• Dermot Griffin
    136
    Lloyd Gerson’s Aristotle and Other Platonists is a thought-provoking work that challenges long-held assumptions about the relationship between Aristotle and Plato. Gerson in my opinion makes a compelling case that Aristotle, far from being an anti-Platonist as traditionally portrayed, should be seen as a kind of Platonist himself. Gerson begins by addressing the historical context in which Aristotle’s works were written, emphasizing the fluid intellectual environment of ancient Greece. He argues that the sharp division often drawn between Plato and Aristotle is a modern construct rather than a reflection of their true philosophical positions. Gerson asserts that Aristotle’s philosophy can be better understood as a continuation and development of Platonic themes rather than a complete departure from them.

    One of the key strengths of Gerson’s work is his detailed comparative analysis of the core doctrines of Plato and Aristotle. He examines their views on metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, highlighting numerous points of convergence. For example, Gerson explores how Aristotle’s concept of the unmoved mover can be seen as an adaptation of Plato’s theory of the Forms, rather than a rejection of it. Similarly, he discusses how Aristotle’s ethical theory retains a teleological framework that is deeply rooted in Platonic thought. Therefore, I like to think that only a true Platonist can grasp the work of Aristotle and a true Aristotelian is interested in the "mysticism" of Platonism. The overall text in my eyes makes the argument that Plato and Aristotle are supposed to compliment each other rather than contradict. Gerson also tackles the interpretative challenges posed by Aristotle’s critiques of Plato, suggesting that these criticisms are often more nuanced than they appear. He posits that Aristotle’s objections are directed at specific aspects of Plato’s formulations rather than at the underlying principles. This approach allows Gerson to present a more integrated view of ancient philosophy, where the lines between different schools of thought are more blurred and interconnected. Gerson’s reinterpretation of the relationship between Aristotle and Plato invites readers to reconsider the foundations of Western philosophical tradition. His book is not only a valuable resource for scholars but also for anyone interested in the enduring dialogue between these two towering figures of ancient thought.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    One of the key strengths of Gerson’s work is his detailed comparative analysis of the core doctrines of Plato and Aristotle.Dermot Griffin

    I think that this is the key weaknesses of his work. In Plato's Seventh Letter he says:

    "There is no treatise (suggramma) by me on these subjects, nor will there ever be." (341c)

    In other words, according to Plato in the Seventh Letter there are no core doctrines or any doctrines at all in his writings that can rightly be attributed to him. I have included more from the letter below.

    According to the Phaedo, if there is a "theory of forms" it is, as part of Socrates' second sailing, a hypothesis. (Phaedo 96a-100a) It is a turn away from the attempt to see the things themselves as they are themselves, which like looking directly at the sun can cause blindness, to take refuge in speech. The hypothesis of Forms is called "safe and ignorant" (Phaedo 105c) The inadequacy of Forms is the starting point of the Timaeus.

    With regard to Plato and Aristotle their shared common ground is that they are both Socratic skeptics, inquirers who know that they do not know. Their writings are dialectical or dialogical. The dialogue between Plato and Aristotle is part of their practice of thinking and writing as both internal and external dialogue. It models the reader's or listener's active role as skeptical inquirers.

    More from the Seventh Letter:


    If it seemed to me that these [philosophical] matters could adequately be put down in writing for the many or be said, what could be nobler for us to have done in our lifetime than this, to write what is a great benefit for human beings and to lead nature forth into the light for all? But I do not think such an undertaking concerning these matters would be a good for human beings, unless for some few, those who are themselves able to discover them through a small indication; of the rest, it would unsuitably fill some of them with a mistaken contempt, and others with lofty and empty hope as if they had learned awesome matters.
    (341d-e)


    For this reason every man who is serious about things that are truly serious avoids writing so that he may not expose them to the envy and perplexity of men. Therefore, in one word, one must recognize that whenever a man sees the written compositions of someone, whether in the laws of the legislator or in whatever other writings, [he can know] that these were not the most serious matters for him; if indeed he himself is a serious man.
    (344c)

