as possible, all things should be good and nothing evil; wherefore, when He took over all that was visible, seeing that it was not in a state of rest but in a state of discordant and disorderly motion, He brought it into order out of disorder, deeming that the former state is in all ways better than the latter.  For Him who is most good it neither was nor is permissible to perform any action save what is most fair.  As He reflected, therefore, He perceived that of such creatures as are by nature visible, [30b] none that is irrational will be fairer, comparing wholes with wholes, than the rational; and further, that reason cannot possibly belong to any apart from Soul.  So because of this reflection He constructed reason within soul and soul within body as He fashioned the All, that so the work He was executing might be of its nature most fair and most good.

Thus, then, in accordance with the likely account, we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason owing to the providence of God.   [30c] This being established, we must declare that which comes next in order.  In the semblance of which of the living Creatures did the Constructor of the cosmos construct it?  We shall not deign to accept any of those which belong by nature to the category of “parts”; for nothing that resembles the imperfect would ever become fair.  But we shall affirm that the Cosmos, more than aught else, resembles most closely that Living Creature of which all other living creatures, severally and generically, are portions.  For that Living Creature embraces and contains within itself all the intelligible Living Creatures, just as this Universe contains us and all the other visible living creatures [30d] that have been fashioned.  For since God desired to make it resemble most closely that intelligible Creature which is fairest of all and in all ways most perfect, He constructed it as a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself.[12]

We can see here that Plato sees the rational and ordered as of higher value than the chaotic and disordered, and he assigns the highest value to reason itself (again logos) which is attributed and ultimately equated with the divine or Cosmic Soul.  Furthermore, Plato perceives the universe, in very much the same vein as the Stoic tradition which was very influential in the Greco-Roman period and influenced early Christian theology (pneuma, the divine spirit), as a living, breathing entity which not only embodies, encapsulates as it were, all of the kosmos within it, but also is endowed with “Soul” and “reason”, just as the individual is at some extent.  God here, the Cosmic Soul, is fashioned in the image of man as it were as opposed to the other way around as it is presented in the Judeo-Christian account of creation.

At the heart of Plato’s philosophy was the belief in the ontological primacy of the rational faculty of man, Reason, along with the tools of the trade which reflected and were to be leveraged by this faculty – namely reason (logos), dialectic, logic and mathematics – as the means by which the fundamental truths of these ancient mystic traditions could be known or brought to light.  He was the first to establish the connection between cosmology, physics and ethics to a degree that had not be done before, a characteristic that became one of the primary characteristics of Hellenic and Roman philosophy and was even followed in the scholastic tradition up until the end of the Middle Ages.

Plato also established a good deal of the semantic framework, in Greek, through which these esoteric, complex and interrelated topics could be discussed and explored, a development whose importance cannot be overstated.  For before Plato the language of philosophy was shrouded in myth, analogy, and metaphor, and after Plato all of the Greek philosophic schools and practitioners now at east had a working vocabulary through which philosophic ideas and concepts could be further explored and elucidated upon, even if the various schools disagreed with each other on a variety of issues.

Plato’s unique contribution to theological development in antiquity then can be viewed as placing the rational faculty of man as the primarily tool through which any knowledge of the gods, or reality itself even, should be drawn.  His reach extended well beyond the theological domain however, extending into topics such as what could actually be known, psychological questions, systems of ethics and virtue, political philosophy, and most importantly the goal of life itself.  Many of his lasting contributions to the philosophic, and later scientific, development in the West are not necessarily the conclusions that he drew or solutions he put forth, but the tools and institutions which he established for their pursuit.

It can be said definitively however that with Plato the supremacy of reason and rationality in the search for truth and meaning in life as well as the nature and origins of the universe is firmly established.  To Plato the epistemological supremacy of the intelligible realm, the world of Being, over the sensible realm, or the world of Becoming, is the predominant characteristic of his metaphysics.  The former of which is characterized by Forms and Ideals from which the material universe as we know it, and all living souls as well, are ultimately “fashioned” from, all modeled and stemming from the belief that the Creator, if indeed he can be said to exist, must have fashioned things according to what is most fair and most just, i.e. the Good or Best.


