• Fooloso4
    2.6k
    To our great fortune, we have online search engines and easy access to professional explorations with bibliographies. With the aid of these, even we can take a stab at some of Plato's deepest thought.magritte

    I started doing this long before online search engines. Most of the books on my shelf are not available online. Although an online search is a valuable source, it can give an illusion of knowledge. The same can be true of books and teachers too though. Given the plurality and diversity of interpretation one must still determine which views seem most insightful. In the Phaedrus he gives us a guide as to how to read his works. Like a living animal, each part is to be understood as it functions in the living whole.

    The key to Plato's metaphysics is the Line.magritte

    As important as the divided line is, it is not the whole of Plato's metaphysics. It is part of political dialogue, both in the public sense and with regard to the politics of the soul. Socrates acts as a guardian of the truth, or, more precisely, against nihilism. But as he acknowledged, he does not know the truth of the Forms. He creates an image of the philosopher that is contrary to the lover of wisdom. The philosopher in the Republic is someone who possesses the true. The lowest level of the divided line is not transcended or abandoned. It is our abode, the city, the cave.

    I do not agree that the Line is the key. It is a key element but it fails to present the indeterminate whole.

    But if we lined all three up then Simmias would be both great and small at the same time.magritte

    But this in not because the amount of Greatness he has changes, only that amount is greater or smaller than that of someone else. I don't see how this is an example of Plato's insufficient grasp of logical argument.

    Forms cannot be deduced from any source nor can they be directly observed which leaves only scientific hypotheses by the way of divine inspiration which happen to be the 'likeliest' and therefore should not be doubted.magritte

    The hypothesis of divine inspiration is not a good reason to accept without doubt the hypothesis of Forms.
  • magritte
    331
    As important as the divided line is, it is not the whole of Plato's metaphysics. It is part of political dialogue, both in the public sense and with regard to the politics of the soul.Fooloso4

    Reading Plato is like a quantum mechanical view of the physical world. What we see is an interaction between the reader and the text. Who we are and what we look for is half the interpretation of a (somewhat wrongly) presumed authoritatively objective source. Would-be politicians might read the Republic and the Laws, theologians seek God and the eternal in the Timaeus.

    But Forms and particulars are only hypothetical constructs that are literally nonsense unless shown to be logically related as parts of a greater edifice. Sure, the Line is just the scaffolding but without it everything collapses whether that be ontology, ethics, politics, psychology, and even God.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    The way I see it, in Plato’s metaphysics everything is secondary to intelligence and knowledge which presupposes a subject. Starting with the dictum “Know thyself”, Plato proceeds from the philosopher’s own individual intelligence to that intelligence which encompasses everything and is the cause and source of all knowledge and all intelligence. And this ultimate source and cause must be one. If it isn’t one, the philosopher must carry on his quest until he discovers that which is the ultimate one.Apollodorus

    In The Republic, the good is compared to the sun, in the sense that the good makes intelligible objects intelligible, in the same way that the sun makes visible objects visible. Since intelligence is dependent on intelligible objects, and the intelligibility of intelligible objects, we ought to conclude that in Plato's metaphysics, intelligence and knowledge are secondary to the good.

    I think that recognizing this is key to understanding Socrates' and Plato's approach to the sophists who claimed to teach virtue. Plato demonstrated that knowing what is good or right, will not ensure that a person will do it, as people commonly choose to do what they know is bad, or wrong. So the old adage, "virtue is knowledge", along with the claims of the sophists, to teach virtue, are proven wrong. This problem was dealt with in great depth by St. Augustine, but the reality of it, demonstrates that the good is higher than, and distinct from, knowledge. I believe that this is the most important lesson to be learned from Plato, and it is central to a number of the dialogues. How is it that knowing what is good, is insufficient to inspire one to actually do what is good? But Plato's recognition of this reality means that he placed knowledge and intelligence as secondary to the good.

    Socrates (Plato):
    You are to say that the objects of knowledge not only receive from the presence of the Good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it, though the Good itself is not essence but still transcends essence in dignity and surpassing power (Rep. 6.509b)
    Apollodorus

    See, the subject here, is "the Good", not "the One". And "the Good" transcends both essence and existence. The One is always reducible to an essence.

    Further evidence is provided by the Parmenides:

    “Then the One, if it has neither beginning nor end, is unlimited.”
    “Yes, it is unlimited” (Parm. 137d)
    Apollodorus

    See, it is proposed here that the One is the essence of "unlimited".

    The discussion eventually turns to the One and comes to the following conclusion:

    It is impossible to conceive of many without one.”
    “True, it is impossible.”
    “Then if One does not exist, the Others neither are nor are conceived to be either one or many.”
    “No so it seems.”
    “The Others neither are nor appear to be any of these, if the One does not exist.”
    “True.”
    “Then if we were to say in a word, 'if the One is not, nothing is,' should we be right?”
    “Most assuredly.” (Parm. 166b)

    So Plato, through Parmenides, is saying that nothing can exist without the One.
    Apollodorus

    Please reread the quoted passage and pay extra attention to the first line: "It is impossible to conceive of many with one". So what is shown is that "One" is first in conception, it is the first "form", but this does not demonstrate that it is the first in existence. "The Good", as required for, and cause of, conception, is prior to "the One" which is the result of conception.

    As stated by Aristotle, the One is the essence and formal cause and “the Others” are the material cause.Apollodorus

    "The good" is the final cause in Aristotle, and is prior to all the other causes. That you relate "the One" to formal cause is further evidence that the One is distinct from the Good. The good is the final cause.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    "The good" is the final cause in Aristotle, and is prior to all the other causes. That you relate "the One" to formal cause is further evidence that the One is distinct from the Good. The good is the final cause.Metaphysician Undercover

    "Final cause" simply means the purpose for which something is caused.

    The same thing can logically function as efficient cause, material cause, formal cause, and final cause.

    Like the Good, the One provides essence to the Forms, but is itself above essence.

    Since intelligence is dependent on intelligible objects, and the intelligibility of intelligible objects, we ought to conclude that in Plato's metaphysics, intelligence and knowledge are secondary to the good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Sure. Intelligence may be dependent on intelligible objects in ordinary experience. But this is not the case with regard to the One or the Good. The One or the Good may perfectly well be a form of "objectless" intelligence.

    For example:

    1. Pure objectless Awareness.
    2. Consciousness or Self-Awareness.
    3. Intelligence or Awareness of intelligible objects perceived as part of itself.
    4. Intelligence or Awareness of intelligible objects perceived as other than itself.

    If we think of the ultimate first principle as pure objectless awareness, that at the time of creation becomes first consciousness or self-awareness, i.e. awareness having itself for object, and then intelligence, i.e. awareness containing and organizing intelligible objects, e.g. Forms, then we can see that there is a big difference between Divine Intelligence (levels 1, 2, 3) and human intelligence (level 4).

    I think the easiest way to understand Plato and Platonism is to look at Creation as a diversification or “multiplification” of what is absolutely one.

    Therefore, to discover the absolutely one or “the One itself” we must apply a reverse process of simplification or reduction of multiplicity to its first causal principle.

    Dialectics is the only process of inquiry that advances in this manner, doing away with hypotheses, up to the first principle (arche) itself in order to find confirmation there (Rep. 533c).

    The literal meaning of arche is “beginning” or “origin”. To obtain true knowledge of anything, the philosopher must rise above assumptions or hypotheses to the first principle itself. In relation to knowledge, the philosopher must rise to its very origin or source.

    Hence we are told that the Good is the source of all knowledge:

    This reality, then, that gives their truth to the objects of knowledge and the power of knowing to the knower, you must say is the Form of the Good (Rep. 508e).
    The objects of knowledge not only receive from the presence of the Good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it (Rep. 509b).

    Here we have all the elements of knowledge (and of reality):

    Object of knowledge.
    Knowledge of the object.
    Means of knowledge.
    Knowing subject.

    (Human) knowledge itself consists of (a) sensory data and (b) reasoned thinking that uses the principles of Sameness, Identity, and Difference, to organize the sensory data in a way that makes the world intelligible.

    These principles enable us to classify everything according to certain essential and immutable universal properties called Forms.

    The various classes of Forms are known by the Form of Knowledge (to Eidos tes Epistemes) itself (Parm. 134b).

    But (as we are told in the Parmenides) we do not possess the Form of Knowledge.
    Therefore, the Form of the Good and Beauty and the others that we conceive as Forms themselves are unknown to us, even though our knowledge depends on them.
    And if anything partakes of Knowledge itself, there is no one more likely than God to possess this most accurate knowledge.
    [This is consistent with the Timaeus where God is the Divine Creative Intelligence that contains the Forms and creates the universe using the Forms as a model.]
    But if God has Knowledge itself, he will not have knowledge of human things if there is no relation between the world of Forms and the human world.
    Therefore he who hears such assertions is confused in his mind and argues that the Forms do not exist, and even if they do exist cannot by any possibility be known by man; and he thinks that what he says is reasonable, and he is amazingly hard to convince.
    Only a man of very great natural gifts will be able to understand that everything has a class and absolute essence, and only a still more wonderful man can find out all these facts and teach anyone else to analyze them properly and understand them.
    On the other hand, if anyone, with his mind fixed on all these objections and others like them, denies the existence of Forms, and does not assume a Form under which each individual thing is classed, he will be quite at a loss, since he denies that the Form of each thing is always the same, and in this way he will utterly destroy the power of carrying on discussion or dialectic.
    To train ourselves completely to see the truth perfectly, we must consider not only what happens if a particular hypothesis is true, but also what happens if it is not true.
    For example, we should inquire into the consequences to the One and the Many on the supposition that the One or the Many exist or not.

    The conclusion, as we saw, is that “If the One is not, nothing is” (Parm. 166b).

    In other words:

    Intelligible Forms must exist in order for the Material World to be intelligible to us.
    There must be a relation between the Forms and the Material World.
    The relation between Forms and material objects is one in which the latter participate in the former.

    Similarly, the Forms participate in the One and the Dyad.
    The Dyad participates in the One.
    The One is the ultimate first principle of all.

    Otherwise said:

    The One generates the Dyad.
    The One and the Dyad generate the Forms.
    The One, the Dyad, and the Forms generate Creative Intelligence.
    The One as Creative Intelligence generates the Material Universe consisting of Soul and Matter.

    Soul derives from the One, Matter derives from the Dyad or Receptacle, a form of Primordial Matter that the Creative Intelligence, using the Forms as patterns, forms first into the four primary elements, fire, water, earth and air, and then forms these into the objects of the universe from heavenly bodies to a lump of earth.

    The One itself and all its products being a form of Intelligence, the Material World consists of various forms of intelligence from the World Soul down to the souls of intelligent living beings to inanimate things.

    It follows that Intelligence is the only reality. Or, Reality is intelligence. And because it is one, it is called “the One” (to Hen). Because it is good, it is called “the Good”, etc.

    So, we can see that the theory in its fundamental principles is not unsound. What remains to be addressed is whether any of this can actually be known to us. Plato in this regard clearly states that the Form of the Good which is the source of all knowledge can be known:

    This reality, then, that gives their truth to the objects of knowledge and the power of knowing to the knower, you must say is the Form of the Good, and you must consider it as being the cause of knowledge and truth, and an object of knowledge (Rep. 508e1-4).

    When Plato says that truth is “unknown” or “unknowable” to us, he does not mean this in an absolute sense. If he did mean it in an absolute sense, then philosophy as inquiry into truth would be futile. Therefore, what Plato obviously means is that truth cannot be known by ordinary means such as sense-perception.

    As Socrates (Plato) puts it in the Phaedo:

    If we are ever to know anything absolutely, we must be free from the body and must behold the actual realities with the eye of the soul alone” (Phaedo 66d–e).

    When the soul inquires alone by itself, it departs into the realm of the pure, the everlasting, the immortal and the changeless, and being akin to these it dwells always with them whenever it is by itself and is not hindered, and it has rest from its wanderings and remains always the same and unchanging with the changeless, since it is in communion therewith. And this state of the soul is called wisdom (phronesis) (Phaedo 79d).

    Detaching itself mentally and emotionally from the material world, physical body, sense-perceptions, and thoughts associated with these, the soul’s (or man’s) pure intelligence (nous) uses dialectic, recollection, and contemplation to obtain a direct experience of reality.

    And because reality itself is intelligence, it stands to reason that intelligence can know reality. In fact, human intelligence already knows this subconsciously or intuitively. All it needs to do is to bring this latent intuition to the fore so that it becomes an actual experience.

    To take an illustration from physics, matter is said to consist of components that are not only increasingly smaller and therefore “immaterial”, but that also behave in an ordered and “purposeful” manner that resembles a rudimentary form of intelligence.

    If we break cognition down into its primary components, we obtain a similar result leading to intelligence, consciousness, or awareness itself. This is the objective of Platonic philosophy.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    "Final cause" simply means the purpose for which something is caused.Apollodorus

    No, it's distinctly called "a cause". So a purpose acts as a cause, through intention and free will. Do you understand, and believe in, the reality of free will? If so, you'll see that purpose, as intention is, a cause. This is what Plato meant by "the good", what Aristotle called final cause, the reason why things are brought into being, from not-being. Some potential is seen to be good, so it is brought into existence, caused to be. And this applies not only to material things, but Forms as well. This is why the good is prior to all Forms, as their cause, including One, and Dyad.