    Any man, whether greater or lesser who has written about the highest and first principles concerning nature, according to my argument, he has neither heard nor learned anything sound about the things he has written. For otherwise he would have shown reverence for them as I do, and he would not have dared to expose them to harsh and unsuitable treatment.
    (344d-e)
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    In other words, according to Plato in the Seventh Letter there are no core doctrines or any doctrines at all in his writings that can rightly be attributed to him.Fooloso4

    That's a 21st century thesis in the sense that Plato and Aristotle died 2500 years ago and we can argue about their texts ad infinitum. The problem is that Aristotle was Plato's literal student. Aristotle knew Plato, Aristotle was taught by Plato, Aristotle and Plato inevitably argued with one another about things, and Aristotle continued to argue with Plato in his own writings. The claim that Plato held no doctrines or positions is almost certainly false (and the seventh letter certainly doesn't entail such a thing). The claim that in the 21st century we cannot discern any of Plato's doctrines or positions is arguable, but in my opinion also false. But crucially false is the claim that we cannot discern doctrinal differences between Plato and Aristotle from their writings, and especially from Aristotle's writings.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    That's a 21st century thesis in the sense that Plato and Aristotle died 2500 years ago and we can argue about their texts ad infinitum.Leontiskos

    Some argue that the Seventh Letter was not written by Plato. As far as I know Gerson accepts its legitimacy. In the letter Plato says, as quoted:

    "There is no treatise (suggramma) by me on these subjects, nor will there ever be." (341c)Fooloso4

    That is not a "21st century thesis", it is, if genuine, what he wrote. Even if you think it is a forgery it is not a 21st century forgery.

    The problem is that Aristotle was Plato's literal student. Aristotle knew Plato, Aristotle was taught by Plato, Aristotle and Plato inevitably argued with one another about things, and Aristotle continued to argue with Plato in his own writings.Leontiskos

    This is only a problem if you claim that Aristotle rejected Plato. I don't think he did.

    The claim that Plato held no doctrines or positions is almost certainly falseLeontiskos

    The claim is that there is no written doctrines by Plato. No doubt he has his opinions on such matters, but Plato never spoke in his own name in the dialogues. Make of this what you will. If you want to discover Plato's doctrines in what one or more of his characters say in the dialogues then such claims must be weighed against what is said and by whom in other places both within that dialogue and in other dialogues.

    But crucially false is the claim that we cannot discern doctrinal differences between Plato and Aristotle from their writings, and especially from Aristotle's writings.Leontiskos

    Not only can differences be found between Plato and Aristotle, differences can be found within the dialogues themselves and in the works of Aristotle themselves. Explanations abound as to why. Whether these differences are doctrinal is not the same thing.
  • ENOAH
    731


    Whoa. A relief! I always thought of "Plato" as diverging from, even betraying, Socrates skepticism.

    Is there such clear evidence of this lingering-skepticism-notwithstanding-writings-to-the-contrary in Aristotle too?
  • ENOAH
    731
    differences can be found within the dialogues themselves and in the works of Aristotle themselvesFooloso4

    Yes
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Some argue that the Seventh Letter was not written by Plato.Fooloso4

    My point is that it does not entail what you say it does.

    Make of this what you will. If you want to discover Plato's doctrines in what one or more of his characters say in the dialogues then such claims must be weighed against what is said and by whom in other places both within that dialogue and in other dialogues.Fooloso4

    It seems you missed the point of my post.

    1. Did Plato and Aristotle argue?
    2. Do we have a source for their disagreements in Aristotle's works?

    If Plato held no knowable positions, then Aristotle could not have argued with Plato. But Aristotle did argue with Plato, and we have at least some of Aristotle's arguments for and against Plato. Therefore Plato held knowable positions (insofar as we accept Aristotle's depiction of Plato's thought).

    To maintain your thesis would require upholding the idea that Aristotle was no more privy to Plato's thought than we are, which is false. Aristotle had access to Plato's person, not just his texts.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    He posits that Aristotle’s objections are directed at specific aspects of Plato’s formulations rather than at the underlying principles.Dermot Griffin

    Gerson's central focus, as a scholar, has been upon Plotinus and his contemporaries (broadly speaking).