[1] Plato Republic Book 6, 509d – 510b.  From Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 translated by Paul Shorey. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1969.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D6%3Asection%3D509d

[2] AC represents knowledge of the material or “visible” world and CE represents knowledge of the “intelligible” world.  Image From Wikipedia contributors, ‘Analogy of the divided line’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 October 2016, 05:17 UTC, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Analogy_of_the_divided_line&oldid=745083560&gt; [accessed 19 October 2016]

[3] See Plato Republic Book 6, 510c-511e.-  From Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 5 & 6 translated by Paul Shorey. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1969.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D6%3Asection%3D511e and Wikipedia contributors, ‘Analogy of the divided line’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 October 2016, 05:17 UTC, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Analogy_of_the_divided_line&oldid=745083560> [accessed 19 October 2016]

[4] Taken one step further can be interpreted to mean that Plato is espousing a doctrine of the illusory nature of reality much like the Vedic tradition and its concept of Maya.  But buried within his allegory is also his dim and morbid view of the role of the philosopher himself, who is tasked with trying to shed light upon the true nature of reality to those steeped in ignorance.

[5] Plato’s Demiurge, the so-called “Divine Craftsman” that he describes in the Timaeus, becomes one of the cornerstone theological principles in the Hellenic theo-philosophical tradition and one which bleeds, and fits quite nicely, into the Judeo-Christian (and Islamic) anthropomorphic conception of God.  The English Demiurge comes from the Latin Demiurgus, which stems from the Greek Dêmiourgos (δημιουργός), which means “craftsman” or “artisan” but of course morphed into the more theological notion of Creator within the Hellenic theo-philosophical tradition itself.  See Wikipedia contributors, ‘Demiurge’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 December 2016, 18:44 UTC, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Demiurge&oldid=755542807&gt; [accessed 18 December 2016].

[6] Plato Timaeus.  27a-28a.  Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0180%3Atext%3DTim.%3Apage%3D27

[7] Early Greek Philosophy, translation with notes and commentary by John Burnet.  Chapter IV., Parmenides of Elea.  3rd editions (1920).  London.  From http://www.classicpersuasion.org/pw/burnet/egp.htm?chapter=4

[8] For a more detailed description of the philosophy of Parmenides and analysis of the existent fragments of his work On Nature, see “Parmenides of Elea: What Is Versus What is Not”, by Juan Valdez 2016 at https://snowconenyc.com/2016/09/30/parmenides-of-elea-what-is-versus-what-is-not and Parmenides entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/encyclopedia/archinfo.cgi?entry=parmenides.

[9] Plato Timaeus.  28a-28c.  Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0180%3Atext%3DTim.%3Apage%3D28

[10] It is in this context of Plato’s notion of Being and Becoming, and his fairly loose but at the same time all-pervading implicit assumption of causality or purpose, within which Aristotle establishes his metaphysical worldview which is based upon substantial form and  causality – the material, formal, efficient and final–  all of which looks to better define that which can be said to “exist”, his being qua being.  Aristotle’s efficient and final causes represent Plato’s notion of “reason” or “purpose” which underlies existence whereas Aristotle’s material and formal causes represent the underlying principles for the material or sensible world.  For more detail on Aristotle’s theory of causality and how it relates to his metaphysical worldview, see the chapter on Aristotle in this work and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on “Aristotle on Causality” which can be found here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/.

[11] Plato Timaeus.  29a-29d.  Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0180%3Atext%3DTim.%3Apage%3D29

[12] Plato Timaeus.  30a-30d.  Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 9 translated by W.R.M. Lamb. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1925.  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0180%3Atext%3DTim.%3Apage%3D30

The Soul of Plato: The Seat of Logos

The lasting contribution of the Greeks to the West is not only in their political philosophy, they are of course given credit for the creation of democracy, but with their philosophical tradition in itself, from which their politics emerge really. In other words, their political philosophy and modes of governing were closely tied to the more broad tradition of philosophy (literally “love of wisdom”) from which it emerges. This link is clearly seen in Plato’s Republic where the connection of philosophy, virtue and the ideal city state is outlined in detail and in his less well known treatise Laws, a work believed to have been written by Plato toward the end of his life which also addresses political philosophy and the role of law in society in particular. Aristotle’s work, most notably in Politics, also addresses political philosophical issues through the same link that Plato uses, notably in the exploration of the ideal man and the role of ethics and virtue in governance in general.

