God and Forms in Plato: And Other Essays in Platos Metaphysics

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Is there any kind of consistency in his psychology? What is the relationship between the theory of metempsychosis and the dualist ontology, which is outlined in the dialogues? Does the soul in its entirety partake of the cycle of reincarnations? Among the different solutions that have been proposed, the most popular are those which maintain that Plato changed his mind and that at the end of his life he defended a tripartite conception of the soul.

1. Matter and form introduced

You can find this approach in a book that can be considered one of the most important on the subject, T. I will start with the central books of the Republic , then I will analyse the relationship between the demiurge and mind, and finally I will examine the individual soul according to the Timaeus.

PLATO ON: The Forms

Since in the context of this paper I cannot engage in a detailed refutation of the various interpretations of this passage, I will simply present my own exegesis 7. It marks the thematic continuity with another dialogue, the Philebus , and also shows the perspective from which the three allegories should be read.

In this new perspective, what is significant are the effects of the Good as cause, and not as specifically final or formal cause using the Aristotelian terminology, cf. Its action as efficient cause is what the following three allegories will focus on. For an exegesis that relies on literality, it is evident that the focus of the three allegories lies not on the description of the essence of the Form of the Good, but in its function as creator of sun and reality, as causal in the fullest sense, as the fundament of all Being 8.

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The Good appears as different from the Forms and above them, but not transcendent to Being. It is also causa causarum and mensura mensurarum. The language used by Socrates also points out that neither the sun nor the Good are considered the sole principles of reality. It is not a principle of dissolution, degeneration or disease. Similarly, the Good attaches, adds cf.


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Socrates speaks as though the Good were not the only present cause in the ideal world, as though there were another element or elements that partake in the constitution of it. According to the pattern of the Philebus , the Good acts by imposing its measure, the limit that it represents. If we follow the allegory to its logical conclusion, the Good acts as a permanent efficient cause, which produces measure and limit.


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The Good is measure, but also efficient cause of the ideal world and even of the world of becoming itself through the sun, its offspring 9. The Idea of the Good appears as the efficient cause of all reality b9-c2 , it is also the origin of mind, which is a constitutive element not only of the soul but also of the noetic world b7-c5. The mind nous is the element of which sensible and intelligible world partake and it is produced permanently by the Good cf. If the ideal world has mind, because of the action of the Form of the Good, the latter cannot be in the former. Indeed, nous is what is most similar to the Form of the Good, but it is not the Good.

The Form of the Good should therefore be something superior to and different from it. It seems to have a movement towards the entities that are inferior to it. VII c and produces the sun and light for the sensible world. In any case, mind appears as a kind of emanation of the Supreme Being, which is maintained by it in a continuous and persistent way and which does not exist independently from its source, something that is further supported by the image of light. A clarification of the relationship between the demiurge and the Form of the Good would require a systematic and thorough research, a task that is too comprehensive for my purpose here.

However, it is remarkable that in the Timaeus the question of the real nature of the demiurge is not considered, and that only his activity as efficient cause is treated cf. How should we understand this description? If the Form of the Good belongs to the realm of Being and has a noetic nature, the identification is practically unavoidable.

In any case, the demiurge is an efficient and noetic cause, who also has will. However, it also shows that, as in the case of man, in the cosmic realm there is a movement that goes in the opposite direction, from the sensible world to the supreme principle. The nous has a direct relationship to this double movement, as was clear in the Republic. Union of Indivisible Existence with the Divisible one and creation of an intermediate Existence. Union of the nature of the Indivisible Sameness and the nature of Divisible Sameness and creation of an intermediate nature of Sameness.

Union of the nature of the Indivisible Difference with the nature of the Divisible Difference and creation of an intermediate Difference. Union of the intermediate nature of the Difference with the nature of the intermediate Sameness, and. This fact has led scholars to identify the first pair Indivisible Existence and Divisible Existence with the Forms and the sensible beings respectively. However, this interpretation cannot be based on the letter of the text. It is not possible, therefore, to relate in a simple way what is here typified as Existence, the Sameness and the Difference to the three supreme genera of the Sophist ee , Being, Identity and Difference, since that text refers only to Forms and the description in the Timaeus seems to include elements which take part in the constitution of all reality.