    I think the easiest way to understand Plato and Platonism is to look at Creation as a diversification or “multiplification” of what is absolutely one.Apollodorus

    We obviously have very different understandings of Plato.

    The literal meaning of arche is “beginning” or “origin”. To obtain true knowledge of anything, the philosopher must rise above assumptions or hypotheses to the first principle itself. In relation to knowledge, the philosopher must rise to its very origin or source.

    Hence we are told that the Good is the source of all knowledge:
    Apollodorus

    Right, we are in agreement here. and "the Good" is not only the source of all knowledge, but of all being, and beings, Forms and everything, as the cause, final cause of their existence. Things have been caused to exits because their existence is good.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Some potential is seen to be good, so it is brought into existence, caused to be.Metaphysician Undercover

    Yes. Seen to be good, brought into existence, caused to be, etc. by the same one Reality that acts as efficient, material, formal, and final causes. There is nothing else apart from that one Reality. Referring to the One as “formal cause” does not preclude the possibility of its being the other causes, including the ultimate cause.

    We obviously have very different understandings of Plato.Metaphysician Undercover

    Agreed. Very different and very obvious. :smile:

    You possibly read Plato through a more Aristotelian lens than I do.

    Things have been caused to exits because their existence is good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Correct. They have been caused by the Good a.k.a. the One.

    Anyway, as I was saying, it was a well-known fact among the Ancient Greeks that the essence of wisdom was knowledge of oneself. This was encapsulated in the celebrated maxim “Know thyself” (gnothi seauton) that was inscribed at the Apollo temple of Delphi.

    Plato himself mentions the Delphic maxims in the Hipparchus (228e) and the Protagoras (343b), and says that they “are on every tongue”.

    [Indeed, the Delphic maxims (numbering 147 in total) were known as “the Commandments of the Seven Wise Men” and were taken to other parts of the Greek-speaking world, as far as Egypt and Afghanistan, by none other than Aristotle’s notable pupil Klearchos of Soli. As a testimony to their enduring importance to Greeks, including Christians, the maxims served as a first school book for the Greek world into modern times. See Sentences of the Seven Sages]

    The Platonic equivalent to the Delphic maxim, that itself became famous throughout the Greek and Roman world, is “to become as godlike (homoiosis Theo) as possible” (Theaet. 176b).

    As Plato (through Socrates) explains, to be godlike means to be “righteous, holy (sinless), and wise”.
    Being a thoroughly Greek philosophical school, Platonism combined the two goals into one: for Plato, to know oneself is to know the divine within us. To be truly good we need to know the Good. To know the Good absolutely means to be the Good. And the Good is God, the possessor and embodiment of all knowledge.

    Therefore, the Platonic philosopher’s goal is to be righteous, holy, and wise like God himself. In the Greek tradition, all Gods are wise.

    Accordingly, the philosophical quest in Platonism revolves on knowledge of the Good which in the absolute sense means being the Good.

    As stated in the Republic, the Good is the source of all knowledge. Therefore the Good is the “highest lesson” or the “highest thing to learn”.

    By definition, philosophy is love of wisdom (philo-sophia). This means that the philosopher is a lover of and seeker after wisdom or knowledge. The philosopher is one who, having become aware of his own ignorance of higher things, undertakes the journey from ignorance to the highest wisdom.

    Similarly, in the Symposium, the goal of philosophy is to attain a vision of the highest. But the journey that takes the philosopher to his goal here is powered by the love of Beauty. Beauty evokes in us a feeling of wonder or amazement (thaumazein) and, as Socrates says, “wonder is the only beginning of philosophy” (Theaet. 155d). The love of Beauty is really an expression of the love of the Good which is the same as love of Knowledge or Truth.

    The journey has six stages:

    1. Love of one beautiful body.
    2. Love of all beautiful bodies.
    3. Love of beauty in souls.
    4. Love of beauty in institutions and laws.
    5. Love of beauty in sciences.
    6. Love of beauty in one single knowledge.

    This enables the philosopher to attain a vision of a single thing, Divine Beauty itself (Sym. 211c) which is the goal of the philosophical quest.

    However, it is important to understand that the Greek word “beautiful” (kalos) also means “good”. The Greek ideal of human perfection is “good and beautiful” or, rather “beautiful and good” (kaloskagathos). Beauty is inseparably connected with Good and Good is inseparably connected with Knowledge. Beauty leads to the Good and the Good is Knowledge or Truth.

    We can see that the philosopher’s ascent described in the Symposium takes a subtle turn from love of beauty (step one) to love of knowledge (step six). And Knowledge has the Good as its source (as has Beauty). Indeed, the Symposium’s subtitle proposed in antiquity was “On the Good” (Peri ton Agathon).

    Contemplation or knowledge of Beauty itself enables the accomplished philosopher to know the Good. And knowing the Good itself in the absolute sense means being the Good. By being good as much as humanly possible, the philosopher “touches” or “grasps” the truth (cf. Timaeus 90c). He becomes good, real, and true, and everything he does from now on is by participation in the truth which is the Good.

    He has achieved his goal and has become godlike and immortal. He is also perfectly happy, as the limited happiness he earlier derived from beautiful bodies has given way to the infinite and unceasing happiness derived from contemplating and being the Good. Human happiness has been replaced with divine Happiness. He is now perfectly and eternally happy like the Gods.

    We can get an inkling of this from the psychological fact that when we are good in any sense, we feel good about ourselves and are accordingly happy. This happiness that derives from our own goodness is more direct, more powerful, and more real than happiness that is derived from any external things (i.e. things other than ourselves) such as material possessions.

    As Socrates’ teacher Diotima puts it:

    In that state of life above all others, a man finds it truly worth while to live, as he contemplates essential Beauty [lit. “Beauty itself”]. This, when once beheld, will outshine your gold, your vesture, and your beautiful boys … (Sym. 211d)

    Incidentally, Greek telos (“goal” or “end”) is related to teleos (“accomplished” or “perfect”) which is what the mystery rites are called (telea or teletai, literally, “perfections”) that enable the initiated to attain perfection. (telos can also mean “death” in the literal sense or in the sense of “death to ignorance”.) Diotima refers to the philosopher ascending the ladder of philosophical love (the ladder to Truth) as one who is properly initiated in the rites (telea) and aims to attain the final goal (telos).

    The Republic itself is constructed in the style of an Orphic mystery rite: it begins with Socrates’ descent to Piraeus and the vision of the Thracian Goddess, proceeds through several key allegories (of the Sun, the Divided Line, and the Cave), and ends with the uplifting vision of the column of light at the center of the world (616b).

    Mystery rites are also mentioned in the Phaedo in connection with philosophy and are, of course, about union with the God or Truth which is one. Everything in Plato suggests a hierarchy of meaning, experience, and truth, culminating in the singular reality of the One.

    The Republic’s Analogy of the Sun, that compares the Good with the Sun, points in the same direction of a single absolute Reality (one Sun, one Truth, one Ultimate Reality).

    When Plato says that the Good is the “source of all knowledge”, or “above essence”, etc., this cannot be taken to mean that the Good is above the One, given that the One is not knowledge but pure, objectless Awareness, and as we have seen, the One is unlimited, without beginning or end, and without it nothing can exist (Parm. 137d, 166c).

    This is also evident from the fact that One and Being are inseparable and that everything that has being participates in both Being and One, which includes all the Forms, even the Form of the Good.

    So, I think there can be little doubt that the Good is just another name for the One, the ultimate first principle and supreme cause of all. The main difference is that “the One” properly applies to Ultimate Reality in and of itself, and “the Good” to Ultimate Reality in relation to Creation and the World of Becoming.

    For Ultimate Reality to conceive the will to create a universe that is good like itself, this presupposes some form of consciousness or self-awareness and intelligent activity. But at the highest level of reality there is no such activity or consciousness, there is just pure, non-relational awareness, comparable to an infinite, perfectly still ocean of living light.

    That infinite mass of luminous awareness must first become aware of itself. This is what produces the first subject-object dichotomy, or the One and the Dyad, where subject and object are experienced as one yet “distinct”.

    Next, by the interaction of the One and the Dyad, the Forms are produced like currents within that ocean of awareness, and with them, the Divine Intellect or Creative Intelligence (Nous Poietikos) that contains, holds them together, and organizes them into a coherent whole that is to serve as a model for the Material World.

    In the final phase, the Creative Intelligence produces the Material World shaped according to Forms, like waves on the surface of the ocean that are at once “separate” from it and one with it. “Separate” as seen from the “external” world of appearance or Becoming, one with it as seen from the inner world of reality or Being. And this means that the unity or oneness of Reality remains One at all times.

    Plato has left us the sketch of a general metaphysics that is for us to complete by following its inner logic.

    We could, of course, take the One and the Good to be two distinct realities if we really wanted to. But (a) there is no evidence that this is what Plato does and (b) I don’t see what could be gained from it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Yes. Seen to be good, brought into existence, caused to be, etc. by the same one Reality that acts as efficient, material, formal, and final causes. There is nothing else apart from that one Reality. Referring to the One as “formal cause” does not preclude the possibility of its being the other causes, including the ultimate cause.Apollodorus

    But these are different things. These distinct causes are described, and named, as distinct and different things, To say that different things are one, requires a principle of unity. It's like if you say the One is a house, but being a house doesn't preclude the possibility of it being a car as well.

    You create that unity with "Reality". You claim there is one reality, and all these different causes are unity within that one reality. But I don't see how this claim, that reality is one, and not itself a multitude, is supported.

    The journey has six stages:

    1. Love of one beautiful body.
    2. Love of all beautiful bodies.
    3. Love of beauty in souls.
    4. Love of beauty in institutions and laws.
    5. Love of beauty in sciences.
    6. Love of beauty in one single knowledge.
    Apollodorus

    I would differ with #6. I would say: Love of one single Beauty (the Form), rather than "one single knowledge". But this just shows that "one" is ambiguous, and it's not clear what its role is. Then Beauty is one of many Forms. Now if we are to unite this multitude of Forms within one Knowledge, we would be inclined to make Knowledge itself a Form. But if Knowledge is a Form, then it is just one of the many. Therefore the thing which unites the Forms as one, must be something other than a Form.

    However, it is important to understand that the Greek word “beautiful” (kalos) also means “good”. The Greek ideal of human perfection is “good and beautiful” or, rather “beautiful and good” (kaloskagathos). Beauty is inseparably connected with Good and Good is inseparably connected with Knowledge. Beauty leads to the Good and the Good is Knowledge or Truth.Apollodorus

    I don't agree. I believe Plato recognized a distinction between good and beautiful, even if they were sometimes expressed by the same word. This is why you say "good and beautiful", which wouldn't make sense if they were both the same word with the same meaning.

    There is an old metaphysical division between aesthetics and ethics, which I believe Plato had some understanding of. In one way, we place beauty at the top of the hierarchy, in another, we place good at the top. Beauty can be given a higher place than the good because it is desired simply for the sake of itself, whereas, as Aristotle demonstrated, we always find that the good is desired for the sake of something else, until we reach the final end, which is simply stipulated. He stipulated happiness as the final good.

    I think that Plato worked more to create a separation between the two than to dissolve the separation. He clearly worked toward a separation between pleasure and good, but it may be the case that good is a special type of pleasure. Then good might be a special type of beauty. But this would divide the unity of Beauty.

    And Knowledge has the Good as its source (as has Beauty).Apollodorus

    Knowledge has the Good as its source, but I don't think that we can say that Beauty has the Good as its source. If pleasure is derived from the actuality of beauty, and there are pleasures which are not good, then Beauty cannot be sourced from the Good. This is why some metaphysicians place beauty as higher than the good, it's desired for its own sake, as pleasure is, whereas Good must be supported by reason.

    But this points to an ambiguity, division, in the Good. If knowledge is derived from the Good, then the Good must be higher than knowledge and to say that the Good must be supported by reason would be contrary to that. So the Good, which serves as the source for all knowledge cannot be supported by any knowledge, or reason, and it becomes more like a simple desire for Beauty, or pleasure. The other sense of Good, the one supported by knowledge and reason cannot be the source of knowledge. This is the distinction between the apparent good, and the real good first formulated by Aristotle.. The real good is supported by reason and knowledge, whereas the apparent good is what actually inclines us to act, being what moves the will. The separation between the two is the reason why we can, and often do, what we know is bad.

    We can say that the goal of moral philosophy is to create consistency between the two forms of "Good". We are taught that the Good which is supported by knowledge and reason, the real good, is the highest principle, and the apparent good, which moves the will must be shaped to conform with the real good. However, we can see from Plato's principles, that the truly highest Good, the one which is the source of knowledge, must be what is called "the apparent good", being what is prior to knowledge. So the true goal of the moral philosopher is to shape and conform the real good, so that it conforms with the higher, apparent good.