This tradition, this revolution really, of the supremacy of Reason and Logic over myth and tradition is what marks the Greek philosophical tradition more so than any other characteristic, and it is this tradition that marks their lasting contribution to Western civilization. And underlying this tradition is that it is the Mind, mankind as a thinking being, which distinguishes it from the rest of the creatures that roam the Earth.

While neither the works of Aristotle or Plato address or analyze the mental faculty directly in their works, the role of Mind, characterized most notably by Reason and the ability to deduce or induce facts that stand up to the test of intellectual coherence and consistency, i.e. cannot be refuted or at least are difficult to be refuted, is the common theme to really all of their work. And it is this thinking faculty that is called out as the distinguishing and special characteristic of man. Aristotle not surprisingly is the first to outline explicitly these faculties of man, and thinking in particular, within the context of his exploration of the Soul, or that which animates living things, in his work entitled On the Soul (De Anime in Latin).

But before we look at the view of Plato and Aristotle on the Mind and the thinking faculty and how they influenced Western thought down through the millennia that followed, it is important to draw attention to the work of Anaxagoras, a pre-Socratic philosopher who is best known for putting forth the role of Mind, in the cosmic capacity perhaps best described as the collective and ethereal Mind, at the forefront of not only his cosmological worldview, I.e. how and by what means the universe has come into existence, but also in his metaphysics as the primary principle which governs and balances the physical universe, a principle which sits outside of and independent of any of the basic elements which make up the universe itself. Even though Plato and Aristotle reject the metaphysics of Anaxagoras, it clearly influences their philosophy, if only to serve as a counterpoint to their theories of Mind, and in turn Soul to which the thinking faculty of man is closely related[1].

 

According to Diogenes Laertius, Anaxagoras acquired the nickname Mr. Mind (DK 59 A1); his view that the cosmos is controlled by nous, mind or intelligence, first attracted and then disappointed Socrates (Plato, Phaedo 97b8ff.). Plato and Aristotle applauded Anaxagoras for using nous as the first principle of motion, but both criticized him for failing to be consistent in that use, arguing that once he invoked Mind to set the original mixture in motion, Anaxagoras reduced later causes to mindless mechanism.[2]

 

 

Before we delve into the role of the intellect, or mind within the context of Platonic doctrine and extant works, or even the Corpus Aristotelicum it is important to (re) visit the close correlation between what today we might call the “cognitive faculty” of man, perhaps best viewed as the derivation of Descartes’s cogito ergo sum, and what the ancients looked at as the notion of Soul. The concepts are very closely related, particularly in the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions, and in fact it is through their philosophical developments in particular that the cognitive faculty of man, thinking and discernment we might call it, start to evolve as separate and distinct qualities that are somewhat independent of the notion of Soul itself.

We can perhaps best see this when we look at the word psychology itself and how it has come to be synonymous with the study of mind in modern day nomenclature and usage. The root part of the word however, “psyche”, comes from the Greek word for soul “psyche” or “psuche”. From the online etymology dictionary we have the following etymological description for the term ‘psychology”:

 

psychology (n.)

1650s, “study of the soul,” from Modern Latin psychologia, probably coined mid-16c. in Germany by Melanchthon from Latinized form of Greek psykhe- “breath, spirit, soul” (see psyche) + logia “study of” (see -logy). Meaning “study of the mind” first recorded 1748, from Christian Wolff’s “Psychologia empirica” (1732); main modern behavioral sense is from early 1890s.[3]

 

So we can see clearly this close connection between the study of mind, study of the human intellect, and the notion of the human soul, and this correlation, this connection goes back to the Greek philosophical tradition, speaking to the profound influence that this tradition has had on Western thought even some 2500 years after its inception. Today we clearly view psychology as the study of the human psyche, but we forget the etymology and derivation of the term from our ancient Greek ancestors.

