In this commentary on D. Nails, “Two Dogmas of Platonism,” I focus on her arguments for the claim that the Good is not the unhypothetical principle of everything in Plato’s Republic. I first examine what it would mean for any principle to be an unhypothetical principle of everything, and argue that Nails equivocates in her construal of this role. I then argue that Plato’s references to the unhypothetical principle should not be read to refer to a single, unique item, but to each Form F in its role as the cause of a F phenomena.
In this paper I offer a new interpretation of the philosophical method of the Meno. In the opening discussion of the dialogue, Plato introduces a restriction on answers in dialectical inquiry, which I call the Dialectical Requirement (DR). The DR is applied twice in the Meno, in different ways (75d5-7, 79d1-3). In the first section of the paper, I argue that the two applications of the DR represent the beginning and end of dialectic. This shows that dialectical inquiry starts from our linguistic competence with the name of the property we investigate, and ends only when we have an account saying what is common to and explanatory of the bearers of that property. Dialectic begins in our ordinary ability to speak and think about the world, and ends in genuine grasp of the underlying causes of nature. In the second section, I describe the resources of linguistic competence, and their role in dialectical progress. Our linguistic competence with the name of a property enables us to make a wide variety of statements about the property and its bearers in ordinary discourse. In dialectic, these ordinary statements act as a portfolio in which the property under investigation is presented to us writ large, through its instances, types, species, etc. We seek to develop an account that says what is common to, and explanatory of the phenomena in the portfolio. When an account is inconsistent with one of the things we tend to say, this demands revision either in the account, or in the portfolio of statements. In this way, the process by which we develop our account also helps to organize and revise the statements in our portfolio so that they and the account ultimately form a coherent, explanatory body of statements.
Interpretations of recollection in the Phaedo are divided between ordinary interpretations, on which recollection explains a kind of learning accomplished by all, and sophisticated interpretations, which restrict recollection to philosophers. A sophisticated interpretation is supported by the prominence of philosophical understanding and reflection in the argument. Recollection is supposed to explain the advanced understanding displayed by Socrates and Simmias (74b2-4). Furthermore, it seems to be a necessary condition on recollection that one who recollects also perform a comparison of sensible particulars to Forms (74a5-7). I provide a new ordinary interpretation which explains these features of the argument. First, we must clearly distinguish the philosophical reflection which constitutes the argument for the Theory of Recollection from the ordinary learning which is its subject. The comparison of sensibles to Forms is the reasoning by which we see, as philosophers, that we must recollect. At the same time, we must also appreciate the continuity of ordinary and philosophical learning. Plato wants to explain the capacity for ordinary discourse, but with an eye to its role as the origin of philosophical reflection and learning. In the Phaedo, recollection has ordinary learning as its immediate explanandum, and philosophical learning as its ultimate explanandum.