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Book Reviews Plato's Psychology. By T. M. Robinson. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970. Pp. ix+202. $6.50) In the foreword to his book T. M. Robinson writes: The following pages are an attempt to fill what seems to be an important gap in current literature on the philosophy of Plato. Since the war a large amount of work has been done on his Theory of Knowledge.... That other "pillar of Platonism," however, the doctrine of the psyche (soul, mind), has only received sporadic attention.... The present study attempts to give as lucid and comprehensive an account as possible of all that Plato has to say on the nature of psyche, personal and cosmic, in each of the dialogues. (P. vii.) Undoubtedly, no serious student of Plato would disagree with Robinson's claims that the doctrine of the soul is an important element of "Platonism" and that this element of Plato's thought has not received its due attention in recent platonic scholarship, and thus that there is an important gap in current literature on the philosophy of Plato. Unfortunately, however, Robinson's book does not fill this important gap in platonic scholarship. For the book moves from one platonic dialogue to another glossing over the problems related to Plato's psychology and by-passing the difficulties that beset anyone who tries to disentangle what Plato says about the soul. The author does not really stop anywhere to examine in detail Plato's arguments and analyze in depth Plato's various views on the nature of the soul and its relation to the body and the rest of the world. What he rather does is to move through Plato's various doctrines of the soul---cosmic soul, individual soul; soul as the principle of life, soul as the principle of cognition; immortal soul, mortal soul; tripartite soul, unitary soul; good soul, evil soul; etc.--and suggest some interpretations of the texts without providing any good arguments and evidence to support these interpretations and without examining how all these views of Plato square, or do not square, with each other. Thus the reader is as baffled about the second "pillar of Platonism"--the doctrine of the soul--after reading Robinson's book as he was before reading it. Robinson's book, it seems to me, suffers as a whole from two basic shortcomings. Firstly, Plato's psychology is discussed almost completely independently of the preSocratic tradition. With the exception of a few scanty references to some pre-Socratic views on the soul, no effort is made anywhere in the book to present these views against which one can then see Plato's views. Thus, we find Robinson writing that "to a modern mind it is odd.., to claim that an invisible noetic substance should be the direct and sufficient cause of a man's physical existence, without offering some semblance of argument to support the claim. Yet Socrates first introduces us to the soul as a cognitive principle and then founds his very proof of immortality on the fact that it is a life-principle!" (p. 26). Of course it might be odd to a modern mind, but it can hardly be odd to Plato who is the heir of the pre-Socratic tradition. For besides the Orphic and Pythagorean views concerning incarnation, transmigration, and immortality of the soul, we find among the pre-Socratics the views that the soul is the principle [217] 218 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY of life, cognition, and feeling, and that it is divine and immortalA In order to understand then what Plato is saying about the soul and why he says what he says, we must be clear as much as possible about the conceptions of soul he inherited. And we must not merely express amazement at the fact that Socrates takes the soul to be both the principle of life and cognition; we should rather try to explain how the soul is the principle of both life and cognition and why Plato seems to see no problem with the view that makes the soul the principle of both life and cognition. Secondly, Robinson discusses Plato's psychology in a vacuum--i.e, without...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 217-221
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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