Keeping this in mind then (no pun intended), when we look for how Platonic and then in turn Aristotelian doctrine and philosophy framed this notion of mind, the thinking faculty of man, we must look at their conceptions of the Soul, and to what extent they viewed this thinking faculty of man, mind in the individual sense, as independent of the soul. And in so doing, what we find is that the notion of the soul itself undergoes transformation and evolution in the Ancient Greek world, as first put forth and reflected in the works of Homer, and then in the Pre-Socratic philosophical tradition (Heraclitus, Anaxagoras who has already been mentioned, Pythagoras, etc.), then in the philosophy of Plato and then in the philosophy of Aristotle[4].

 

The unique characteristic of Plato’s writings is, as has been well documented and explored by scholars throughout the ages, is his style, the format within which he explores and presents his ideas – namely through dialogue and what has come to be known as dialectic. From the Wikipedia entry on dialectic we are presented with the following definition:

 

Dialectic (also dialectics and the dialectical method) is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to European and Indian philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in theSocratic dialogues. The dialectical method is discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned arguments.[5]

 

The method itself, the modus operandi through which Plato presents his teachings, had lasting effects on the development of Western thought, and teaching of philosophy in general, that lasted well throughout the middle ages, continuing to be used as the means of teaching to a greater or lesser extent as it evolved into its more modern form which came to be known as scholasticism which was used as the teaching methodology for many of the earliest universities that cropped from the 11th century onwards up through the Enlightenment era.

The format that Plato uses throughout all of his works is one of the presentation of differing points of view of an argument by various characters in his dialogues in order to explore, and ultimately conclude, various philosophical points. The common thread throughout these dialogues is the supremacy of Reason, the use of logic and argument, to establish various points of view as well as basic philosophical and metaphysical positions, upon which what we know today as Platonic philosophy is presented to the modern reader.

It is commonly assumed that the doctrines and philosophical positions that Plato lays forth in his dialogues represent his philosophical position more or less, and many of the characters and (alternative) points of view and positions that are explored in his dialogues represent to some degree more or less some of the varying philosophical positions that were presented and common place in the philosophical community and era within which Plato writes – for example the views of Anaxagoras, Parmenides, etc who are all presented as characters in his dialogues that to at least some degree represent the positions of the various competing philosophical schools that Plato is attempting to refute. Furthermore, in almost all cases Plato’s views and positions are presented through the voice of Socrates, who remains a consistent and esteemed character in virtually all of Plato’s dialogues through which Plato’s philosophical positions, and his arguments to back up these positions, are argued from.

There remains some question of course, and Charlie found surprisingly little debate among scholars around this point, as to whether or not Plato is presenting his own views through the voice of Socrates in his dialogues, or if he is in fact regurgitating Socrates’s teachings through his own voice. It is safe to presume that is some combination of the two, or perhaps better put, the voice of Socrates in Plato’s dialogues represents Plato’s interpretation of the philosophy of Socrates that he learned and understood from him as his disciple, which there is no doubt that he was[6].

Plato’s works are typically referred to as the Socratic Dialogues, not only due to the fact that Socrates is a prominent character and voice of the philosophical tenets which Plato’s puts forth, but also alluding to the fact that the assumption is typically made that the philosophical principals that Plato establishes in his dialogues are assumed to be the documentation and transcription of the philosophical principals which he learned from Socrates himself. But outside of second hand accounts, we have no direct works from Socrates so for the most part we know of Socrates and his philosophical beliefs and metaphysics through the words of Plato.

These are important backdrop and contextual items that must be kept in mind when looking at Plato’s works and discerning what his “philosophy” truly was, and how much of it was his interpretation of Socrates and how much of it was his own workings and reformulations of the teachings which he presumably received from Socrates himself. We see for example that Aristotle, who studied at Plato’s Academy and presumably was a disciple or at the very least a very close student of Plato’s, differs from Plato on several key, metaphysical points and principles and it’s not until we see Aristotle’s work, and the school of philosophy which he founded (the Peripatetic school) where we find a much more thorough and complete (and certainly what Aristotle would deem more coherent) philosophical system that although shares many common characteristics and principles of his predecessor, differs from him on several key points – differences that were the subject of debate of subsequent scholars for centuries to follow (millennia in fact).

