Plato and the Method of Analysis

in Phronesis
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Late ancient Platonists and Aristotelians describe the method of reasoning to first principles as "analysis." This is a metaphor from geometrical practice. How far back were philosophers taking geometric analysis as a model for philosophy, and what work did they mean this model to do? After giving a logical description of analysis in geometry, and arguing that the standard (not entirely accurate) late ancient logical description of analysis was already familiar in the time of Plato and Aristotle, I argue that Plato, in the second geometrical passage of the Meno (86e4-87b2), is taking analysis as a model for one kind of philosophical reasoning, and I explore the advantages and limits of this model for philosophical discovery, and in particular for how first principles can be discovered, without circularity, by argument.

Plato and the Method of Analysis

in Phronesis



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