    This inversion is the result of the fact that the will truly is free. So the free will cannot be made to conform to principles of "good" which it does not agree with. So the individual will continue to do what one knows is wrong, or incorrect according to the laws and rules of the community, when one believes oneself to hold higher principles. Therefore we must structure the hierarchy to reflect this reality, that what we call "the apparent good", supported by beauty, pleasure, and desire, as sought for the sake of itself, is truly higher than what we call "the real good", as supported by reason and knowledge.

    Contemplation or knowledge of Beauty itself enables the accomplished philosopher to know the Good. And knowing the Good itself in the absolute sense means being the Good. By being good as much as humanly possible, the philosopher “touches” or “grasps” the truth (cf. Timaeus 90c). He becomes good, real, and true, and everything he does from now on is by participation in the truth which is the Good.Apollodorus

    I think that this "knowing the Good" which you refer to is an understanding of the reality of the free will. It is to recognize that what moves the individual self, person, or soul, to act is what one believes to be good, not what is said by others to be good. So the true Good is found within, not in the conventions of the culture. As you say:
    This happiness that derives from our own goodness is more direct, more powerful, and more real than happiness that is derived from any external things (i.e. things other than ourselves) such as material possessions.Apollodorus

    When Plato says that the Good is the “source of all knowledge”, or “above essence”, etc., this cannot be taken to mean that the Good is above the One, given that the One is not knowledge but pure, objectless Awareness, and as we have seen, the One is unlimited, without beginning or end, and without it nothing can exist (Parm. 137d, 166c).Apollodorus

    Here is where you and I have disagreement, as to Plato's positioning of "the One". I believe Plato rejects the One as a true first principle, subjugating it to mathematics (as Aristotle described Met. 987b), being a first principle of epistemology, not metaphysics. The quotes you bring up represent the position of sophists who are trying raise the logically necessary "One", to metaphysical relevance. However, you can see that with Beauty and Good, we are dealing with principles prior to any knowledge, as the source of knowledge, whereas the need to assume "One", is derived from the imperfections of knowledge. So "the One" is not basic, fundamental, or foundational to knowledge, as there is knowledge which necessarily precedes it, the knowledge required for the individuation of particulars.

    This is also evident from the fact that One and Being are inseparable and that everything that has being participates in both Being and One, which includes all the Forms, even the Form of the Good.Apollodorus

    See, Being and not-Being, from which the One is derived, is a Parmenidean logical structure. If One and Being are inseparable as you say, then One is also inseparable from not-One, as Being is inseparable from not-Being, being defined one by the other in that logical structure. To proceed from here to the Good, which is supposed to be prior to any logic, therefore prior to such logical structures, we must see all as unindividuated, therefore no such thing as One. You might insist that this means seeing all as "One", but that is not true. "One" comes about from individuation, and does not exist prior to that individuation, which might be a sort of first act of intellection. But One does not exist prior to that first act of intellection, though Beauty and Good are relevant here.

    That infinite mass of luminous awareness must first become aware of itself. This is what produces the first subject-object dichotomy, or the One and the Dyad, where subject and object are experienced as one yet “distinct”.Apollodorus

    Do you see that Beauty and Good, as the motivation for action, exist prior to this first becoming aware of itself? And this is why Beauty and Good are prior to One.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    But these are different things. These distinct causes are described, and named, as distinct and different things, To say that different things are one, requires a principle of unity.Metaphysician Undercover

    They are described and named by us, humans, when we want to logically analyze reality. Reality itself does not do that because if it is aware of itself it is also aware that it, and no one else, is the ultimate cause of all things.

    Therefore the thing which unites the Forms as one, must be something other than a Form.Metaphysician Undercover

    Correct. The One or the Good is not a Form. It is the "cause of the essence in Forms and the Forms are the cause of the essence in all other (subordinate) things", as Aristotle quotes Plato as saying.

    Do you see that Beauty and Good, as the motivation for action, exist prior to this first becoming aware of itself? And this is why Beauty and Good are prior to One.Metaphysician Undercover

    First of all, "kaloskagathos" ("beautiful and good") is not used to draw a clear distinction between "beautiful" and "good" in general, but to stress the fact that both beauty and goodness are harmoniously combined in the same one person.

    "Beautiful" and "Good" may be distinct, but they also overlap. Something that is beautiful is also good in some practical sense. This is why in Ancient Greek "beautiful" can also be used in the sense of "good".

    In fact, beautiful and good have a lot in common, both being associated with right proportion, order, harmony, etc.

    This is why the Divine Creative Intelligence or Creator-God wants the world to be "as beautiful as possible" (Tim. 30a). "Beautiful" here is clearly identical with "good".

    Regarding ontological and metaphysical priority, the way I see it, the correct order is: (1) awareness itself, (2) self-awareness a.k.a. consciousness, and (3) intelligence or intellection.

    Beauty and Good are properties that logically belong to stage (3).

    Regarding the perceived "distinction" between the Good and the One, I think that if we insist on it, we will find it very difficult to place the One in Plato's hierarchy.

    So, I think this is a misunderstanding like the distinction between the Receptacle and the Ultimate Cause (the Good or the One).

    The Receptacle's mistaken "independence" arises from reading the creation story in the Timaeus as saying that principles like the Receptacle are prior to everything else.

    A more careful reading shows that this is not the case.

    The actual text reads:

    We shall not now expound the principle of all things—or their principles, or whatever term we use concerning them; and that solely for this reason, that it is difficult for us to explain our views while keeping to our present method of exposition (Tim. 48c).

    What Plato is saying here is that the creation myth is only a narrative or “likely account” and that the first principle (that is not expounded in the dialogue) is to be ascertained through philosophical inquiry.

    Given that the first principle – the One or the Good – is left out of the discussion, the affirmation that the Receptacle existed prior to creation, does not mean that it has independent existence of the first principle.

    Aristotle clearly states that Plato employs two causes, the formal, which is essence and is the One, and the material, which is matter and is the “Great and the Small” a.k.a. the Dyad.

    He also says that (in descending order) there are Forms, mathematical objects, and physical or sensible objects.

    He further says that the Forms are the cause of the essence in everything else, i.e., mathematical objects and physical objects, and that the One is the cause of the essence (ousia) in the Forms.

    The One being the first principle or cause of essence, it must itself be above essence and above Forms.

    As for the Receptacle, Plato’s description of it indicates that it is actually the space that contains the fundamental stuff of Matter and that is governed by Necessity.

    Obviously, if there is Matter, there must be Space where Matter is located.

    And this Space must operate in conjunction with Time in order to make cosmic creation possible.

    But before creation, i.e., before Time and Space, there are the Forms which are themselves contained within the Creative Intelligence that generates the Cosmos or Universe.

    As we saw earlier, the One, the principle of essence, is unlimited and without beginning or end.

    In order to bring about the physical Universe which is limited, certain limitations must be imposed on what is unlimited. Hence Limit, Time, Space, and Necessity.

    There being no other reality than the One, it is the One itself that imposes Limit on the Unlimited. The interaction of Limit and Unlimited results in the third principle, the Mixed (= Being). Together, the three constitute the Intelligible Triad.

    This Intelligible Triad is nothing but the One divided into (1) formed Matter and (2) formless Spirit or Intelligence. As Intelligence must have a content, the content of Intelligence are the Forms (Ideal Ratios or Proportions).

    Therefore, the Triad is simply the One’s aspects of Matter, Intelligence, and Forms.

    The Creative Intelligence, i.e., the One as Nous, is the efficient cause of the Universe:

    There is in the universe a plentiful Infinite and a sufficient Limit, and in addition a by no means feeble Cause which orders and arranges years and seasons and months, and may most justly be called Wisdom (sophia) and Mind (nous) (Phileb. 30c)

    Intelligence (Nous) uses both Matter and Spirit to create the Material Universe. It forms Soul by blending the Greatest Genera, Kinds, or Categories of “Same”, “Other”, and “Essence” (or “Being”) into a living, intelligent being (Tim. 35a, 41d). The ability to cognize identity, difference, and being, is what characterizes all souls and forms the basis of all intelligibility.

    The Divine Creative Intelligence also forms material bodies and objects by shaping the primordial material stuff of the Receptacle into the four primary elements, fire, water, earth and air, and then forming these into bodies and objects using the Forms as paradigms.

    In other words, the whole Material Universe consists of five primary elements: fire, water, earth, air, and space. The latter being at once the stuff of which the first four are composed and the medium in which they have their existence, it has ontological priority over the others.

    An important thing to understand at this point is that the Primordial Matter of the Receptacle is not unqualified matter. As stated in the Timaeus, it has a certain motion like a kind of “shaking” (seismos) or vibration comparable to that produced by a winnowing basket or sieve that makes particles separate or coalesce according to certain patterns (Tim. 52e). And for Plato, motion is always associated with soul or spirit.

    This means (1) that everything, from Ultimate Reality down to inanimate objects is a manifestation of the One and, in consequence, is endowed with at least traces of spirit, soul, or intelligence, and (2) that the One in its different aspects is the efficient cause, material cause, formal cause, and (as the Form of the Good) final cause. Otherwise said, the One uses the Creative Intelligence as its instrument, and Creative Intelligence uses Soul as its instrument.

    Soul is nothing but embodied intelligence. Pure, Creative Intelligence, referred to as “Creator-God” or “Maker of the Universe” is intelligence without body a.k.a. nous. When intelligence is embodied, it is referred to as “Soul” (psyche). This can be (1) the Soul of the Universe, (2) the souls of the Cosmic Gods (e.g., the Sun), demigods, and other spiritual beings e.g. nymphs etc., and (3) the souls of humans and other living creatures.

    We must also bear in mind that the Greek word psyche has a much wider connotation than English “soul” and includes the totality of a living being’s vitality.

    In any case, what the Divine Creative Intelligence does is to place an increasingly greater limit on Intelligence in order to generate intelligences that are subordinate to itself in the ontological order. As indicated in the Timaeus, the Divine Creative Intelligence possesses the powers of Being, Joy, Will, Knowledge, and Action. These powers are incrementally limited or reduced in the case of the Cosmic Soul and all other souls lower down the hierarchy until the stage of “inanimate” matter is reached.

    It follows that the One is the first principle of all things. The One is not only unlimited and without beginning or end. Together with Being, it is the reality on which all things depend. Therefore, the One is at the top of Plato’s ontological hierarchy that describes the various aspects of the One and Only Reality.

    Whilst the Republic deals primarily with that aspect of Ultimate Reality referred to as “the Good” and its ethical import, the Parmenides deals with the metaphysical aspect proper and accordingly focuses on “the One”.

    In the Parmenides, Plato presents Eight Arguments or Deductions designed to establish the status of the One as an example of philosophical inquiry leading to truth.

    Four of the Arguments are based on the proposition that “the One is”, and four on the proposition that “the One is not”.

    Among the conclusions, the following are of special interest.

    When investigated “itself by itself”, the One is neither a whole nor with parts; it has neither beginning nor end; it is beyond limit, shape, time, movement or rest; it is beyond description, knowability, or belief (Parm. 142-143).

    When investigated in association with Being (“One-Being”), the One is the reality of which all other things that have being partake and on which they therefore depend (Parm. 160).

    When investigated without the One (“If the One is not”), the others have no existence.

    “If the One is not, nothing is” is the final conclusion (Parm. 166c).

    This establishes the pivotal position that the One occupies in the Platonic ontological order.

    In fact, we may even say with the Eleatics that “the All is One” or with the Sicilians, that "Being is both Many and One" (Parm.128a; Soph. 242e), without contradiction.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k

    I believe that what is demonstrated by Parmenides, in the Parmenides, is that the concept of, "the One" is logically incoherent. No matter how it is presented the result is contradiction. That is why I say Parmenides is represented as a sophist, providing a logical demonstration which makes the Form of "the One" appear to be full of contradictions. It makes no sense that you assign "the One" a "pivotal position" in Platonic ontology.

    I think Plato reject this nonsensical sophistry concerning "the One" and moved on to a much more intuitive principle, "the good".
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    I think Plato reject this nonsensical sophistry concerning "the One" and moved on to a much more intuitive principle, "the good".Metaphysician Undercover

    You could be right. However, if Plato thinks it is “sophistry”, why would he write a whole dialogue on it? Why would Aristotle say that for Plato the One is the cause of the essence in the Forms and the Forms are the cause of the essence in the other things?

    Moreover, how is it sophistry to say that the One and the Good are identical?

    It is generally acknowledged that Plato is an eclectic writer and that much of his philosophy is borrowed from others.

    I think the influence of Orphism, Pythagoreanism, Heracliteanism, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Socrates and others on Plato’s writings is quite clear.

    It is true that Plato in the dialogues tends to be hostile toward the Sophists, but there is no reason to believe that his general rejection of Sophist teachings and practices means that he rejects absolutely everything they say.

    Certainly, the Stranger’s claims in the Sophist are not refuted. His classification of things according to Being, Rest, Change, Sameness, and Difference, etc. is not unsound. This is what the mind does with things in general, anyway. There is no reason why it cannot be applied to Forms. Discussing the relation of Forms to one another is not “sophistry”. Becoming lost in endless discussions about the Forms is, of course, another story.