But again, when trying to discern or determine “Plato’s philosophy”, or Platonism in its early stages as it is sometimes referred to, it is important to remember that perhaps Plato’s most lasting contribution to Western thought was not necessarily the philosophy that he presented, the one which he assume he learned from Socrates, but the means by which he presented and explored these philosophical principles – through dialogue and debate, i.e. dialectic – a method which was much more profound and lasting in and of itself than the doctrines and belief systems that we infer to be contained or found in Plato’s works and a method which rested on the supremacy of Reason, and argument and logic to a great extent, over myth or blind faith. A constant theme in all of Plato’s dialogues then is the method of teaching itself, a method which spoke to the power of the mental faculty of man moreso than any of his predecessors, predecessors which had for the most part relied on poetry and mythology as tools of exposition and explanation (and to some extent even mysticism in the sense of direct “divine revelation” and the absence of reason or logic from which poetry can be seen to have derived) and the establishment of truth.

It also relevant of course that this method of teaching, the philosophical system of “learning” that Plato is classically given credit for founding, led to the formulation of the first true academic center of learning itself, namely the Academy in Athens which Plato founded circa 387 BCE and persisted for some three centuries after his death, Aristotle of course having studied there for some twenty years before moving on and starting his own school the Lyceum[7].

In light of these facts, when we look for Plato’s theory of mind, or at least how he perceived and viewed the mental faculty through which the physical world was perceived, we must look at his body of work as a whole and discern from it what his principles and beliefs and philosophical tenets were with respect to not only the mind and cognitive faculty specifically but also his notion of the Soul which was very closely correlated to the notion of mind from his perspective.

Whereas Aristotle laid out a system of metaphysics and set of teachings that were broadly categorized by topic and were for the most part at least logically organized (with some overlap of course), in studying Plato and discerning his, or by extension perhaps Socrates’s, philosophical positions we must look at his body of work in toto. And like any philosopher, or like any individual for that matter, his views matured over time and adjusted and evolved somewhat, which is why historians have divided Plato’s works into what they believe are the order, the timing, which they were written – his Early Dialogues, his Middle Dialogues and then his Late Dialogues which are considered the most dense and sophisticated of his works. These categories are not concrete and definitive of course, and are open to a great deal of scholarly debate, but for the most part it is a generally accepted division of Plato’s work where we can at least have the opportunity to view the evolution of his views and philosophical principles over time. It is from the Middle Period that we find his exploration of the notion of Soul, first in Phaedo which delves into the nature of the Soul and whether or not it persist beyond the death of the body, a work almost solely devoted to this topic, and then in his famous Republic which deals with the notion of Justice, which in turn is looked upon as the perfect state of the Soul, within which the role of Reason is called out specifically as an attribute of the Soul and a more thorough treatment of the Soul and its parts is given relative to the work on the Soul in Phaedo.[8]

 

Plato’s greatest contribution to Western philosophy is no doubt his Theory of Forms, which in essence breaks down existence itself as not only a physical world of inanimate and animate objects, but a theory of knowledge and understanding which is based upon the notion that a) the understanding of a thing is predicated upon the existence of a true Form, or Idea of a thing without which the understanding, or even the thing itself, could not truly “exist”, and b) that such Forms or Ideas existed eternally as intellectual constructs upon which our understanding of the world around us is based. It is from this premise and starting point that we must begin to try and grasp Plato’s perspective on the role of the human mind, the act of perception, and ultimately his views on the Soul which are very much inextricably linked to his views on the mind and the means by which we can truly understand or comprehend anything.

In this context we must view his argument of the immortality of the Soul in Phaedo, which hinges off of the immortal and undying existence of intelligibles, upon which the Soul consists of and is characterized by. His notion of intelligibles is contrasted with his view of particulars, which could be best described as specific characteristics and qualities of things, of substances, which have some existence in physical reality. These particulars exist as extensions of, characteristics again, of those things which have an existence in time and space, which are perishable in fact. The Soul however deals in and exists in the contemplation of imperishable Ideas and Forms, these intelligibles which exist beyond time and space and do not indeed perish. It is with this intellectual and metaphysical dualistic type of reality that Plato establishes his argument for the immortality of the Soul – for how can Soul which is so closely correlated and associated with intelligibles which in and of themselves are not perishable, perish in and of itself at death? This is the essence of what is sometimes called Plato’s affinity argument, so called because it establishes the Soul’s affinity of and to the imperishable world of intelligibles and therefore must and should share the same characteristics of this imperishable phenomena, i.e. is imperishable and immortality, in and of itself.[9]