    Interpretations of both Plato and Aristotle are the medium of discourse where different opinions were expressed in Plotinus' time. In that context, Plotinus should be read as claiming what those "underlying principles" are. He is telling us what Plato means and quoting selectively to support his view.

    Both Aristotle and Plotinus are alike in trying to establish an internal consistency to their theoria that differs from the language of Plato. This quality gets described as "systems" or "schools" but I think the difference in kind is too profound to delineate clearly.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    As I understand it from my research, Aristotle and Other Platonists is part of a series of books in which Gerson presents his thesis about the continuities between Plato and Aristotle, the others being From Plato to Platonism (published prior to the above) and Platonism and Naturalism: The Possiblity of Philosophy (published later). The final book in the sequence is in some ways a culmination of the series, and argues for the claim that Platonism *is* philosophy proper, and that it is in broad terms incompatible with naturalism.

    (Gerson's books are addressed mainly to an academic audience, as they must be in a contested field such as this. There are details of disputes over interpretations going back centuries, often taking up pages of footnotes. I wish there were an edition for the general reader, as I can sense the outlines of Gerson's arguments, but the way they're written makes them very difficult for the non-specialist.)

    Edward Feser has a useful blog entry on Gerson. He summarises the key themes like this:

    In From Plato to Platonism, Gerson suggests that the common core of “Ur-Platonism” can be characterized in negative terms, as a conjunction of five “antis”: anti-materialism, anti-mechanism, anti-nominalism, anti-relativism, and anti-skepticism. Together these elements make up a sixth “anti-,” namely anti-naturalism. Thinkers in the Ur-Platonist tradition spell out the implications of this conjunction of “antis” in ways that differ in several details, but certain common themes tend to emerge, such as the thesis that ultimate explanation requires positing a non-composite divine cause, the immateriality of the intellect, and the objectivity of morality. ...

    In Aristotle and Other Platonists, Gerson proposed a positive characterization of the tradition, as comprising seven key themes: 1. The universe has a systematic unity; 2. This unity reflects an explanatory hierarchy and in particular a “top-down” approach to explanation (as opposed to the “bottom-up” approach of naturalism), especially in the two key respects that the simple is prior to the complex and the intelligible is prior to the sensible; 3. The divine constitutes an irreducible explanatory category, and is to be conceived of in personal terms (even if in some Ur-Platonist thinkers the personal aspect is highly attenuated); 4. The psychological also constitutes an irreducible explanatory category; 5. Persons are part of the hierarchy and their happiness consists in recovering a lost position within it, in a way that can be described as “becoming like God”; 6. Moral and aesthetic value is to be analyzed by reference to this metaphysical hierarchy; and 7. The epistemological order is contained with this metaphysical order.
    Join the Ur-Platonist Alliance!

    That resonates with me, as it mirrors the kind of philosophical spirituality that I've always pursued. Making the case in detail with reference to Plato's dialogues and other texts is hard labour, though.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    My point is that it does not entail what you say it does.Leontiskos

    What does:

    There is no treatise (suggramma) by me on these subjects, nor will there ever be.Fooloso4

    mean if not that Plato did not give us written doctrines?

    It seems you missed the point of my post.Leontiskos

    Your post began by saying that the quote from the Seventh Letter was:

    ... a 21st century thesis in the sense that Plato and Aristotle died 2500 years ago ...Leontiskos

    How do you understand this if it does not mean what he said in the letter?

    If Plato held no knowable positions, then Aristotle could not have argued with Plato.Leontiskos

    Of course he could. He was responding to what was said in the dialogues. Surely he was aware of how what is in the dialogues differed from Plato's own positions as they known by and discussed with those whom he trusted and not by and with others. He was also aware of how Plato was being interpreted. As you go on to say:

    Aristotle had access to Plato's person, not just his texts.Leontiskos

    This does not mean that Aristotle disclosed what Plato kept from those he regarded as unsuited to hear them. If Plato did not make them public then it is almost certain that Aristotle would not disclose them.