    But the fact of the matter is that, though on the whole correct, Plato’s original Theory of Forms (as presented in the Phaedo) that defines particulars as things that participate in the properties of the Forms, is not sufficient to explain the exact nature of particulars. Plato, therefore, introduces new concepts like Limit, Matter, and Receptacle (Philebus, Timaeus).

    There is no denying that Forms do have some common characteristics such as One and Being. So, it is not incorrect to say that the One is the cause of the essence in all Forms and, therefore, above both essence and Forms.

    This also leads to the question of how the first principle of all can be both One and Many. The problem of One and Many is a key issue discussed in the Philebus. And the whole purpose of it is to explain how the Good, which is one, or undifferentiated unity, can generate multiplicity.

    This is explained by introducing the Dyad of Limit and Unlimited that is at once “One and Many” and, through its interaction with the One, brings forth multiplicity. Limit being that which imposes form on what is unlimited, is the principle of Form. Unlimited is the principle of Matter. The two are used by Creative Intelligence (which is a manifestation of the One or the Good) to impose Form on Matter and thereby generate the Physical Universe.

    Incidentally, Creative Intelligence itself is both one and many or “one-many”. As a self-directed activity proceeding from the One or the Good, it is one. As Intelligence consisting of many Forms and performing various acts of cognition in relation to the Forms, it is many.

    Plato himself makes Socrates say:

    A gift of Gods to men, as I believe, was tossed down from some divine source through the agency of a Prometheus together with a gleaming fire; and the ancients, who were better than we and lived nearer the Gods, handed down the tradition that all the things which are ever said to exist are sprung from one and many and have inherent in them the finite and the infinite (Phileb. 16c).

    The Finite (peras) and the Infinite (apeiria) or Limit and Unlimited are later said to be the principles that Intelligence (Nous) uses to arrange and order the Universe (Phileb. 30c).

    Plato here uses a Pythagorean theory that he barely modifies to fit his own system.

    So, it is clear that when Plato takes up a theory that appears to be inconsistent with his own, he does not necessarily do so in order to eliminate one of those two theories. On the contrary, his tendency is to combine them into a new or improved theory that is superior to both and serves to provide additional support to the general Platonic framework.

    The very same procedure is employed by Plato’s later followers like Plotinus in their attempt to develop and systematize Plato’s philosophy. We may or may not always and unreservedly agree with all their innovations, but we must concede that they are, after all, Platonists. And it is the Platonists, not the Sophists, that identify the One and the Good.

    The fact is that one is prior to many. When we reduce a multiplicity to the absolute minimum, we reduce it to one, not to “good”.

    So, Ultimate Reality is One.

    The One is characterized by Being and Awareness. First is must Be, and second it must be Something. Prior to Universal Creation, when nothing else exists, the One cannot be anything else aside from Being and Awareness or Consciousness.

    This is why Plotinus says that the One (or the Good) has (or is) a kind of awareness or consciousness. For the same reason, Plato calls it the source and cause of all knowledge: knowledge presupposes awareness or consciousness. This ultimate Awareness or Consciousness that is the source and cause of all knowledge, is the One or the Good.

    Though being good, it is not the One (or the Good) that desires the Good. The Good has no reason to desire itself. It is the Intellect that, having proceeded from the Good, desires the Good and wishes to make the Universe as beautiful (and as good) as possible.

    At the same time, though being beautiful and good, creation represents a departure from real being. Things can only be truly real when they are identical with the Real. Having proceeded from the Good or the One, all things ultimately desire to return to the Good or the One in accordance with the triadic cycle of abiding-procession-return (mone-proodos-epistrophe). The One always abides in itself. The Many proceed from the One and eventually return to the One which is their source.

    The desire to return to the One is the root of “love”. We love things that make us feel one with them and with ourselves. This is why we call them “beautiful” and “good”. But their beauty and goodness come from the Forms which in turn come from the One. Therefore, our love must be redirected to its true object. Love of the beautiful and the good, when practiced as indicated in the Symposium, takes us to the direct vision or experience of the Good or the One that is the Higher Self of all.

    In other words, intelligence comes to rest and is truly at peace and happy only when it is at one with itself.

    As Socrates puts it:

    And you will act with your eyes turned on what is divine and bright. And looking thereon you will behold and know both yourselves and your good. And so you will act aright and well. If you act in this way, I am ready to warrant that you must be happy (Alcibiades 1 134d).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Moreover, how is it sophistry to say that the One and the Good are identical?Apollodorus

    I might agree that the One is the same as the Good, in the sense of "the first" principle. This provides a clear defining feature of the One, as meaning the first. But Plato has Parmenides attributing all sorts of ridiculous properties to the One in the Parmenides. That's what happens if we just choose a name "the One" without any definition, and allow ourselves absolute freedom in describing it. We end up with a completely contradictory description. However, if we start with a limiting feature, such as "the first", or "the good", then we come up with a completely different description than the one which Plato represents Parmenides as providing.

    Certainly, the Stranger’s claims in the Sophist are not refuted.Apollodorus

    Direct logical refutation was not Plato's method. His way was to provide a very clear and accurate description of different perspectives, revealing the flaws, and allowing the reader to determine the parts of the perspective which were inconsistent and problematic, thereby requiring replacement or revision. So it is definitely as you say, that we are not advised by Plato to reject everything a particular individual is saying, absolutely, but we are to analyze critically, and reject the parts which produce unresolvable logical problems, while accepting the parts which are reasonable.

    But the fact of the matter is that, though on the whole correct, Plato’s original Theory of Forms (as presented in the Phaedo) that defines particulars as things that participate in the properties of the Forms, is not sufficient to explain the exact nature of particulars. Plato, therefore, introduces new concepts like Limit, Matter, and Receptacle (Philebus, Timaeus).Apollodorus

    Yes, that's what I said earlier in the thread. Plato reveals through the method described above, that the theory of participation, as presented, is deficient, flawed, and needs to be revised or rejected.

    There is no denying that Forms do have some common characteristics such as One and Being. So, it is not incorrect to say that the One is the cause of the essence in all Forms and, therefore, above both essence and Forms.Apollodorus

    If One is defined as the first, then it can be the cause of others. But there is a problem here with a difference between logical priority and temporal priority, as the defining feature of "the first". Temporal priority is required for cause, as "cause" is a temporal concept. However, logical priority does not necessitate temporal priority. And the Forms are related through logical priority. So if "the One" is related to other Forms as "first" in the sense of logical priority, we cannot necessarily conclude that it is first in the temporal sense, therefore we cannot conclude necessarily that it is the cause of the others.

    This also leads to the question of how the first principle of all can be both One and Many. The problem of One and Many is a key issue discussed in the Philebus. And the whole purpose of it is to explain how the Good, which is one, or undifferentiated unity, can generate multiplicity.Apollodorus

    Here, One is defined as distinct from Many, and that is a completely different definition from "first". To make the two consistent it is necessary to show how One is logically prior to Many. But the demonstration that One is logically prior to Many, does not show that One is temporally prior to Many, It is only through the introduction of "the Good", as a causal principle, in the sense of final cause, that we derive the temporal priority which is required for causation.

    Now it is required to show whether the Good is more compatible with One or with Many. And as I explained earlier in the thread, I believe that The Good is better described as a multiplicity than as a single, the good being complicated and complex. Therefore Many appears to be temporally prior to One, when One is defined in relation to Many. So temporally, Many is first rather than One. But when we define Many logically, it must consist of individuals, so One is logically prior to Many. This implies that "Many" is not a good defining term for One, as that which One is distinct from or opposed to. We would be better to define One with unity, and the opposing term would be ununified, as this does not necessarily imply distinct particulars like Many does, making the Many dependent on One. It makes Many dependent on ununified instead, and the ununified are not necessarily distinct individuals, or ones.

    This is explained by introducing the Dyad of Limit and Unlimited that is at once “One and Many” and, through its interaction with the One, brings forth multiplicity. Limit being that which imposes form on what is unlimited, is the principle of Form. Unlimited is the principle of Matter. The two are used by Creative Intelligence (which is a manifestation of the One or the Good) to impose Form on Matter and thereby generate the Physical Universe.Apollodorus

    Limit and Unlimited is another proposed way to deal with the difference between logical priority and temporal priority. But the mathematical conception of unlimited is distinct from the philosophical conception, and this method gets lost in sophisticated confusion. That's why Plato moved to "the Good" instead. And Aristotle demonstrated that "infinite" in the mathematical sense has the nature of "potential", while anything eternal must by "actual" which is a distinct category from "potential". This drives a wedge between "infinite" (unlimited), and "eternal" (the principle of temporal priority), making it impossible to speak of "unlimited" or "infinite" in a causal application.

    So, it is clear that when Plato takes up a theory that appears to be inconsistent with his own, he does not necessarily do so in order to eliminate one of those two theories. On the contrary, his tendency is to combine them into a new or improved theory that is superior to both and serves to provide additional support to the general Platonic framework.Apollodorus

    Right, this is the matter of critically analyzing the theories, and accepting the good, while rejecting the bad.

    The fact is that one is prior to many. When we reduce a multiplicity to the absolute minimum, we reduce it to one, not to “good”.Apollodorus

    This, what you call a "fact" provides a clear demonstration of what I described above, the division between logically prior and temporally prior. One is logically prior to many, as you say, a multiplicity is defined as consisting of ones. One is a defining feature of many, and is therefore logically prior. But this does not give us what is required to make any statements about causation, because of the gap between logically prior and temporally prior. If we want to make statements about causation we need principles of temporal priority rather than logical priority. This is where the principles derived from mathematics, one and many, limited and unlimited, fail us. They do not provide temporal principles.

    So, to get a principle of temporal priority Plato turned to "good", as a motivating feature, the cause of activity. here we have the basis for a temporal priority. But now we have a problem of establishing compatibility, or commensurability, between temporal priority and logical priority. If, the real "fact" is, as it appears to me, that good is more compatible with many than with one, we have a reversal between temporal priority and logical priority.

    This is why Plotinus says that the One (or the Good) has (or is) a kind of awareness or consciousness. For the same reason, Plato calls it the source and cause of all knowledge: knowledge presupposes awareness or consciousness. This ultimate Awareness or Consciousness that is the source and cause of all knowledge, is the One or the Good.Apollodorus

    Using your own common sense and intuition, don't you find that awareness and consciousness is more compatible with Many than with One? Isn't the world full of distinct instances of awareness and consciousness? Why would we say that the many consciousnesses which make up the reality of human existence is One, when it is very clear that it is Many?


    The desire to return to the One is the root of “love”. We love things that make us feel one with them and with ourselves. This is why we call them “beautiful” and “good”. But their beauty and goodness come from the Forms which in turn come from the One. Therefore, our love must be redirected to its true object. Love of the beautiful and the good, when practiced as indicated in the Symposium, takes us to the direct vision or experience of the Good or the One that is the Higher Self of all.Apollodorus

    See, you have this backward. each of us is a one, an individual, a self. The desire is not to return to the One, because we already are, each one of us, the One. The desire is to return to the many. This is the problem with the theory of participation, as exposed by Plato. It is backward. It portrays the Many as actively participating in the One, which is a reversal of the active/passive reality. This is caused by the inversion between logical priority and temporal priority. When we turn this around, to give us the clearer perspective of reality, provided by giving the Good priority, we find that the One participates in the Many. Now the One is causally active within the Many, as participating in the Many, because the One is defined by temporal priority, (Good), rather than logical priority (mathematically One is prior to Many).
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Using your own common sense and intuition, don't you find that awareness and consciousness is more compatible with Many than with One? Isn't the world full of distinct instances of awareness and consciousness? Why would we say that the many consciousnesses which make up the reality of human existence is One, when it is very clear that it is Many?Metaphysician Undercover

    I don’t find that “awareness and consciousness is more compatible with Many than with One” at all. On the contrary, my common sense and intuition is that awareness and consciousness is one, not many. So, unfortunately, this is where we will have to disagree.

    Of course, we experience many moments of sensory perception that involve many brain cells, but the brain itself is one.

    Similarly, there are many instances of awareness and consciousness, but they are at the level of human cognition. What I am talking about when I say “the One”, is the Divine Awareness or Consciousness prior to the creation of the universe, i.e., in its role as First Cause of all, when no world full of distinct instances of awareness or consciousness existed. At that stage, Knowledge itself is One as there is nothing to divide it into many.

    As we have seen, philosophy for the Ancient Greeks in general, and for Plato in particular, is a quest for knowledge.

    Knowledge is of three kinds (1) knowledge of the world, (2) knowledge of oneself, and (3) knowledge of a higher reality that may be referred to as “the Good”, “the One”, “the Highest”, “Truth”, etc.

    Real knowledge starts with self-knowledge. Therefore, the “self” (2) and the “higher reality” (3) may be regarded as situated at the two extremities, one lower and one higher, of the same cognitive continuum.

    Taking the “self” to be the lower extremity, we must ask the question of Who or What is the “self”?