What is implied in this description of, and argument around the nature of the soul of course is the idea that, the implicit belief, that the Soul is a thinking thing, or perhaps better articulated that the Soul is that which contemplates intelligibles, or more specifically that which contemplates Ideas or Forms. Although Plato doesn’t directly call out the connection between his Forms and intelligibles in Pheado it is not that big of a leap to derive the connection, for his Theory of Forms is articulated and laid out most clearly in the Allegory of the Cave in the Republic, which is in all likelihood and later more mature work of Plato’s.

What is also presumed in this argument in Phaedo is of course that it is the Soul which gives life to the body, a presumption that permeates the work (and virtually all of Greek philosophical doctrine before and after Plato in fact). This is perhaps best illustrated by the notion that the idea of “being alive” in classical Greek is typically and broadly described by the word ensouled, or “empsuchos”. And the Soul, throughout Homer’s work as well in the Pre-Socratic philosophers straight through Plato’s and Aristotle’s work, is not only presumed to be that principle which gives life to animate things, but also that which is the source of a variety of basic moral and ethical constructs which characterize the human condition, namely courage, valor and other human characteristics that are aspired to in the not only the Homeric tradition, but then as we see in Plato’s Republic, the notion of Justice as well.

In the Republic, perhaps the greatest if not one of the greatest works attributed to Plato, his intention is to lay out and describe the notion of Justice, and how that in turn is related to the individual, happiness in general, and the implications for the ideal state of governance, a topic that was of great importance to the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean at the time period when this philosophic revolution takes place, being that the majority of Plato’s young life was marked by extreme political strife and war, namely the Peloponnesian conflict which pitted two very different forms of government against each other, i.e. the tyranny of Sparta against the democracy of Athens.

In the Republic, or On Justice, Plato is forced to come up with a somewhat more coherent view of the Soul relative to what we find in Phaedo, to describe its facets in a more detailed and thorough way than he does in Phaedo, primarily because he is not simply (not that there is anything simple about it) dealing with the establishment or discussion of the immortality and imperishable nature of Soul, but dealing with the idea of whether or not there is an ideal state of the Soul that individuals should aspire to, a concept which Plato attaches to and feeds into his concept of Justice, which he perceives to be or even defines as, the ideal state of the Soul, from which the ideal state itself ultimately derives.

In this conception of the Soul, which is thread and alluded to throughout the Republic, particularly in Book 1, Book 4 and then less directly in Books 8 and 9 which deal with the corrupt forms of state and soul, Plato outlines not only the Soul’s basis in giving life, animating the body, but also its role in establishing order, or reason (logos) in the life of the individual, as well as being the source of what he refers to as spirit (loosely defined as the guiding force of individuals to seek honor and respect by their peers and is naturally aligned to reason to a great extent), and appetite which is described as the desire for food, drink and sex. In toto then what we find in the Republic is a coherent view of the Soul as the source of the basic driving needs of man, the alignment or proper direction of which leads to the living of a just, and in turn a happy, life, from which collective justice and collective happiness of the state can be derived or found. The proper functioning and use of the deliberative and rational faculties of man is called out as the source, the pillar, from which the just man, the happy man, is derived:

 

Then next consider this. The soul, has it a work which you couldn’t accomplish with anything else in the world, as for example, management, rule, deliberation, and the like, is there anything else than soul to which you could rightly assign these and say that they were its peculiar work?” “Nothing else.” “And again life? Shall we say that too is the function of the soul?” “Most certainly,” he said. “And do we not also say that there is an excellence virtue of the soul?[10]

 

Perhaps the most definitive and mature view of Plato’s Soul, and the explicit relationship to God (or gods, “theos” as the case may be), is provided to us in Laws, what is viewed as his last and perhaps greatest work. In Laws, Plato explores the nature and origin of law within the state, in many respects covering ground that has already been covered in the Republic, but with perhaps a more cynical, or realistic point of view, reflecting perhaps his perspective on the ideal state toward the tail end of his life after coming to grips with the limits of philosophy within the sphere of power, i.e. politics. It can be looked at as perhaps a more practical treatise on political philosophy where the ideal state of the individual, i.e. Justice, and its attainment and relationship to the ideal state is somewhat abandoned in lieu of the role, and source, of law that is required to govern a state’s citizens that perhaps are incapable of, or are ultimately flawed, in their pursuit of Justice and virtue.