    Gerson accepts Plato's theory of Forms and argues against a break between Plato and Aristotle regarding Forms. But Plato himself gives us reason to doubt that he seriously held a theory of Forms. He did, however, apparently think it better that those not well suited to the truth believe in Forms rather than what the poets, sophists and theologians taught.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    Is there such clear evidence of this lingering-skepticism ...ENOAH

    It should be understood that Socratic skepticism differs from other types of skepticism. It is the desire to know based on the knowledge of our ignorance. It is, as the root of the word indicates, the practice of doubt and inquiry.

    With regard to evidence, we must follow the argument and action of the dialogues in Plato that lead to aporia and the dialectic of Aristotle. In both cases there is not a move from opinion to unqualified knowledge. I have discussed some of this in various threads that look closely at their writings.
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Your arguments about this issue are best illustrated by the dialogue of Theaetetus.

    Beyond the role of the mid-wife taking precedence over that of recollection, Socrates is heard defending Parmenides who also criticizes the Forms (in that named Platonic dialogue).

    Aristotle takes issue with both thinkers. Plotinus does so in turn.
  • ENOAH
    731
    the desire to know based on the knowledge of our ignorance.Fooloso4

    Ok, fair enough, but with the assurance that you will know? Or notwithstanding your inevitably inescapable ignorance?
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Plato himself gives us reason to doubt that he seriously held a theory of Forms.Fooloso4

    I think he provides the grounds to argue that, but I'm not persuaded. The heuristic I prefer is that forms or ideas don't exist - not because they're unreal, but because they are beyond existence (which is precisely what 'transcendent' means). We are blessed with the intellectual facility, nous, which is capable of grasping these forms (or perceiving rational principles) and which is what differentiates us from non-rational animals.

    But the fact that there is nowadays great controversy over the nature of number (real or invented? Mental or existent?) only illustrates Plato's point. Here we have all the advantages that modern science has provided us, yet this question can't be decided!

    Any man, whether greater or lesser who has written about the highest and first principles concerning nature, according to my argument, he has neither heard nor learned anything sound about the things he has written. — Fooloso4, quoting Plato 7th Letter

    The Tao te Ching's warning comes to mind, 'he that speaks doesn't know'.

    I found a crib of the section referred to:

    Plato's explanation of why the deepest truths cannot be expressed in written form is famously abstruse. Before one attains the "thing which is cognizable and true" (gnōston te kai alēthes), one must have apprehended the "name," "account" (logos), "image," and "knowledge" (epistēmē). Name and account are approached through verbal description, while sense perception perceives the image. One attains knowledge only from the combination of verbal description and sense perception, and one must have knowledge before one can attain the object of knowledge (which Plato calls simply "the Fifth," name, account, image, and knowledge being "the Four"). The Fifth, moreover, differs from what is sensible and verbal expressions of it. Name and account provide the "quality" of a thing (to poion), but not its "essence" or "being" (to on). They are, moreover, akin to sense perceptions in that they are ever shifting and relative, not fixed. As a result, the student who attempts to understand the Fifth through name, account, image, and knowledge is confused; he seeks the essence, but always finds the quality intruding. Only certain kinds of student can scrutinize the Four, and even then the vision of the Fifth comes by a sudden flash.

    Since this is how philosophy is conducted, no serious person would ever attempt to teach serious philosophic doctrines in a book or to the public at large.

    My bolds
  • Paine
    2.2k

    Who are you quoting?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    The way Aristotle dealt with the good indicates that he was a true Platonist.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    With regard to Plato and Aristotle their shared common ground is that they are both Socratic skeptics, inquirers who know that they do not know.Fooloso4
    It should be understood that Socratic skepticism differs from other types of skepticism. It is the desire to know based on the knowledge of our ignorance. It is, as the root of the word indicates, the practice of doubt and inquiry.