The construction of the World Soul in the Timaeus , is based on two elements whose principal characteristics are indivisibility and permanence in one case and divisibility, becoming and dispersion in space in the other The text also implies that both kinds of mixture are of different quality. Furthermore, it has also often been overlooked that these elements give origin to the stuff, which will form the whole of the world soul and that the revolution of the nature of the same and of the other that will be mentioned later 36c are themselves a mixture which includes all the elements that are recalled here.

In other words, it is too often forgotten that the circle of the fixed stars and that of the planets are composed of the same elements. The World Soul therefore appears as the combination of one indivisible and stable principle with another, which changes and is divisible. Both are incorporeal. The fundamental characteristic of the product of the mixture of both elements is magnitude.

Theory of forms - Wikipedia

As it is described, the World Soul is a line, which is curved in order to form seven unequal circles 36d If my analysis is correct, the substance which forms the World Soul is made from elements that are ontologically prior not only to body, but also to Forms. If we now turn to the results of the analysis of the central books of the Republic , I believe it is clear that one of the components of the World Soul is essentially related to the Form of the Good and also to the Forms in general with which it shares at least one element.

In it, order is proportion and measure, which are the warranty for the immanence of mind and the transcendence of the demiurge. Usually nous is identified with the demiurge, but Timaeus speaks also of the mind present in the world in the form of soul. However, the aim of the dialogue is not cosmology, but the description of the creation and incarnation of the human soul. It is clear that the central point of the myth is the birth of the soul in all areas, with the emphasis placed on the human soul, yet the theory of the human soul twice presented by the Pythagorean philosopher is, perhaps, one of the clearest examples of the difficulties the dialogue still presents.

It is indeed a system of surprising complexity. The creation of the World Soul is described in detail 34bd7 , while the creation of the star and god souls are only mentioned 38e It further shows that the other gods have to create the mortal parts of human beings. Indeed, a literal interpretation of the creation of the World-Soul shows that the intermediate kinds of Existence, Sameness and Otherness are also a mixture and have also been used completely in order to build the World-Soul cf.

The question can be resolved if we remember that these are the six elements which were also components of the World-Soul, and that they are the remainders of the construction of the souls of the gods. Since Timaeus does not mention the components of the souls of the gods, we could conclude that they are elements similar to the six components of the World-Soul, but of inferior quality.

According to T. Johansen, the movements of the soul are spatial movements, which correspond to the same dynamic as the movement of the body, i. However, the nous has only one dimension and it does not move through space. However, it is only the union of the soul with the body that produces the ordered translation movement. A unique sense perception for everyone brought about by the violent events, which affect it Love mixed with pleasure, pain, fear, rage and the phenomena that result from them as well as those which are their natural contraries.

The definition of justice as the control of the phenomena related to the irascible and to the appetitive souls underlines the difference between mind and the other kinds of soul. The demiurge gives further details that are central for understanding the substantial difference between them. The reference is here not only to the relationship between soul and body in general, as the mention of the four elements seems to point to, but especially to the relation between mind, more precisely the revolution of the Same and uniform, and the kinds of mortal soul.

IX b7 and the populace, which from the political point of view are associated with the concupiscent soul.

Human Nature, Allegory, and Truth in Plato’s Republic

Even if these definitions can be applied to the body in a metaphorical sense, they belong more properly to the inferior kinds of soul This difference will be made explicit in the third account, but is already present here. The strongest argument, however, is, I think, of a strictly linguistic nature. The philosophy of Socrates. New York: Anchor. Hamilton, E.

Plato’s Form of the Good

The collected dialogues of Plato. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Jackson, R. Mohr, R. Nails, D. The life of Plato of Athens. Benson Ed. Hoboken: Blackwell.

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Popper, K. The open society and its enemies Vols I and II. Strauss, L. The city and man. Chicago: Rand McNally.


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