As the nature and origin of laws are explored in Laws, the question of imposing piety toward God (or again “gods”, “theos” as the case may be) is brought up and therefore the discussion as to whether or not the God/gods can be said to exist is naturally covered. Leaving aside the question of whether or not Plato’s view of God in Laws specifically (which arguably records the penultimate views of Plato toward the end of his life) is monotheistic or polytheistic in nature – the latter of course being he more likely interpretation even though it is not alluded to specifically – Plato does appear to take a firm stance in theism proper, i.e. the belief that the Gods do in fact exist. His argument is at it turns out one based upon the existence of the Soul, the Soul being defined again as the source of movement of the body, or of a body, for he abstracts the notion of the human Soul to astral elements as well, moving up the chain to argue that if we indeed believe in the individual, human Soul, and in its nature as the source of movement, of life and order, for the individual, then we must in turn believe that the stars, the planets, the universe itself also has a Soul with the every same attributes. Good and evil are aligned, as they are in the Republic within the context of the discussion of Justice, with the proper balance and well functioning of the Soul – the important connection being made between good, balance, order, and reason, hence establishing perhaps Plato’s greatest contribution to the West, the clear distinction of reason and order above all else as the primary agents of human society and civilization.

 

Yes, very true; the soul then directs all things in heaven, and earth, and sea by her movements, and these are described by the terms-will, consideration, attention, deliberation, opinion true and false, joy and sorrow, confidence, fear, hatred, love, and other primary motions akin to these; which again receive the secondary motions of corporeal substances, and guide all things to growth and decay, to composition and decomposition, and to the qualities which accompany them, such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness, hardness and softness, blackness and whiteness, bitterness and sweetness, and all those other qualities which the soul uses, herself a goddess, when truly receiving the divine mind she disciplines all things rightly to their happiness; but when she is the companion of folly, she does the very contrary of all this. Shall we assume so much, or do we still entertain doubts?[11]

 

 

[1] Philosophical elements of the Anaxagoras’s Nous can also be seen in the Derveni Papyrus, a work which is tied to the Orphic cosmological tradition from the 5th century BCE.

[2] Anaxagoras by Patricia Curd, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Fall 2011 edition, pgs 16-17. Full text can be found at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anaxagoras/.

[3] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=psychology

[4] For a very detailed overview of the Ancient Greek conception of the Soul throughout the Homeric and Pre-Socratic period as well as in the works of Plato and Aristotle, see Ancient Theories of the Soul by Hendrik Lorenz, published in the 2009 edition of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which can be found here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/.

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic

[6] Plato was present at Socrates’s final hearings of judgment, as we find in the Apology, which is Plato’s account of the Socrates’s defense which he lays out to his Athenian council members where he stands accused of “corrupting the youth and of not believing in the gods of the Athenian state”, a crime punishable by death apparently to which Socrates willingly accepts. His reasoning for the acceptance of this judgment is related in the Crito which is an account of a conversation between Socrates and Crito while Socrates awaits his death sentence in his cell which covers the topics of justice and injustice among other things.

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_Academy

[8] Plato’s Phaedo and Republic were alternatively referred to in antiquity as On the Soul and On Justice respectively, speaking to the prominence of these two themes in the works themselves.

[9] For a more detailed look at this “affinity argument”, see Ancient Theories of the Soul by Hendrik Lorenz, published in the 2009 edition of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, pgs. 10-14 which can be found here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ancient-soul/.

[10] Plat. Rep. 1.353d. Text from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text, Republic Chapter 1 section 353d.

[11] Plato Laws, X. Translation by Benjamin Jowett. From http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/plato/laws/laws09.htm.

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