    Plato identifies the human self with the soul (psyche) which uses the body as an instrument.
    The soul or self has three different aspects which in descending order are:

    1. Noetic self or nous, the divine part of the self, which is the subject of intellection, intuition, and contemplation.
    2. Dianoetic self or logismos, the reasoning “man within” (entos anthropos), the “we” of ordinary human identity.
    3. Physical self or “beastly” (theriodes) aspect of the self, that is tied to the physical body and is the subject of bodily impulses and concerns.

    Man’s true self is the noetic self which is essentially identical with the Divine Intellect.

    As Socrates puts it:

    There is in the universe a by no means feeble Cause which orders and arranges years and seasons and months, and may most justly be called Wisdom (sophia) and Intelligence (Nous) (Phileb. 30c)

    And:

    All the wise agree that Intelligence (Nous) is king of heaven and earth (Phileb. 28c)

    Socrates next makes a very important point in which he connects human soul with Universal Intelligence.

    In the Timaeus, it is said that God or Creative Intelligence created the Universe as a living being endowed with body and soul and that he made human soul from the same stuff as the Soul of the Universe:

    God, however, constructed Soul to be older than Body and prior in birth and excellence, since she [the Soul] was to be the mistress and ruler and it the ruled … (Tim. 34c).

    Socrates now draws attention to the fact that human soul derives from Universal Soul:

    Shall we not say that our body has a soul? Where did it get it, unless the body of the universe had a soul, since that body has the same elements as ours [fire, water, air, and earth] only in every way superior? (Phileb. 30a)

    Socrates also points out that Zeus himself, the supreme Olympian God, whose titles include “King of Kings” and “King of the Gods”, has a kingly soul (basilike psyche) and a kingly mind (basilikos nous) given to him by the Divine Creative Intelligence or Universal Cause:

    Then in the nature of Zeus you would say that a kingly soul and a kingly mind were implanted through the power of the Cause, and in other deities other noble qualities from which they derive their favorite epithets (Phileb. 30c-d).

    Plotinus (Enn.V.3(49)4,1) draws the logical conclusion by saying that “We, too, are kings” (or “We, too, rule”). In other words, we too are rulers of our own body and mind. This is the first lesson to learn. Equally important, however, given our descent from the King of the Universe, we too are royal and divine.

    “Royal” (basilikos) and “divine” (theios) imply a higher nature or status. Moreover, our descent from the Universal Intelligence can only mean that our own intellect (our true self) is essentially identical with the Intelligence of the Universe.

    It is worthwhile recalling at this point that according to Plato, the telos or goal of human life is to become as “godlike as possible” and that “to be godlike is to be righteous, holy, and wise”. The word “wise” connects us with the Universal Intelligence which is also said to be “Wisdom” (Sophia).

    It is this essential identity of the personal and divine nous that makes it possible for man to elevate himself to the highest plane of experience or level of intelligence.

    Plato uses similes, allegory, and myth, to constantly remind us of this fact.

    The “Ladder of Love” of the Symposium, the “Allegory of the Sun”, “the Cave”, and the “Divided Line” of the Republic, etc., etc. all point in the same direction.

    In the Republic Plato provides us with another illustration. Socrates and his interlocutors have come to the conclusion that their arguments and other proofs (discussed in the Phaedo, Phaedrus, etc.) have shown that the human soul is immortal. Socrates says that if we use our reason to consider the soul once it has been cleansed of all mental and physical impurities, it will be more beautiful than it currently appears.

    He then compares the soul with the Sea-God Glaucus who is so covered in barnacles and seaweed and his body so mutilated by the waves that he appears much “wilder” than he actually is.

    Similarly, Socrates says, the soul has been marred by countless evils. But if we consider its innate wisdom, its immortality, and its divinity, then we might see it as it really is.

    Consider what it might be if it followed the gleam unreservedly and were raised by this impulse out of the depths of this sea in which it is now sunk, and were cleansed and scraped free of the rocks and barnacles which cling to it in wild profusion of earthy and stony accretion (Rep. 611e-612a).

    The cleansing process consists in the development of basic civic virtues (self-control, courage, wisdom, righteousness), followed by intellectual virtues or skills such as discrimination or discernment (diakrisis), logic, intuition or insight, and contemplation.

    For Plato, of course, the importance of virtues lies not only in their moral and civic value. They are a form of knowledge and, therefore, they are conducive to knowledge.

    Plato tells us that material objects cannot be known because we know about them only through our senses and the senses are unreliable. He believes that the materialist approach that aims at attaining knowledge by studying matter proceeds in the wrong direction.

    Therefore, the only way to attain knowledge is by turning our attention inward and examining the realities within us.

    Initially, our thought processes turn out to be as chaotic and unreliable as our sense-perceptions. In order to see with any degree of clarity, we must first bring some order to our inner life. We must control our physical urges, our emotions, and our thoughts.

    When we have done that, and the wilderness within has been cleared, we discover a totally new world illumined by a new light, and crucially, we acquire a new identity and a new experience of life. Our center of gravity shifts from physical objects and preoccupations with them to the intellect and abstract thought and, beyond that, to an intuitive grasp of the primary building-blocks of cognition (the Forms) and their source, Creative Intelligence (Nous Poietikos) itself.

    So, starting from the level of sense-perception, the philosopher must rise to Awareness itself.

    This is why it is important to understand that consciousness or awareness is higher than knowledge.

    Not knowledge, but that which knows, the subject of the known objects (whatever and however many they happen to be, including Forms), is the highest reality which is One. This is the true focus of Plato’s philosophical quest and the true meaning of “source and cause of knowledge”.

    The cleansing or purification process (katharsis) is nothing but the elimination of everything that is not “us”. This is the only way to discover our true self. If we mentally strip or chisel away all the accretions of sense-perceptions, emotions, and thoughts, we arrive at a new type of non-discursive, image- and concept-free, intuitive knowledge.

    But it is important to understand that this knowledge itself must be transcended. And as we transcend it, we get to the consciousness we have of this knowledge, and beyond that, to pure awareness itself. It is this awareness that is the ultimate self, not the knowledge. The knowledge belongs to the self but is not the self. It is at the most an extension of the self in the same way thoughts, emotions, and sense-perceptions are extensions or “accretions” of the nous.

    The key to the correct understanding of this is provided in the First Alcibiades.

    Already in the Charmides (164d ff.) Socrates discusses the Delphic inscription “Know thyself” and the possibility of there being any such thing as knowledge of knowledge (episteme epistemes).

    The discussion is carried on in the First Alcibiades (132c ff.) where Socrates proposes substituting “see” for “know” and gives the example of seeing oneself in a mirror.

    He next compares this with seeing oneself in the eye of another, the only part of another person in which one can see oneself. The same is true of the soul: if it wishes to see itself in another soul, it must look at that part of it that most resembles it, namely the seat of wisdom (sophia).

    Socrates and Alcibiades agree that the seat of wisdom (the nous) is the most divine part of the soul, and that a soul can truly know itself only by looking at God himself:

    Then this part of her resembles God, and whoever looks at this, and comes to know all that is divine, will gain thereby the best knowledge of himself (Alc. 1 133c)

    It follows that true knowledge of oneself is, in the first place, awareness of oneself as a divine soul, i.e., as a higher form of intelligence.

    Indeed, if knowledge has a source, then the source is different from and higher than knowledge. This source can only be Intelligence. And Intelligence as the source of all knowledge is the Good or the One.

    In itself, this supreme Intelligence that we call “the Good” or “the One” must be Awareness. Awareness on its own is motionless. However, when Awareness sees itself reflected in itself as in a mirror, it is stirred into activity that is creative, resulting in the Creative Intelligence that brings forth the Universe.

    The Universe is brought into being by Creative Intelligence according to Forms or Ideas. The term “Form”, “Idea” or Eidos (lit. “thing seen”) suggests that the Universe is “seen” into existence by Creative Intelligence.

    As Awareness, the supreme Intelligence is “the Same”. As its own reflection in the mirror of itself, it is “the Other”. Seeing oneself in the other is “the best knowledge of oneself”. And that self-knowledge is the source and cause of all knowledge and all things.

    The concept of a pair of opposites resulting in a harmony that is creative is deeply ingrained in Ancient Greek thought. In Greek mythology, Ares, the God of War, is coupled with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Beauty and Love. Zeus and Mnemosyne beget Harmonia who in turn gives birth to the Muses, the Goddesses of artistic creativity, etc. (Different versions exist.)

    Plato expresses the very same idea put in philosophical language. Ultimate Reality, Being or Existence, first manifests itself in two ways, as Unlimited and Limited, Indivisible and Divisible, Same and Other.

    The same Reality next unifies Sameness and Otherness into a harmonious whole. As Plato states in the Timaeus, the Creator-God (Creative Intelligence) makes the Soul of the Universe and the human soul from a blend of “Same”, “Other”, and “Being” (Tim. 35a, 41d).

    Intelligence (which is what Being or Reality ultimately is) itself is the medium that brings Sameness and Otherness together. Similarly, in the human soul, the rational part controls and organizes the emotional and sensual aspects (corresponding to the Same and Other on the Cosmic plane) into a harmonious, healthy, and happy whole. The human self, which is one in itself, is literally a mirror image of the Divine Self, which also is One.

    As Plato says, the higher, rational aspect of the soul must rule over the other two (Rep. 441e). And in the Phaedrus he compares the intellect with a charioteer whose control over two winged horses (the emotional and sensual aspects) enables him to rise to the world of the Gods:

    Now when the soul is perfect and fully winged, it mounts upward and governs the whole world … (Phaedr. 246c)

    The ascent to a higher mode of experience enables the soul to attain to the Good or the One, which is One Reality.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    I don’t find that “awareness and consciousness is more compatible with Many than with One” at all. On the contrary, my common sense and intuition is that awareness and consciousness is one, not many. So, unfortunately, this is where we will have to disagree.Apollodorus

    How do you account for the fact that there are many different people with consciousness and awareness, when you say that consciousness and awareness is more compatible with One?? And each of these different people is a distinct instance of consciousness and awareness, making Many rather than One. Clearly, consciousness is Many, and not One.

    What I am talking about when I say “the One”, is the Divine Awareness or Consciousness prior to the creation of the universe, i.e., in its role as First Cause of all, when no world full of distinct instances of awareness or consciousness existed.Apollodorus

    You never did demonstrate why the "First Cause" ought to be consider to be some sort of awareness or consciousness. All we have to go on, is that the so-called First Cause, is a movement toward a good, a final cause. But we see that all sorts of living creatures, with or without consciousness and awareness, engage in this type of movement toward a good.

    Not knowledge, but that which knows, the subject of the known objects (whatever and however many they happen to be, including Forms), is the highest reality which is One. This is the true focus of Plato’s philosophical quest and the true meaning of “source and cause of knowledge”.

    The cleansing or purification process (katharsis) is nothing but the elimination of everything that is not “us”. This is the only way to discover our true self. If we mentally strip or chisel away all the accretions of sense-perceptions, emotions, and thoughts, we arrive at a new type of non-discursive, image- and concept-free, intuitive knowledge.

    But it is important to understand that this knowledge itself must be transcended. And as we transcend it, we get to the consciousness we have of this knowledge, and beyond that, to pure awareness itself. It is this awareness that is the ultimate self, not the knowledge. The knowledge belongs to the self but is not the self. It is at the most an extension of the self in the same way thoughts, emotions, and sense-perceptions are extensions or “accretions” of the nous.

    The key to the correct understanding of this is provided in the First Alcibiades.

    Already in the Charmides (164d ff.) Socrates discusses the Delphic inscription “Know thyself” and the possibility of there being any such thing as knowledge of knowledge (episteme epistemes).

    The discussion is carried on in the First Alcibiades (132c ff.) where Socrates proposes substituting “see” for “know” and gives the example of seeing oneself in a mirror.

    He next compares this with seeing oneself in the eye of another, the only part of another person in which one can see oneself. The same is true of the soul: if it wishes to see itself in another soul, it must look at that part of it that most resembles it, namely the seat of wisdom (sophia).

    Socrates and Alcibiades agree that the seat of wisdom (the nous) is the most divine part of the soul, and that a soul can truly know itself only by looking at God himself:
    Apollodorus

    Look at the inconsistency you have presented here. You start off saying, "Not knowledge, but that which knows, the subject of the known objects", and you call this "One". Then you proceed to talk about "us". But "us" does not refer to one, it refers to many. Further, you talk about a soul seeing itself in another soul. Obviously this is not a feature of one soul, but of a number of souls.

    So you start with an assumption of One, but everything which follows concerns Many, rather than One. Your assumption of One is totally out of place here.

    As Awareness, the supreme Intelligence is “the Same”. As its own reflection in the mirror of itself, it is “the Other”. Seeing oneself in the other is “the best knowledge of oneself”. And that self-knowledge is the source and cause of all knowledge and all things.Apollodorus

    Again, this "seeing oneself in the other" requires more than one. So if this is "the source and cause of all knowledge", then knowledge cannot be derived from One, it must be derived from Many.

    .
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    How do you account for the fact that there are many different people with consciousness and awareness, when you say that consciousness and awareness is more compatible with One?Metaphysician Undercover

    Very simple. Take the example of the five fingers of one hand. They are different extensions of the same one hand. Different intelligences are products of One Supreme Intelligence as Plato says in the Timaeus.

