15 May 2007

Difficulties, Lecture I

The following are in my view the chief difficulties in Broadie's first Whitehead lecture. (One of these I have already stated in a post.) I don't regard these as decisive objections.

1. The answer to the question, Why did Plato postulate a maker god in addition to a pantheistic cosmic god?, is presumably that a pantheistic, cosmic god is corporeal; thus (for Plato) it 'comes into being' and has an unstable existence on its own; thus its continuing existence must be attributed to a cause which does not similarly 'come into being'. Plato gives this argument explicitly at Tim. 28b-c. Thus there is no need to say that he postulates a Maker god to account for human action.

2. Broadie says that if human beings were not made by the Maker god, but were temporary portions or manifestations of the cosmic god, then their being 'first causes' of their actions could not easily be accounted for. But why should the fact that we are made (produced, manufactured) serve to account for our autonomy as causes? Products seem to have nothing in them except what is put in them by their maker. (It's implausible to hold that Plato is relying here on his limited acquaintance with automata.) Doesn't generation lead to autonomous offspring more than production? But then if human autonomy were his concern, wouldn't he have favored an image involving generation?

3. Again, Broadie claims that, for Plato, if human beings were portions of the cosmic god, then there would be no guarantee that we could have access to the Forms we need as paradigms of human government. But: presumably the cosmic god would have in its intellect suitable enough Forms or ideas of goodness and order at least, as well as mathematical forms (since the cosmos is so beautiful, according to Plato); and Plato nowhere suggests that harmony with the cosmos would be inadequate as a standard for human virtue and sociability (quite the contrary--cf. the Gorgias); and in the Republic, at least, the order that Plato thinks human society should take is presented as something natural (the three natural classes in a natural order); and what would be the reason to think that any Forms above the intellect of the cosmos would be those especially relevant for human society?

4. It would seem that Broadie needs to explain, not merely why Plato would be dissatisfied with a cosmic god alone, but also why, if he were especially concerned with vindicating human beings as 'first causes' of their actions, he did not adopt another hypothesis which was available to him--I have in mind the view that the souls of human beings are immortal and divine, insofar as they consist of self-moving substance (a view that he seems to flirt with in the Meno, Phaedrus, and Laws).