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In this chapter, Filip Karfik presents Patočka’s interpretation of Plato’s conception of the soul. Karfik explores Patočka’s suggestions that the self-moving soul is key to understanding Plato’s philosophy—a philosophy that, correctly understood, is nothing but a doctrine of the soul—and that dialectic is the science aimed at illuminating the essence of human life. In the first part of the chapter, Karfik sketches Patočka’s overall interpretation of Plato’s definition of the soul as self-motion and of a number of topics in Plato’s philosophy that Patočka elucidates based on his views about the definition of the soul: ontology, the doctrine of the tripartite structure of the psykhē and its parallel to that of the polis, the doctrine of erōs, the program of paideia, the idea of immortality, and his physics and cosmology. In the second part, an apparent paradox in Patočka’s interpretation is addressed, namely that Patočka interprets the doctrine of the self-moving soul, discussed explicitly only in Plato’s supposedly late dialogues, on the basis of his so-called early- and middle-period dialogues, while he dismisses the discussions of this doctrine from the later dialogues as fantastic. In short, Patočka sees the genuine sense of Plato’s idea of the soul’s self-motion indicated in those contexts in which it is not expressed, while he considers the only explicit formulations of it as an aberrant elaboration on it. Despite this paradoxical character of Patočka’s overall interpretation, Karfik argues, it nevertheless possesses an undeniable persuasive power due to its capacity for explaining so many fundamental tenets of Plato’s thought from a single point of view.

In: Phenomenological Interpretations of Ancient Philosophy
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Abstract

On the surface, the Cratylus presents us with two competing theories concerning the “correctness of names”, a naturalist and a conventionalist one. More in depth, it attacks the very idea that the study of language is the privileged or even the only way of acquiring knowledge. Besides casting doubt upon the epistemological value of words it raises the question of the ontology allowing for a theory of knowledge. In comparison with the Cratylus, the theory of language put forward in the Theaetetus and the Sophist marks a double shift: from onoma to logos and from the relation onoma–pragma to the relation logos–dianoia–eide. The alternative between an ontology of flux and an ontology of unchanging Forms which underlies the debate about the correctness of names in the Cratylus resurfaces in the Theaetetus and the Sophist. The Sophist tries to resolve this conflict by assigning motion and rest their proper places among the greatest genera, thus replacing the primitive ontology of single Forms with a structured ontology of relationships among them. This ontology provides a basis for the theory of falsehood of judgement and speech and, more generally, for the theory of imitation which can be true or false. On this new basis, the conception of speech as a kind of mimesis can be reformulated. Since speaking and judging consist in a kind of imitation and since imitation, as such, allows for falsehood, neither speech nor judgement can be the criterion of truth. Only what is not itself an imitation can provide this criterion.

Open Access
In: Plato’s Cratylus
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Abstract

Plato’s Timaeus offers an elaborate theory of sense-perception. It is defined in terms of an opinion accompanied by irrational sensation. In humans, sensation is a physiological process occurring in the ensouled body through the agency of the mortal kind of soul whereas opinion is a judgement passed on this process by the rational kind of soul. The sensation itself is a result of the clash between different bodies defined in terms of masses of minuscule regular solids of fire, air, water, and earth, themselves composed of two kinds of triangles. Clashes between bodies cause dissolution and reconfiguration of these solids. These processes can be described mathematically but, to the human soul, they appear as different qualia. Perceptible qualia are not subject-independent properties. Nevertheless, there must be intelligible Forms of them on which true judgements about them are based.

Open Access
In: Plato’s Timaeus
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Abstract

Two of Plato’s dialogues, the Parmenides and the Timaeus, deal explicitly with the relationship between being and time. The former builds on the assumption that whatever is must be temporal, while the latter makes being and time mutually exclusive. This paper begins by examining how the argument develops in the Parmenides, specifically in the corresponding sections 140e1-142a1 and 151e3-155e3 of the first and the second deductions of the dialectical exercise, as well as in the corollary to the second deduction at 155e4-157b5. It then compares this argument with the account of time given in Timaeus 37e6-39e2, which alludes to the account given in the Parmenides. In stressing the incompatibility of these two accounts, it highlights a remarkable feature they both share. Parmenides’ argument starts from the assumption that whatever is in time must be present, past or future, whether a process or a state resulting from a process. As he advances further in the game of Zenonian antilogies, however, he reduces the dimension of the present to a mere ‘now’, conceived of as a ‘stop’ in the process of becoming. In the corollary, he eventually removes the present from time the ‘instant’ in which a change between two mutually exclusive processes or states occurs. Timaeus, for his part, immediately rules out that the present is a temporal dimension, by restricting temporality to the past and the future. Thus, in both accounts, the present vanishes from time and temporal processes are made dependent on extratemporal conditions. However, Parmenides’ argument points to an extratemporal principle of indeterminacy allowing for change, while, for Timaeus, there are two extratemporal conditions for temporal processes, namely the being of the intelligible Forms, on the one hand, and a pre-cosmic, disorderly becoming in space, on the other.

In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
Proceedings of the Tenth Symposium Platonicum Pragense
Plato's 'Timaeus' brings together a number of studies from both leading Plato specialists and up-and-coming researchers from across Europe. The contributions cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the literary form of the work to the ontology of sense perception and the status of medicine in Timaeus' account. Although informed by a commitment to methodological diversity, the collection as a whole forms an organic unity, opening fresh perspectives on widely read passages, while shedding new light on less frequently discussed topics. The volume thus provides a valuable resource for students and researchers at all levels, whether their interest bears on the Timaeus as a whole or on a particular passage.