    You never did demonstrate why the "First Cause" ought to be consider to be some sort of awareness or consciousness. All we have to go on, is that the so-called First Cause, is a movement toward a good, a final cause. But we see that all sorts of living creatures, with or without consciousness and awareness, engage in this type of movement toward a good.Metaphysician Undercover

    Plato’s Creator-God is clearly an Intelligent Being. As he has no body, he is just Intelligence. And intelligence presupposes awareness:

    1. Awareness, state of being awake or watchful, ability to directly know or perceive. E.g., heightened or dimmed awareness.
    2. Consciousness, self-awareness, awareness of oneself, awareness of one’s surroundings, etc.
    3. Intelligence, capacity for understanding and information processing.

    As a general term, intelligence can be used in senses 1, 2, and 3, individually or collectively.

    Look at the inconsistency you have presented here. You start off saying, "Not knowledge, but that which knows, the subject of the known objects", and you call this "One". Then you proceed to talk about "us". But "us" does not refer to one, it refers to many. Further, you talk about a soul seeing itself in another soul. Obviously this is not a feature of one soul, but of a number of souls.Metaphysician Undercover

    I see no inconsistency whatsoever.

    Human cognition involves a cognizing subject and a cognized object. This doesn’t mean it is two human beings.

    Similarly, the Good or the One which is Awareness, can have awareness of itself.

    However, at the stage prior to creation, the Good or the One is simply Awareness, without even self-awareness. So, it is absolutely simple and One.

    As regards “we”, I am following Plotinus and other Platonists in using “we” (hemeis) in the sense of “I” taken collectively, because this is how it was mostly used in Classical Greek. What is meant is the feeling of self-identity which refers to one entity only. You could call it “I”, “ego”, “individual persona” or whatever you prefer.

    Again, this "seeing oneself in the other" requires more than one. So if this is "the source and cause of all knowledge", then knowledge cannot be derived from One, it must be derived from Many.Metaphysician Undercover

    I can see no connection between your first sentence and the second.

    Of course seeing oneself in the other requires more than one. But this is just a metaphor.

    Plato uses metaphorical language, e.g., the Cave, the Line, the Sun, etc. Reflection points to a higher truth. The Sun reflects itself in many reflective objects but it remains one Sun above all objects.

    The focus is on the seeing subject which is one.

    The point Plato is making is that by seeing itself reflected in a being that is similar to itself, the soul becomes aware of its own identity.

    What matters is the soul’s identity as a divine being. In other words, if the human soul were to see God face-to-face, it would recognize its own divinity reflected in the Divine and, ultimately, its identity with the Divine.

    Regarding Knowledge and the One, Knowledge is derived from the One indirectly if you will: Knowledge is derived from the One via the Many. But the “Many” are just a manifestation of the One.

    The One (1) starts as Pure Undivided Awareness, then (2) divides itself into Awareness and Self-Awareness or Consciousness in a kind of self-reflexive cognition, and next (3) through the interaction of the two, knowledge is produced in the form of Intelligence and Forms or Ideas, etc.

    You could think of it as an infinite expanse of Awareness comparable to the ocean or sea:

    1. Ocean itself (= the One).
    2. Invisible Currents within the ocean (= Forms within Divine Intellect).
    3. Visible waves (= individual human beings).
    4. Drops of water, mist, etc. (= physical bodies and inanimate objects).

    You might say that the drops are derived from many waves, but the waves are derived from the ocean. In fact, they are part of the ocean.

    So, Many products of the same One Source.

    The Good or the One is the ultimate cause of all things (hapánton arché).
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Very simple. Take the example of the five fingers of one hand. They are different extensions of the same one hand. Different intelligences are products of One Supreme Intelligence as Plato says in the Timaeus.Apollodorus

    The analogy doesn't work because a hand is something different from a finger. Five fingers does not make one finger, it makes something different, one hand. So by your analogy a multitude of intelligences would not make One Supreme Intelligence, it would make something different.

    Of course seeing oneself in the other requires more than one. But this is just a metaphor.Apollodorus

    Well, if "seeing oneself in the other" is metaphorical for something which involves only one, that would be very very strange.

    The point Plato is making is that by seeing itself reflected in a being that is similar to itself, the soul becomes aware of its own identity.Apollodorus

    So, do you not agree that this, "seeing itself reflected in a being that is similar to itself", requires more than one being? And if this, "seeing oneself in the other", is, as you said, the source of all knowledge, then knowledge cannot be derived from One, it requires more than one.
  • Hello Human
    96
    Could someone please explain the OP to me ? I can't manage to understand what it says for the most part.
  • Verdi
    116
    The metaphysical realm of Plato is situated in a world that stands in contact with world we live in. The shadows of that extramundane world are cast in ours. And the shadows will be all that we can see or will ever be able to see. We can see the shadows but we will never know the world and the objects in it and from which the light came to cast the shadows of the objects into our world.

    That's standard stuff. Plato however, assumed that the metaphysical world from which the light shines into ours, is occupied by mathematical structures only. The objects are eternal and invariant. They interact and move through the metaphysical realm, like immutable elementary particles move through spacetime (Plato's view is a common one with to elementary particles, insofar the math is supposed to be the "real", unknowable "stuff"). All shadows in our world are reducable to mathematical entities, so Plato conjectures0 and hypothesizes, after which both the conjecture and hypothesis are turned in axioms.

    The problem will be obvious: who says mathematical structures (like the cube, tetrahedron, dodecahedron,etc.) are the basic ones? No true knowledge of these forms can ever be attained, only approximated. The equation for a circle is not the form an Sich. Plato places more forms in his heaven, like the form of the Good, and knowledge about these forms can be approximated only, by rational thinking. But who says what the Good truly looks like, or any other forms. He claims math comes closest to the true nature of the kingdom, but this only shows his love for math, placing it in an objective, non-disputable domain.

    Aristotle didn't agree. The cube as we see in salt crystals is the cube. A mother caring for a small boy, is "the" good.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    Could someone please explain the OP to me ? I can't manage to understand what it says for the most part.Hello Human

    I wrote the the OP. If you have questions, I will try to answer, but by giving an explanation I might simply be repeating myself and not addressing what it is you are having difficulty with.
  • Hello Human
    96
    I don't really understand what is an "indeterminate dyad".
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    I don't really understand what is an "indeterminate dyad".Hello Human

    A dyad is a pair of opposites. As Jacob Klein puts it:

    ... each element of an indeterminate dyad is one, but both are two.

    Two in a double sense. Both one and one, and in their "twoness" each belongs together with its other.

    It is this otherness that makes the dyads indeterminate, that is, not fixed or fully determined.
  • Hello Human
    96
    so, if I get it, the main point is that because the particulars and the universals are an indeterminate dyad, the two cannot exist independently from each other, which contradicts Plato's doctrine of Forms ?
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k
    so, if I get it, the main point is that because the particulars and the universals are an indeterminate dyad, the two cannot exist independently from each other, which contradicts Plato's doctrine of Forms ?Hello Human

    Yes, but it is not just the dyad particular and universal.
  • Fooloso4
    2.6k


    To follow-up:

    Rather than see it as a contradiction, I think it felicitous to view each of the dialogues as presenting a part of a story of the whole that cannot be completed. The hypothesis of Forms (which is not, contrary to the typical textbook version, a doctrine of Forms, addresses certain problems while leaving others to be examined elsewhere.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    Yes, but it is not just the dyad particular and universal.Fooloso4

    Particular and universal are not opposite to each other, they are categorically distinct. For example, hot and cold are opposite, and these opposites are within the category of temperature. But temperature is not the opposite of size, they are categorically distinct. Likewise, particular is not opposite to universal, it is a different category.

    Neither is many opposed to one, as I explained to Apollodorus above. Many consists of a multitude of one's, so "one" is included in "many" as part of many, therefore not opposed to many but a part of many.

    When people propose different dyads and dichotomies, we must be cautious, and analyze them carefully to determine whether or not they are reasonable proposals. Otherwise the person might proceed with a logical argument, using the unreasonable proposition as a premise, and the result might be an absurd conclusion.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    Five fingers does not make one finger, it makes something different, one hand. So by your analogy a multitude of intelligences would not make One Supreme Intelligence, it would make something different.Metaphysician Undercover

    Fingers are part of the hand (or extensions of the palm). The multitude of individual intelligences are part of the Supreme Intelligence or extensions of it just as fingers are of the hand. The analogy may be less than perfect but I think it does give an idea of what is meant.

    Well, if "seeing oneself in the other" is metaphorical for something which involves only one, that would be very very strange.Metaphysician Undercover

    In his dialogues, Plato uses the imagery of reflection multiple times to point either to the individual self or to the Universal Self/Ultimate Truth.

    For example, in the Phaedo, he compares looking for truth in theories and arguments about things, to studying the image of the Sun reflected in water “or something of the kind” (Phaedo 99e). The phrase “something of the kind” is Plato’s way of alerting the reader to the fact that this is not an exact comparison, analogy, or account.

    The metaphor refers to one seer or cognizing subject. Hence the illustration of the mirror. What Plato is saying is that the philosopher must look at himself, i.e., at his own intelligent soul, using his own intelligence as a mirror. This is the path to self-knowledge as well as the path to knowing the Ultimate.

    And if this, "seeing oneself in the other", is, as you said, the source of all knowledge, then knowledge cannot be derived from One, it requires more than one.Metaphysician Undercover

    That which “sees itself in the other” and "is the source of all knowledge", is Ultimate Reality which reflects itself in itself. The “Other” and resulting “Many” here is conceptual. When Ultimate Reality which is Pure Intelligence reflects itself in itself it recognizes the “Other”. i.e., its own reflection as itself, not as some other reality different from itself.

    In the world of Being, the Creative Intelligence that contains the Forms, for example, is cognitively identical with the Forms and is aware of this identity. The sense of real difference only arises in the world of Becoming, where things are not perceived as different manifestations of one cognizing intelligence but as separate and independent of one another and of the cognizing subject.

    But the point I was making was that as Plato does not present his philosophy in a very systematic manner, it is essential to systematize our understanding of it starting from a few basic principles.
    In the first place, we need to familiarize ourselves with the wider cultural, religious, and philosophical background behind the Platonic project.

    As shown by Lloyd Gerson, Plato and his followers operate within the framework of “Ur-Platonism”, a general philosophical position that combines antimaterialism, antimechanism, antinominalism, antirelativism, and antiskepticism.

    Though it emerged before Plato, Ur-Platonism was given shape by Plato and was further developed by later Platonists, especially Plotinus, in line with the blueprint sketched by Plato.

    Platonism does not offer a decisive answer to all the problems raised either by itself or by its opponents. However, it does offer a theoretical framework within which philosophical inquiry and practice can be conducted along the lines suggested by Plato in his dialogues.

    If we follow the pattern established by Plato and developed by later Platonists, we can avoid most of the misunderstandings or misinterpretations that have arisen especially in more recent times.

    The relation between the Good and the Beautiful is a case in point, showing how two apparently distinct things can be ultimately one.

    In Ancient Greek, the word “beautiful” (kalos) was already often used not just in the sense of “aesthetically pleasing” but also of “good” in the sense of “useful”. Plato himself states that the divine is Beauty, Wisdom, and Goodness and that by these qualities the wings of the soul are nourished and grow, enabling it to ascend to higher planes (Phaedrus 246e).

    This is exactly the meaning of the “Ladder of Love” described in the Symposium. Though the ascent starts as a quest for Beauty itself, what the philosopher ultimately attains is the Good which is Ultimate Truth:

    Do but consider, that there only will it befall him, as he sees the Beautiful through that which makes it visible, to breed not illusions but true examples of virtue, since his contact is not with illusion but with Truth. So when he has begotten a true virtue and has reared it up he is destined to win the friendship of Heaven; he, above all men, is immortal (Symp. 212a)

    Now, if “beautiful” were to mean “aesthetically pleasing” and nothing else, then “seeing the Beautiful” would be the final goal. But this is obviously not the case. Having seen the Beautiful, i.e., the Good, the philosopher must now “beget virtue”, i.e., good. Only then will he or she become loved by the Gods.

    Beauty here is treated as an expression of Good. This practical value of Beauty and its identity with Good is consistent not only with Ancient Greek Weltanschauung but also, and above all, with Platonic philosophy.

    Having come into contact with Beauty which is also Good and Truth, the philosopher becomes “pregnant in the soul” with things that are beautiful, good, and true, and “gives birth” or produces them.

    Thus birth itself has a dual meaning. The philosopher is born to a new world of beauty, goodness, and truth, and in turn, gives birth to things that are beautiful, good, and true.

    Socrates himself must somehow be in contact with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, because he acts as a midwife to those whose minds are “pregnant with fine ideas” (Theaetetus 150b ff.) and (according to Alcibiades) begets beautiful speeches about virtue.

    It follows that, as Diotima says, love of Beauty is really love of Good (Symp. 206a): We love Beauty because it is in some sense Good. Love of Beauty is the desire not only to behold Beauty, but to hold it for ever and to manifest it in everything we do in every way we can. The Gods do not judge man by what he sees but by his actions.