    With regard to evidence, we must follow the argument and action of the dialogues in Plato that lead to aporia and the dialectic of Aristotle.
    Fooloso4
    :100: :fire: This sums up my own freethinker-naturalist interpretation of 'Platonism' (which non-exhaustively includes 'Aristotleanism').

    The heuristic I prefer is that forms or ideas don't exist - not because they're unreal, but because they are beyond existence (which is precisely what 'transcendent' means). We are blessed with the intellectual facility, nous, which is capable of grasping these forms (or perceiving rational principles)Wayfarer
    I.e. fallacy of reification / misplaced concereteness (which Nietzsche astutely points out is an inversion, or confusion, of effects & causes). As you anti-naturalists et al construe, Wayf, 'Platonic-Aristotlean' essences (universals) aka "Forms" are only abstractions from concrete entities generalized over them as classes (sets kinds types etc) by 'the need' (i.e. cognitive bias? will to power? the absurd?) of the human intellect to (aesthetically) impose (moral) order on (epistemic) chaos by justifying this slight-of-mind (nous) retroactively – at worst a sophistical subterfuge of implicit rationalization. To wit:
    I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar — F.N.
    Likewise I interpret what Wittgenstein means by 'patent nonsense from (traditional) philosophy misusing ordinary language (i.e. grammar) in order to try to say (meta-grammatically) what can only be shown' – or later, philosophers confusedly, or carelessly, 'playing some language game by the rules of another (à la making category mistakes)' – "transcendent illusions" of meta-nonsense. :eyes:

    Anyway, if as you say, sir, that "Forms transcend existence", then it is a contradiction in terms to assume or assert that entities which "transcend existence" (e.g. super-naturalia like "Platonic Forms") have any explanatory – causal – relation to existence (e.g. nature).

    Read Spinoza. :victory: :wink:
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I.e. fallacy of reification / misplaced concereteness (which Nietzsche astutely points out is an inversion, or confusion, of effects & causes).180 Proof

    I had the idea it is impossible to admire both Nietszche and Plato.

    I admire Plato.

    As for the 'fallacy of reification', that is precisely the misinterpretation of what the forms or ideas represent. To reify is to 'make a thing', but they're not things and they don't exist in time and space. But they are real as constituents of reason.

    Is there such a thing as health? Of course there is. Can you see it? Of course not. This does not mean that the forms are occult entities floating ‘somewhere else’ in ‘another world,’ a ‘Platonic heaven.’ It simply says that the intelligible identities which are the reality, the whatness, of things are not themselves physical things to be perceived by the senses, but must be grasped by thought. If, taking any of these examples—say, justice, health, or strength—we ask, “How big is it? What color is it? How much does it weigh?” we are obviously asking the wrong kind of question. Forms are ideas, not in the sense of concepts or abstractions, but in that they are realities apprehended by thought rather than by sense. They are thus ‘separate’ in that they are not additional members of the world of sensible things, but are known by a different mode of awareness. But this does not mean that they are ‘located elsewhere,’ or that they are not, as Plato says, the very intelligible contents, the truth and reality of sensible things.

    It is in this sense, too, that Plato’s references to the forms as ‘patterns’ or ‘paradigms’, of which instances are ‘images,’ must be understood. All too often, ‘paradigm’ is taken to mean ‘model to be copied.’ The following has been offered as an example of this meaning of παράδειγμα (parádeigma) in classical Greek: “[T]he architect of a temple requiring, say, twenty-four Corinthian capitals would have one made to his own specifications, then instruct his masons to produce twenty-three more just like it.” Such a model is itself one of the instances: when we have the original and the twenty-three copies, we have twenty-four capitals of the same kind. It is the interpretation of forms as paradigms in this sense that leads to the ‘third man argument’ by regarding the form as another instance and the remaining instances as ‘copies’ of the form. This interpretation of Plato’s ‘paradigmatism’ reflects a pictorial imagination of the forms as, so to speak, higher-order sensibles located in ‘another world,’ rather than as the very intelligible identities, the whatnesses, of sensible things.

