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Plato's Doctrine of the Psyche as a Self-Moving Motion RAPHAEL DEMOS I WILLXSXTHEREADERto ignore for the time being what he has gleaned about the soul from the reading of the Phaedo and the Republic. In these dialogues Plato speaks of the soul sometimes as wholly rational, as having three parts, and so forth. But in these dialogues he is t~lklng of the human soul, which is a special case, whereas in this essay I am de~Hng with the wider role and the concept of the soul as the efficient cause of motion, change, and all becoming everywhere in the cosmos. My cardinal texts in this exposition are the Sophist (246a-249d), the Phaedrus (245c, d), and a considerable portion of Laws, X. Consider the Phaedo, a dialogue with at least four motifs: it is a dramatic evocation of the last day in the life of Socrates, it is an argument for the immortality of the soul and for the reality of the world of ideas, it is a myth of the nether world, and finally, it is a theory of the cosmos as ruled by purpose--all in all, one of the great pieces of literature of the Western world. For the reader, it is an evocation of an attitude to life, based on Plato's conception of the soul--an attitude expressed in the famous phrase that the wise man spends his life meditating on death. As contrasted with what may be called his existential concern with the soul, in the other dialogues on which I will comment, Plato approaches the topic of the soul as part of his explanation of the cosmos. In these his attitude is objective and quasi-scientific. It is to this side of Plato's thought that I wish to call attention in this essay, where the establishment of the immortality of the soul is incidental to the more basic doctrine that the soul is an arche, a primary factor and an ontological principle. In the ,Sophist, we find Plato playing the music of his philosophy in a new key. He refers to the "friends of the forms" as though he, himself, were an outsider looking in; then, too, he asserts that motion is really real in contrast to his derogatory references to motion in the Cratylus, the Phaedo, and the Republic.I In these (and other) dialogues, Plato contrasts change and changing things with the timeless forms in respect of reality: the former are said, at best, to be semi-real; only the latter are really real. But in the Sophist he changes his tune, arguing that total reality (~o ~v, to' ~a~rE~ By) includes both motion and rest (248e 8; 249d 3-4). What does he mean by these two words? That by 'rest' he means the realm of ideas is indicated (if not proved) by his references to the forms in the same context (247b 1But in the Theaeteius,he classifiesmotions in a semi-scientific fashion, leaving the impression on the reader that he regards motion as a reality. [133] 134 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 1-2; 249b, 10, c 1).2 As for motion, Plato makes it clear that the term covers not only (a) physical motion but also (b) life, (c) psyche, and (d) phronesis or naus (249b 5). All these are said to be forms of kinesis; how this is so--how life, soul, mason may be described as motions or changes--is a matter for later comment. What is more to the point is Plato's insistence that motion and what is moved are onta (beings, 249b 2, d 3). Plato uses change (metabol$) interchangeably with kinesis; anticipating the Phaedrus, I will include activity under change. And anticipating the Laws, I will characterize some of this activity as mental; indeed the Sophist, includes within change nous, phronesis, and episteme; that is to say, understanding (in the sense of an activity, 249a, b, c).s Plato offers various reasons in support of his contention that change is real. He may also be offering a special demonstration as follows. The philosopher who denies that change is real is engaged in a mental activity, in short...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 133-146
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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