    Plato clearly equates Beauty with Good and with Truth. Hence the quest for Beauty, Goodness, and Truth and their practical application become central to Platonic philosophy. The philosopher who has attained this triple goal becomes “beloved of the Gods” (theophiles) and “immortal” (athanatos).

    The question of Plato’s causality is another problem that can prove intractable if we ignore the wider Platonic framework.

    As discussed, Aristotle says that Plato recognizes two causes only: formal and material. The formal one is represented by the One and the material one represented by the “Great and the Small” a.k.a. “the Dyad” (which despite its name is a single principle of materiality).

    But this is not supported by the dialogues where there is an efficient cause as well as a final cause. The Forms seem to be efficient causes in the Phaedo, but in later dialogues the efficient cause is Soul, Nous, or Creator-God (Laws 896a). Indeed, it stands to reason that the efficient cause of the Universe is the Creative Intelligence that contains the Forms, rather than the Forms themselves. And the Good is the final cause.

    So, Plato has at least four causes. In fact, Proclus identifies six causes: three primary (efficient, paradigmatic, final) and three accessory (material, formal, instrumental) and believes that a detailed analysis would yield as many as 96 (a number with cosmological connotations).

    However, all causes are closely interconnected and ultimately one. As Proclus himself puts it:

    But let it be the case that multiplicity has its ordering centred on the monad and diversity centred on the simple and multiformity centred on what has a single form and diversity centred on what is common [to all], so that a chain that is truly golden rules over all things and all things are ordered as they ought to be (On the Timaeus 2.262.20).

    This is why Platonic tradition refers to Ultimate Reality (or first principle and cause of all) as “the Good” or “the One”. Identifying Ultimate Reality with the Ultimate Good and the Irreducible One is consistent with Plato’s commitment to the reduction of fundamental principles of explanation to the absolute minimum. Insisting that they are not identical, tends to unnecessarily raise problems that are difficult to resolve. Hence even Proclus (who often likes to make complicated analyses of everything) uses the Homeric golden chain as a symbol of the hierarchy of reality ultimately depending on one Supreme Cause.

    In any case, it is clear from Socrates’ statements in the dialogues that sciences like mathematics are not to be studied for their own sake but for a higher purpose. The same applies to logic and to philosophy itself.

    The Platonic project is not about becoming lost in endless discussions about details. It is about elevating human knowledge and experience to the highest possible plane.

    What is particularly interesting about Plato in this regard is the fact that his dialogues can be read or interpreted on more than one level.

    For example, we know that seeing occupies a central place in the Ancient Greek worldview where it is closely connected with knowledge.

    Aristotle begins his Metaphysics with the following statement:

    All men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is our esteem for the senses; for apart from their use we esteem them for their own sake, and most of all the sense of sight. Not only with a view to action, but even when no action is contemplated, we prefer sight, generally speaking, to all the other senses. The reason of this is that of all the senses sight best helps us to know things, and reveals many distinctions (Meta. 1.980a)

    Plato’s Forms are literally, “things seen”. Not seen by sense-perceptions, imagination or thought, but by pure intelligence. And since according to Plato Creative Intelligence generates the Universe by means of Matter and Form, it may be said without exaggeration that Creative Intelligence “sees” or projects the Universe into existence.

    Another important faculty is the faculty of hearing, i.e., of perceiving sound. Plato calls the primary elements of matter (fire, earth, water, air) that make up the material world, “stoicheia”. “Stoicheia” also means elements of knowledge in general, as well as units of speech (including the letters of the alphabet), in particular.

    Speech is a form of sound and sound is the product of motion. Plato tells us that the Primordial Matter of the Receptacle has a certain motion like a kind of “shaking” (seismos) or vibration comparable to that produced by a winnowing basket or sieve that makes particles separate or coalesce according to certain patterns (Tim. 52e).

    Since for Plato, motion is always associated with soul or spirit, i.e., intelligence, this subtle, inner vibration of Primordial Matter must be caused by the Divine Consciousness itself.

    In other words, though motionless, the Universal Consciousness produces an imperceptible vibration and sound that crystalizes into the fundamental elements that form the objects first of intellection and then of sense-perception, that together make up the Universe: the Universe is a manifestation of sound which in turn is a manifestation of the imperceptible inner vibration of the living Divine Intelligence.

    However, these are concepts that take human intelligence to the limit of thought, to a point beyond which there is no thought and no language.

    This is why Plato refuses to be dragged into details. In the Timaeus he explicitly leaves the first principle of all out of the discussion. Having described the primary elements of matter, he says:

    But the principles (archai) which are still higher than these are known only to God and the man who is dear to God (Tim. 53d)

    For the same reason, later Platonists like Plotinus refer to the Ultimate as “above being” (hyperousios) and “ineffable” which can mean “forbidden to be spoken”, as in the secrets of mystery rites (Phaedo 62b) or “inexpressible” (Soph. 238c).

    At this point, some may be inclined to dismiss Platonism as “mysticism” or whatever. However, if we think about it, there is no reason why we should expect the human mind which deals with limited, measurable, and expressible things, to grasp something that is ultimately unmeasurable, at least by normal standards.

    So, Plato’s dialogues are not treatises of pure or formal logic. They are literary pointers to higher truths that the reader must discover for himself and using his own intelligence.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    In his dialogues, Plato uses the imagery of reflection multiple times to point either to the individual self or to the Universal Self/Ultimate Truth.

    For example, in the Phaedo, he compares looking for truth in theories and arguments about things, to studying the image of the Sun reflected in water “or something of the kind” (Phaedo 99e). The phrase “something of the kind” is Plato’s way of alerting the reader to the fact that this is not an exact comparison, analogy, or account.

    The metaphor refers to one seer or cognizing subject. Hence the illustration of the mirror. What Plato is saying is that the philosopher must look at himself, i.e., at his own intelligent soul, using his own intelligence as a mirror. This is the path to self-knowledge as well as the path to knowing the Ultimate.
    Apollodorus

    I look at the reflection metaphor as something more specific, something more scientific. We see in the mirror image, an inversion, right is shifted to the left. So looking at a reflection does not give us a true representation, but it is so close to being true that it fools us. So while you say "The phrase “something of the kind” is Plato’s way of alerting the reader to the fact that this is not an exact comparison, analogy, or account", I look at Plato as saying the reflection itself is not a true representation. So much of Plato's work involves informing us of ways to distinguish reflections from reality, so that we can be aware of the inversion which occurs in reflection, and not accept it as a true representation. That a reflection contains an inversion, and is therefore not a true representation is a key point.

    That which “sees itself in the other” and "is the source of all knowledge", is Ultimate Reality which reflects itself in itself. The “Other” and resulting “Many” here is conceptual. When Ultimate Reality which is Pure Intelligence reflects itself in itself it recognizes the “Other”. i.e., its own reflection as itself, not as some other reality different from itself.Apollodorus

    Based on what I said above, I think that this is incorrect, especially the last sentence. "When Ultimate Reality which is Pure Intelligence reflects itself in itself it recognizes the “Other”. i.e., its own reflection as itself, not as some other reality different from itself. " There is no such thing as "reflects itself in itself". A reflection is always external to the thing reflected, so there is already an Other implied by "reflection", the thing which reflects. Otherwise there is no reflection. And, I believe this is critical to understanding Plato, because this Other is the cause of the deficiency and misunderstanding in knowledge. If we ignore the Other, then we think we have pure, true knowledge, ignoring the role of the Other, and the inversion of the reflection, thereby deceiving ourselves.

    So your statement is really self-deception, which can be apprehended as self-deception when analyzed and seen as self-contradicting. The Intelligence which sees itself in the reflection must see the reflection as Other, to see the true reality, because the true reality is that the reflection is Other than itself, as it is an inversion. It's contradictory to say that the reflection of a self is itself. And if we fall for that self-deception, to think that the reflection of oneself is oneself, and not recognize that it is Other than oneself, this is self-deception.

    Even when we look inward, what we call "introspection", or reflecting on one's own existence, it is imperative that we recognize a division between the outer self, and the inner self. This is why we have a dualism. To deny this division, and make the thing reflecting the very same thing as the thing reflected on, is to wrongly dissolve dualism, and fall for the illusion that the reflection is the true reality.

    In the world of Being, the Creative Intelligence that contains the Forms, for example, is cognitively identical with the Forms and is aware of this identity. The sense of real difference only arises in the world of Becoming, where things are not perceived as different manifestations of one cognizing intelligence but as separate and independent of one another and of the cognizing subject.Apollodorus

    This is simply an unsupported speculative proposition concerning the nature of the "Creative Intelligence". As I I explained already, and exemplified with your finger/hand analogy, we have no reason to believe the Creator is an "Intelligence", just like we have no reason to believe that the unity of five fingers is a "Finger": A hand is something completely different from a finger, therefore we ought to also believe that the Creator is something completely different from an intelligence.

    So you simply ignore the separation I described above, which is an essential part of "intelligence", (dividing the reflecting self, in the case of introspection, from the thing being reflected on), to say that the Creative Intelligence is identical with the Forms. But if the Creator was truly an intelligence, we'd have to respect this separation which is an essential feature of "intelligence". It is respect for this separation which creates the need for Plato's tripartite soul, and the Trinity of Christianity. The separation between the two aspects of a dualism requires a third thing which maintains the division. I believe this situation is touched on in the Parmenides.

    The reality of Becoming impresses itself onto any intelligence in a way which cannot be ignored. This results in a division between the "beings" which we know, and are intelligible to us, always being contingent as the result of a becoming, and the "Being" which is assumed as prior to contingent being. This division cannot be ignored in any introspection (self reflection) as it separates the introspecting self as the activity of a contingent being, from the Being of the so-called "Creative Intelligence" (which I argue is not properly called an intelligence).

    If we follow the pattern established by Plato and developed by later Platonists, we can avoid most of the misunderstandings or misinterpretations that have arisen especially in more recent times.

    The relation between the Good and the Beautiful is a case in point, showing how two apparently distinct things can be ultimately one.
    Apollodorus

    This idea, that the Good and the Beautiful are one, is itself a misunderstanding.

    It follows that, as Diotima says, love of Beauty is really love of Good (Symp. 206a): We love Beauty because it is in some sense Good. Love of Beauty is the desire not only to behold Beauty, but to hold it for ever and to manifest it in everything we do in every way we can. The Gods do not judge man by what he sees but by his actions.

    Plato clearly equates Beauty with Good and with Truth
    Apollodorus

    This is a misrepresentation of what is presented by Plato at Symposium 206. Notice, at 206a, that the object of Love is the good. This is what Diotima gets Socrates to agree with. People love the good, and they want the good to be theirs forever. There is no mention of Beauty here. Then Diotima proceeds to discuss Beauty. Beauty is described as being consistent with the gods, harmony with all that is godlike.

    So we have Aristotle's distinction here between apparent good (the good which a person loves and wants to keep forever), and what is called by A as the real good, harmony with all that is godlike, what Diotima calls "Beauty". What Plato has set up therefore, is the division between "the good", what people desireor love, and "the beautiful", what is godlike.

    Now we proceed to the end of 206, where Diotima states "You see, Socrates' , she said, 'what Love wants is not beauty, as you think it is'."

    So the point made by Plato at 206 is actually the opposite as to what you propose. Diotima is actually establishing a separation between the good, and Beauty, and proposing that the good is what is desired and wanted by people, "loved", and this may be very inconsistent with what is beautiful, i.e. what is godlike, Beauty.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k


    I think I see what you are trying to say. However, I see it differently.

    The reflection may not be a true representation in a scientific sense, but it is sufficiently true for everyday purposes.

    For example, if you see a moving shadow getting closer to you, you know that something or somebody is approaching even if you don't yet know exactly what or who it is. So it is wrong to describe the shadow (or reflection) as "deception" in all cases.

    When Plato speaks about the philosopher's need to see himself in another soul, this is meant metaphorically, as one soul cannot directly see the other soul. But it can see qualities such as intelligence, and recognize its own identity as intelligence, etc.

    The Creator-God possesses faculties associated with intelligence, such as awareness, joy, will-power, knowledge, action. As he has no body, he must be Intelligence only. And the content of that Intelligence are the Forms.

    Consciousness has two elements, a subjective and an objective one. The objective element is the content of consciousness. The Forms are the content of the Creator-God's Consciousness.

    The Forms cannot exist independently of one another or of the Intelligence that organizes and holds them together.

    When we imagine something, e.g., a series of images, it is our own intelligence that creates, organizes, and observes the images, and we know this to be the case.

    In the case of the Supreme Intelligence, which is (ontologically and conceptually) above the Creator-God, the content of its consciousness is itself. The "mirror" in which it sees itself is Intelligence itself.

    Before "dividing" itself into a subjective and an objective element, the Supreme Intelligence is simply Awareness. After dividing itself, it becomes the Creator-God (consisting of Creative Intelligence as the subjective element and Forms as the objective element) who generates the Universe consisting of Spirit (subjective element) and Matter (objective element).