    But forms cannot be paradigms in this sense. Just as the intelligible ‘look’ that is common to many things of the same kind, a form, as we have seen, is not an additional thing of that kind. Likewise, it makes no sense to say that a body, a physical, sensible thing, is a copy, in the sense of a replica or duplicate, of an intelligible idea. Indeed, Plato expressly distinguishes between a copy and an image: “Would there be two things, that is, Cratylus and an image of Cratylus, if some God copied not only your color and shape, as painters do, but also … all the things you have
    Eric D Perl Thinking Being, p31 ff

    How is that a 'reification'? Reification, 'making a thing', is precisely what it isn't. That accusation is made by those who can't grasp the sense in which such ideas are transcendental.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    Gerson's central focus, as a scholar, has been upon Plotinus and his contemporaries (broadly speaking).Paine

    Are you saying that Gerson's interpretation of Plato is through his reading of Plotinus? That seems right to me.

    Beyond the role of the mid-wife taking precedence over that of recollection, Socrates is heard defending Parmenides who also criticizes the Forms (in that named Platonic dialogue).Paine

    If we look at the dramatic chronology of the dialogues Plato places Parmenides criticism of the Forms at an early stage of Socrates own philosophical education. This raises doubts as to whether Socrates own criticism of Forms should be explained away as the result of Plato having changed his mind in a later stage of his development.

    In his role as mid-wife he says he is able to help others bring their ideas to birth but is himself barren and without wisdom.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    Ok, fair enough, but with the assurance that you will know?ENOAH

    No assurance is given. In the Republic Socrates tells stories about transcendent knowledge but given his profession of ignorance these stories should not be mistaken for knowledge.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    To reify is to make a thing',Wayfarer
    No, it is to treat an abstraction (e.g. "Form of Goodness") as if it is "a thing" in causal relation with other things which is why, misplaced concreteness (i.e. reifying an abstraction) is fallacious. It is Platonists who misuse/abuse language and thereby fetishize the definite article.

    ... ideas [Forms?] don't exist - not because they're unreal, but because they are beyond existence (which is precisely what 'transcendent' means).Wayfarer
    ... ideas [Forms?] are transcendental.
    Confusion of "transcendent" with "transcendental" – which is it, Wayfarer? :roll: – "by those who cannot grasp" this Platonic fallacy.

    I had the idea it is impossible to admire both Nietszche and Plato.
    You're wrong again, sir. Like many, I admire both thinkers[ yet for different reasons. (not the least of which for poetically dramatizing the characters of 'Socrstes' & 'Zarathustra', respectively). And don't forget that admirable duo Wittgenstein & Spinoza who I also mentioned in support of my criticisms.
  • Paine
    2.2k
    Are you saying that Gerson's interpretation of Plato is through his reading of Plotinus? That seems right to me.Fooloso4

    One thing that is verifiable is that Gerson's criticism of Aristotle is a repetition of Plotinus, almost verbatim:

    In calling it an Unmoved Mover and characterizing it as ‘thinking about thinking’, he failed to see that thinking is essentially intentional and that for this reason alone his first principle could not escape the complexity found in thinking plus an object of thinking. In other words, the absolute simplicity of the first principle of all precluded thinking from being that principle. In addition, Aristotle erred in his hypothesis that the primary referent of ‘being’ is ousia. The main reason for this is that ousia or essence or ‘whatness’ is distinct from the existence of that essence, in which case complexity is once again introduced. So, Aristotle was in fact a dissident Platonist, but a Platonist after all. — Platonism Versus Naturalism, Lloyd P Gerson

    If we look at the dramatic chronology of the dialogues Plato places Parmenides criticism of the Forms at an early stage of Socrates own philosophical education. This raises doubts as to whether Socrates own criticism of Forms should be explained away as the result of Plato having changed his mind in a later stage of his development.Fooloso4

    In view of that chronology, Plato seems to hold those cards close to his chest. Socrates is heard joining the criticism of Heraclitus but does not explain why he won't criticize Parmenides except to say he was wise.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    One thing that is verifiable is that Gerson's criticism of Aristotle is a repetition of PlotinusPaine

    In following Plotinus I think Gerson misrepresents both Plato and Aristotle. Plotinus' first principle, the arche of the Whole, is the Good or One. He tries to resolve the problem of the One and the Many in this principled way, but neither Plato or Aristotle do this. For them the problem stands as a limit of human understanding.

