A Sharp Eye for Kinds: Plato on Collection and Division
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 41 (January):229-55 (2012)
This paper focuses on two methodological questions that arise from Plato’s account of collection and division. First, what place does the method of collection and division occupy in Plato’s account of philosophical inquiry? Second, do collection and division in fact constitute a formal “method” (as most scholars assume) or are they simply informal techniques that the philosopher has in her toolkit for accomplishing different philosophical tasks? I argue that Plato sees collection and division as useful tools for achieving two distinct goals – generating real definitions and discovering the basic natural kinds of a given domain of knowledge – both of which occupy a preliminary stage in his account of philosophical inquiry. As to the second question, I claim that the evidence for seeing collection and division as a formal method is weak. Although Plato calls the procedure a technê and a methodos, he makes no real attempt to formalize it in any way. For Plato, collection and division do not constitute an algorithmic process that can be learned from a rule book. Instead the ability to collect and divide properly are skills that good dialecticians must acquire through the kind of hands-on training illustrated by the Sophist and Statesman. Whereas Aristotle insists on formal rules for making proper divisions, Plato seems to emphasize the need to recognize where the natural joints of the world are. In this sense, Plato’s Sophist and Statesman and Aristotle’s Topics and Analytics present two very different pictures of collection and division.
|Keywords||Plato Ancient methodology Classification|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Similar books and articles
David B. Kitts (1987). Plato on Kinds of Animals. Biology and Philosophy 2 (3):315-328.
Rachel Barney (2008). The Carpenter and the Good. In D. Cairns, F. G. Herrmann & T. Penner (eds.), Pursuing the Good: Ethics and Metaphysics in Plato's Republic. University of Edinburgh
Kenneth M. Sayre (2006). Metaphysics and Method in Plato's Statesman. Cambridge University Press.
James C. Klagge & Julia Annas (eds.) (1992). Methods of Interpreting Plato and His Dialogues: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Supplementary Volume, 1992. Clarendon Press.
John J. Navone (1956). The Division of Parts in Society According to Plato and Aristotle. Philosophical Studies 6:113-122.
Marguerite Deslauriers (1990). Plato and Aristotle on Division and Definition. Ancient Philosophy 10 (2):203-219.
M. S. Lane (1998). Method and Politics in Plato's Statesman. Cambridge University Press.
S. Marc Cohen (1973). Plato's Method of Division. In J. M. E. Moravcsik (ed.), Patterns in Plato's Thought. Reidel 181--191.
Stephen Menn (1998). Collecting the Letters. Phronesis 43 (4):291 - 305.
Added to index2010-08-04
Total downloads24 ( #112,516 of 1,700,362 )
Recent downloads (6 months)0
How can I increase my downloads?