    In other words, Ultimate Reality or the One is Undivided Intelligence. The Creator-God or Creative Intelligence is ontologically and metaphysically below Ultimate Reality.

    Diotima is actually establishing a separation between the good, and Beauty, and proposing that the good is what is desired and wanted by people,Metaphysician Undercover

    The "separation" is only apparent. What Plato means is that Beauty is an expression of the Good. It cannot be otherwise as the Form of the Good contains all the Forms that participate in it. By pursuing Beauty, the philosopher arrives at the Good. This is the true meaning of Diotima's instruction.

    we have no reason to believe the Creator is an "Intelligence", just like we have no reason to believe that the unity of five fingers is a "Finger": A hand is something completely different from a finger, therefore we ought to also believe that the Creator is something completely different from an intelligence.Metaphysician Undercover

    Of course the unity of five fingers is not a Finger. And the hand may or may not be "completely different" from a finger. However, five fingers are still part of the same one hand. And they are made of the same stuff, viz., skin, muscle, bone, blood, etc.

    Similarly, individual intelligences are made of the same stuff as the Creative Intelligence. It doesn't mean that they are identical with it in all respects.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    The "separation" is only apparent. What Plato means is that Beauty is an expression of the Good. It cannot be otherwise as the Form of the Good contains all the Forms that participate in it. By pursuing Beauty, the philosopher arrives at the Good. This is the true meaning of Diotima's instruction.Apollodorus

    I've told you a number of times now, "the good" as Plato uses this, is not a Form. This idea seems to really skew the way that you read Plato, resulting in your misunderstanding of Symposium 206. The passage is very explicit. It is said that Love wants the good. Then it is said: "You see, Socrates' , she said, 'what Love wants is not beauty, as you think it is'." Clearly what is described is a separation between Beauty and the good.

    Similarly, individual intelligences are made of the same stuff as the Creative Intelligence. It doesn't mean that they are identical with it in all respects.Apollodorus

    But this is wrong, and a problem which philosophers have grappled with for millennia. It is well described by Aquinas. The human intellect is deficient because of its dependency on the material body. The supposed Creative Intelligence has no dependence on material existence, being prior to it. Therefore individual intelligences cannot be made of the same stuff as the Creator Intelligence.
  • Apollodorus
    2.7k
    I've told you a number of times now, "the good" as Plato uses this, is not a Form. This idea seems to really skew the way that you read Plato, resulting in your misunderstanding of Symposium 206. The passage is very explicit. It is said that Love wants the good. Then it is said: "You see, Socrates' , she said, 'what Love wants is not beauty, as you think it is'." Clearly what is described is a separation between Beauty and the good.Metaphysician Undercover

    The passage may be explicit, but I think you misinterpret or misread it.

    If (a) “what Love wants is not beauty, as you think” and (b) “Love wants the good”, this can only mean that (c) what the philosopher really loves (or craves) is the Good.

    The Good manifests itself as Beauty. Man craves Beauty. But when he comes to see Beauty itself, he really sees the Good, which is within himself. This is why he becomes able to give birth to things that are beautiful, good, and true. You can’t give birth to things from outside yourself, giving birth, producing, or creating is always from within.

    The Platonic “Way Upward” (he Ano Odos), the way of vertical ascent, is a process of interiorization, elevation, and unification of consciousness, that proceeds from the exterior to the interior, from the lower to the higher, and from the manifold to the simple.

    Accordingly, the point Plato is making is that many beauties lead to one Beauty and Beauty leads to its source which is the Good.

    We feel attraction for beauty because it is a reflection of the beauty within us and beyond (above) us.

    At first, we are unaware of our soul’s beauty, therefore we crave the beauty in the external other.

    But as we turn our attention away from physical beauty to beauty in institutions, laws, and knowledge itself, we interiorize, elevate, and unify our experience of beauty, and begin to realize the presence of beauty within us in the form of knowledge.

    Eventually, we realize the beauty of the knowledge-holder, the soul itself, and we understand that the source of all knowledge is intelligence which is the essence of life in general, and of our soul in particular.

    So, what Diotima’s Ladder of Love does is to turn the philosopher’s focus of attention from external material things to inner spiritual realities in order to live his life from that inner center, which is the creative wellspring of life, experience, and all things beautiful, good, and true.

    In the final stages of philosophical endeavor, the seeker after truth no longer derives beauty from sources outside himself, but with his gaze fixed on the Highest, he manifests beauty externally from within. At that point, he becomes like the Gods and is loved by them for being divine, like themselves.

    Becoming as godlike as possible or “likeness to God” (homoiosis Theo - Theaet. 176b), is the central aim of Platonism and Plato’s dialogues must be read with this aim in mind.

    The accomplished philosopher creates things that are beautiful, good, and true following a higher model in the same way the Creator-God creates the Universe after a perfect divine model.

    But this is wrong, and a problem which philosophers have grappled with for millennia. It is well described by Aquinas. The human intellect is deficient because of its dependency on the material body. The supposed Creative Intelligence has no dependence on material existence, being prior to it. Therefore individual intelligences cannot be made of the same stuff as the Creator Intelligence.Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, philosophers can grapple all they want if they have nothing better to do. :smile:

    Personally, I think the “problem” is artificial and stems from reading Plato through an Aristotelian or Christian Platonist lens. I am taking the traditional Platonic view here.

    On this view, Plato has a clear hierarchy of intelligences:

    Ultimate Reality a.k.a. “the One” or “the Good”.
    Divine Creative Nous a.k.a. “Creator-God”.
    Cosmic Nous.
    Cosmic Gods.
    Olympian Gods.
    Minor Deities and semi-divine beings (nymphs, daemons, etc.).
    Humans.
    Subhuman animals and lower forms of life.

    However, all intelligences are forms of Intelligence. Intelligence or Spirit does not depend on Matter, but Matter on Spirit.

    Plato says that the Creator-God first made the Soul of the Universe and then its Body, and the same is true of the human soul which preexists the physical body.

    It follows that if human intellect is in any way deficient, this is neither because it depends on material things nor because it is made from something other than Intelligence, but because it is a limited form of Intelligence.

    Were human intelligence essentially different from Divine Intelligence, it would have no chance of ever becoming godlike or knowing anything higher than itself.

    But Plato tells us not only that the human intelligence is essentially divine but that it has innate latent knowledge of divine realities like the Forms.

    When the soul follows the Platonic Way Upward, it acquires full knowledge of the Forms, it sees God’s Creative Intelligence face-to-face, and realizes its identity with it.

    Creative Intelligence or Creator-God (Demiurgos) is Intelligence cognitively identical with the Forms it contains within itself. It is the Paradigm of Knower with which human intelligence is essentially identical.

    Knowledge begins with God’s Creative Intelligence which knows the Forms it contains within itself and the Universe it creates according to the Forms.

    Before Knowledge, there is no knowledge. There is just Intelligence and Consciousness, i.e., the Self-Awareness Supreme Intelligence has of itself:

    1. Ultimate Reality = Pure Undivided Intelligence.

    2. Consciousness = Intelligence divides itself into two in an act of Self-Awareness, becoming Divine Mind.

    3. Knowledge = Self-Awareness further divides into a more defined subjective element (Creative Intelligence) and its objective content (Forms).

    So, the highest knowledge is at the level of Creative Intelligence or Creator-God. But the source and cause of a thing is prior to or higher than the thing itself. Therefore, the Source of Knowledge is above Knowledge and above the Creator-God, at the level of the One or the Good which is Pure Intelligence and Consciousness.

    It follows that Ultimate Reality or Supreme Intelligence has two aspects, (1) a higher one which is Pure Intelligence and Consciousness (i.e., Self-Awareness), and (2) a lower one which is Creative Intelligence or “Creator-God”.

    To these we may add a third aspect, the Cosmic Intellect or Soul, which we may take to contain all other souls, including human souls.

    This way we obtain three items comparable to Plotinus’ three hypostases - (1) the One (the Good), (2) Intellect, and (3) Soul – if we wish to harmonize Platonism with Christianity.

    But from a Platonic perspective there is no need to do so, not least because Plato’s, Plotinus’, and Christianity’s sets of three principles or hypostases are not exactly identical.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9.2k
    The Good manifests itself as Beauty. Man craves Beauty. But when he comes to see Beauty itself, he really sees the Good, which is within himself. This is why he becomes able to give birth to things that are beautiful, good, and true. You can’t give birth to things from outside yourself, giving birth, producing, or creating is always from within.Apollodorus

    This is not consistent with what is written at 206. What people crave is the good, and there is no mention of "Beauty" at this particular section of the discussion.

    "In a word then, love is wanting to possess the good forever" Symp. 206a.

    Then Diotima proceeds to describe Beauty as something godly:

    Now no one can possibly give birth in anything ugly; only in something beautiful. That's because when a man and a woman come together in order to give birth. this is a godly affair. Pregnancy, reproduction---this is an immortal thing for a mortal animal to do, and it cannot occur in anything that is out of harmony, but ugliness is out of harmony with all that is godly. Beauty, however, is in harmony with the Divine. Therefore the goddess who presides at childbirth---she's called Moira or Eilithuia---is really Beauty. — The Symposium 206 c-d

    It is very evident that there is a separation made here by Plato, between the mortal animal's (man's) wanting to possess the good, and Beauty, which is godly. Hence the conclusion:

    "'You see, Socrates', she said, 'What Love wants is not Beauty as you think it is."

    What you don't seem to grasp Apollodorus, is the proper relationship between these two, love, as the desire to possess the good forever (immortality), and Beauty, which is the actualized immortality, made real by reproduction. What Plato goes on to explain, is that the actual immortality, which is reproduction, and the real presence of Beauty, manifests itself in the animals as a sort of disease, called Love. This drives them to do all sorts of "sick" things for intercourse, and to nurture and protect their young.

    So you have the relationship backward. The Good does not manifest itself as Beauty, Beauty, as the Divine, manifests itself as a desire for the good. What is important to understand here, why this inversion is the reality, is the role of Necessity. There is no necessary relationship which would make the desire for the good necessarily cause the existence of something beautiful. The desire for intercourse, for example, does not necessarily bring about birth. So we cannot say that childbirth (which is beautiful), is the necessary result of the mortal desire for intercourse. Therefore we cannot say that Beauty is the manifestation of the good. We are lacking the required necessity. On the other hand, if we posit Beauty as the cause of love, and the mortal desire for intercourse, we have a necessary relationship, and therefore the mortal desire for the good can be apprehended as the manifestation of Beauty.

    I think this point is important if one is to understand the supposed causal role of the Forms. The Form is prior to the material manifestation. The material manifestation is what we know and accept scientifically as "reality", the behaviour of animals and stuff like that; but the Forms are prior to this, as the true cause of that behaviour. That's why the cave dwellers just see the material manifestation as reality, when that material "reality" is really just a reflection, or representation, being what has been caused by the true reality of the Forms.

    Accordingly, the point Plato is making is that many beauties lead to one Beauty and Beauty leads to its source which is the Good.Apollodorus

    So this is really the opposite of what Plato indicates in "The Symposium". The true source is Beauty, as the Divine. Then the good is the means by which the mortal animals relate to the Divine. "The good" for Plato is fixed to desire, as the object which is needed, wanted, the end, represented here as immortality. And this reality, that human animals have desires, needs and wants, is a manifestation of the Divine, Beauty, which is the cause of it. The desire for the good is a manifestation of, i.e. caused by, the Divine Form, Beauty.

    So what you describe here is the process of learning, the logical process, which is established on the basis of logical priority, but it is actually a reversal of the temporal priority of causation. We see many beauties, and this leads logically to a necessity to assume one Beauty, and the one Beauty appears as if it must be temporally, or causally prior to the many beauties. But it occurs as an unintelligible dilemma, as to how the one Form, Beauty, could be the cause of the many beauties. This dilemma is only resolved by placing "the good" (love and the desire for the good, described as immortality), as the medium between the many beauties and the one Beauty. Then the one Beauty may be apprehended as the cause of many beauties, through the intermediary, which is the desire for the good. This is why "the good" is the fundamental principle, because it allows us to apprehend the Forms as causally active.

    Eventually, we realize the beauty of the knowledge-holder, the soul itself, and we understand that the source of all knowledge is intelligence which is the essence of life in general, and of our soul in particular.Apollodorus

    Again, this displays your backward approach. You completely misrepresent "intelligence". The source of all knowledge is not intelligence, intelligence is the product of knowledge. The source of knowledge is the desire for the good, the desire for immortality, which is a manifestation of the Divine Form, Beauty. As the Form Beauty is the cause of that desire for the good.

    Personally, I think the “problem” is artificial and stems from reading Plato through an Aristotelian or Christian Platonist lens. I am taking the traditional Platonic view here.Apollodorus

    The problem here, is that your "traditional Platonic" view is an off-shoot, a perspective which is not consistent with Aristotle and the majority of western readers of Plato (Christian Platonists). So we have a relatively small group of so-called traditional Platonists, who adhered to the Pythagorean principles which Plato actually rejected, and directed Aristotle away from, such as yourself, and you claim to have the true Platonic metaphysics. However, as evidenced above, this off-shoot is just a misunderstanding of Plato.
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