    Socrates is heard joining the criticism of Heraclitus but does not explain why he won't criticize Parmenides except to say he was wise.Paine

    An interesting observation. Plato's Timaeus begins with a devastating criticism of the Republic. It is radically incomplete. It is a city created by intellect without necessity, that is, a city without chance and contingency. A city that could never be. The fixed intelligible world is unintelligible. Heraclitus rather than Parmenides seems to have the last word.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Your post began by saying that the quote from the Seventh Letter was:Fooloso4

    No, it began by saying that your interpretation of the letter was such.

    How do you understand this if it does not mean what he said in the letter?Fooloso4

    The letter does not say that Plato holds no positions, or that none of his positions are inferable from his texts, or that none of his positions are inferable from Aristotle's texts.

    Of course he could. He was responding to what was said in the dialogues.Fooloso4

    I already addressed this in the parenthetical remark at the end of that paragraph.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    The letter does not say that Plato holds no positions, or that none of his positions are inferable from his texts, or that none of his positions are inferable from Aristotle's texts.Leontiskos

    Nor did I say that. Once again:

    In other words, according to Plato in the Seventh Letter there are no core doctrines or any doctrines at all in his writings that can rightly be attributed to him.Fooloso4

    If you are arguing that his core doctrines are unwritten that is a whole other discussion. Griffin's review of Gerson, however, addresses such things as the unmoved mover and the "theory of Forms", that is, what is written.

    I already addressed this in the parenthetical remark at the end of that paragraph.Leontiskos

    Here is what you said:

    Therefore Plato held knowable positions (insofar as we accept Aristotle's depiction of Plato's thought)Leontiskos

    Are you claiming that Aristotle made public what Plato intended to keep private? Wouldn't that be a breach of trust? Do you think he rejects what Socrates says about the problem of writing in the Phaedrus:

    [E]very [written] speech rolls around everywhere, both among those who understand and among those for whom it is not fitting, and it does not know to whom it ought to speak and to whom not.
    (275d-e)

    Aristotle too was aware that what is appropriate to say or not to say must take into consideration who one is speaking to. He had no control over who was reading his work or listening to his lectures. And so, like Plato, only made public what he thinks will benefit the reader or listener while not disclosing what only a few might be able to understand.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Are you claiming that Aristotle made public what Plato intended to keep private?Fooloso4

    Are you claiming that Plato did not intend to make anything whatsoever public? That approach succeeds in nixing the OP, but it proves far too much.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k
    Are you claiming that Plato did not intend to make anything whatsoever public?Leontiskos

    No. Both Plato and Aristotle write in ways intended to mitigate the problem of writing. Both have a salutary public teaching.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    No. Both Plato and Aristotle write in ways intended to mitigate the problem of writing. Both have a salutary public teaching.Fooloso4

    Well the way you have been wielding Plato's seventh letter makes it seem like Plato can have no public teaching.
  • Fooloso4
    5.8k


    The distinction is between the public teaching and matters which are not made public. In the OP a theory of Forms is regarded as a "core doctrine" that represents Plato's own view. There is, however, a great deal in the dialogues that call the Forms into question. The idea found in the Republic of eternal, fixed, transcendent truths known only to the philosophers is a useful political fiction. This "core doctrine" is a myth, a noble lie.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    From one of our earlier discussions of the matter:

    I think all of our readings are by default modern. We cannot escape being modern. It is our cave.
    — Fooloso4

    Socrates says that the free prisoner would think that the world outside the cave was superior to the world he experienced in the cave ...
    — Wayfarer

    If you have escaped the cave then you would see things differently than us cave dwellers. I have not. I can only see things as I can from within the cave.
    Fooloso4
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