Dialectic in Plato's "Phaedo"

Dissertation, University of Georgia (2001)

Miriam Byrd
University of Texas at Arlington
In this dissertation I propose a new method of interpreting Plato's Phaedo based upon Socrates' description of the "summoner" at Republic 522e--525a. I elucidate the summoner paradigm as a four step process in which one notices an apparent contradiction in perception, separates two opposites from one mixed perception, realizes the priority of the opposites, and recognizes their transcendence. In the Republic , its primary purpose is to move the subject from pistis to dianoia and from dianoia to nous. The summoner method of interpretation looks at how Plato sets up contradictions within the text and implicitly argues for models of resolving them. ;Using this method of interpretation, I, in performing a close reading of the Phaedo, argue that early in the dialogue Plato introduces contradictions and suggests models of resolution which he later applies in the arguments for immortality of the soul as he attempts to resolve the soul as summoner. He avoids contradiction in the cyclical argument by treating the soul as if it were a substrate in which characteristics alternate and in the recollection argument by applying the summoner paradigm in an attempt to separate out form. When neither of these approaches is successful, he uses the affinity argument to show that the soul is some kind of an intermediate. In the final argument, Plato resolves contradiction by locating the ontological level of the soul and altering the summoner paradigm so that it separates out intermediates, thus making the soul an intelligible object that may be grasped by the intellect. ;In conclusion, I argue that, though I show limitations of all of the arguments individually, each plays a significant role in directing and refining Plato's inquiry into the nature of the soul, and that the arguments work dialectically to help us move from opinions of the soul to some degree of knowledge of its status and degree of intelligibility
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