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  • The Teleology of Action in Plato's Republic by Andrew Payne
  • Christopher Buckels
Andrew Payne. The Teleology of Action in Plato's Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. vi + 240. Cloth, $60.00.

Payne's commentary on Republic I–VII is not advanced as a sustained argument for the new type of teleology he finds there but is structured by themes in the text. It engages with selected previous scholarship on the Republic and is written with care and deliberation.

Payne begins with an overview of the types of teleology, or end-directed action, found in Plato's corpus, but does not address contemporary philosophy of action. Payne's own "functional teleology of action" accounts for how agents act for the sake of ends of which they are unaware, as when mathematical study is directed to the Form of the Good (12). Chapter 2 explains this theory using the Symposium's Ascent passage.

Payne devotes the next two chapters to Republic I, which he characterizes as a "preliminary and exploratory statement" of the Republic's main theses (72). Against an anti-functional reading, Payne argues that Republic I begins the Republic's investigation of the ergon of the just man. He contends that justice is a "self-transmitting power" concerned with "maintaining partnerships" (37), and it acts by "producing friendship and concord" in the city (41). The extensive treatment of these themes makes Payne's book worth reading for anyone with an interest in Republic I and its relation to II–IX. [End Page 341]

The next three chapters focus on Republic II–IV. Payne defends a new version of the "extended-nature" interpretation of Glaucon's challenge in which "criterial benefits of justice" may be used in Socrates's defense while "fringe benefits" may not (76). Payne also defends the city-soul analogy and presents solutions to both the Unity Problem and the What-Sort-of-Conflict Problem for the tripartite soul. Chapter 7 considers Socrates's defense of justice, focusing on Sachs's problem ("A Fallacy in Plato's Republic," Philosophical Review 72 [1963]: 141–58) for the relation between justice in the soul and just actions. Payne argues that "promoting the good of others" is "an unintended end" (141), an example of functional teleology: "the intention with which the just person acts is preservation of his own inner state of psychic order and harmony" (144). While this strategy avoids the "gap-filling" proposed by many scholars (147), it seems problematic to have philosopher-rulers only unintentionally benefit the city they rule.

The final three chapters of the book purport to center around the Form of the Good. Chapter 8 looks at the role of vision and images in the Sun, Line, and Cave, with an excursus on vision in the Timaeus. Chapter 9 thinks about dianoia and definitions as hypotheses, using commensurability as an extended example. Payne argues that "dianoia uses intelligible images" (190) in order to gain "genuine insight into intelligible objects" (192), although these intelligible objects are not Forms (183n11). Despite positing intelligible objects other than Forms as objects of mathematical knowledge, Payne desires to remain neutral about the existence of "so-called mathematical intermediates" (199). Chapter 10 discusses the mathematical education of philosopher-rulers-in-training. Payne argues that commensurability bridges dianoia and dialectic, which "consists centrally of the examination and evaluations of definitions" (217).

Early on, Payne acknowledges an objection: if I am guided toward an end by a competent mentor such as Diotima, then she intends that I reach that end. Her intention explains how I can act for the sake of an end of which I am unaware, rendering Payne's functional teleology unnecessary. Payne acknowledges that the lover in the Symposium's Ascent passage is guided by a leader, but insists that the lover "makes his own contribution to success in achieving the end," because reaching the goal requires that "the learner forms and acts on his own beliefs and desires" (32). This response seems to miss the point that the learner would not act for the sake of the unintended end if not for the guidance of the mentor. In fact, the lover's ascent...


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