Prospecting for Ecological Gold Amongst the Platonic Forms: A Response to Timothy Mahoney

Ethics and the Environment 2 (2):149 - 168 (1997)
Abstract
Timothy Mahoney discovers and champions an ecologically benign account of Plato in opposition to my own critical analysis of the reason-centeredness, reason-nature dualism, and nature and body devaluation in the Platonic dialogues, in which multiple linked dualisms of reason and nature associated with systems of oppression provide major organizing principles for Platonic philosophy. I show first that Mahoney's criticisms of my interpretation involve some careless and mistaken readings of my own text. Second, I argue that Mahoney* s account of nature is significantly different from Plato's. Mahoney's interpretation of Plato is an overly generous and idealized one which plays on the multiplicity and elasticity of the concept of nature and the notorious vagueness of the concept of participation to conflate, among other things, Plato's attitude to celestial nature with his attitude to biological nature. Mahoney's interpretation involves setting aside Plato's gender politics, playing down some of Plato's most offensive and revealing passages of earth disparagement, and ignoring the network of social meanings from which Plato's philosophy emerges. Finally, I give some reasons why Mahoney's accounts of participation and nature, even considered as a reworking of Plato, would be highly problematic as the foundation for an ecological philosophy.
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