31 March 2005

Penultimate PUR Post

Every good implies a limit, as I said, and my investigation of Plato's Utopia Recast must come to an end today.

But here is a passage which seemed worthy of attention. This is from a part of the book where Bobonich is explaining the epistemological possibilities for the soul, once the Homunculus Theory has been cast away:

The Timaeus and the Theaetetus ...go further and require that in order to make any judgment at all, the soul must draw on an awareness of non-sensible properties or Forms....Neither the Timaeus nor the Theaetetus requires the person to be aware of Forms, as such, in ordinary judgments, but they do hold that even the most basic judgments require the use of concepts that are drawn from an awareness of Forms, not simply from perception. Non-philosophers are thus not entirely cut off from an awareness of genuine value and [sic*] the right sort of education can bring it about that they are aware of, albeit still partially, the genuinely valuable features of things and value them as such (296).
Now what I wonder is: What bars us from attributing this same view to the Phaedo? It's not that, when a non-philosopher judges that two sticks are equal, he is aware of the Form of equality; it's rather that, if his mind were entirely cut off from Forms, he could not make a judgment of equality at all.

The bar is set fairly low in this part of PUR, for a person to have some intellectual concourse with Forms. But earlier in PUR (63-4), when the Phaedo is discussed, the bar gets set high. Bobonich considers the claim, "Non-philosophers' valuing of things and actions is based on their true opinions about value Forms." He argues (rightly) that Plato denies this, and then, apparently, he concludes from this that non-philosophers "do not base their valuing" on the Forms (66)--which of course doesn't follow.

Bobonich usefully anticipates an objection: "What about Recollection? If the objects of Recollection are non-sensibles and non-philosophers recollect, then they might have some sort of grasp of some non-sensibles" (65). In the Republic, Bobonich says (citing G. Fine as an authority), although non-philosophers do recollect Forms, they are incapable of recollecting any Forms relevant to ethics. In the Phaedo, Bobonich says, Recollection is said to require the recognition that a particular is not identical with a Form, and thus "Recollection requires an explicit recognition of non-sensibles" (65).

Perhaps Recollection does require this--but that is not what is at issue. In the Phaedo's Recollection Argument, Socrates argues that the fact that we make judgments about equality and non-equality from birth shows that we could not have acquired knowledge of the Form after birth (75b). In saying this he is clearly presupposing that an acquaintance with the Form is used in those sorts of judgments, even if someone making those judgments does not 'explicitly recognize' that that is what he is doing. Plato therefore is presupposing that judgments may be based on the Forms, even among those who have no opinions about Forms.

*The lack of a comma before an independent clause introduced by 'and' is common in PUR. (Astute readers of Dissoi Blogoi will recognize that this is the third such instance in passages alone that I've quoted.) I don't understand. Is this a copy-editing aberration? Has this rule of grammar been relaxed?


Christopher Roberts said...
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