Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 87 (3):227-269 (2005)
In this paper I re-examine the status of the mind-body relation in several of Plato’s late dialogues. A range of views has been attributed to Plato here. For example, it has been thought that Plato is a substance dualist, for whom the mind can exist independently of the body; or an attribute dualist, who has left behind the strong dualistic commitments of the Phaedo by allowing that the mind may be the subject of spatial movements. But even in cases where a classification of Plato as a holder of a particular ontology of the mind has been left undefined, it has been a shared assumption that in the late dialogues the mind itself must be immaterial. I take issue with these various views and show that none of them is necessitated by the text. In the first place, I argue there is strong evidence against the view that Plato should, in his late period, be committed not only to substance dualism, but also to attribute dualism. Furthermore, it is possible that Plato may have allowed that the mind itself be a three-dimensional corporeal entity (in a way that sets up a precedent for later Stoic developments). But even if this is not the only possible reading of the text, it is shown how at any rate the mind must be seen in late Plato as the principle of organization of a body and ontologically inseparable from it. Despite prima facie affinities with Aristotle here, we shall see a Plato emerge for whom the mind (without exception) and the body cannot exist without one another – a thesis more radical than that of Aristotle’s. To bring out the provocative nature of this suggestion, I start, in section I, by laying out the state of the question and compare what I shall argue is the late Platonic view with standard interpretations of his previous work, stressing the historical force that I expect this thesis to have. Afterwards, in three respective sections, I proceed to pay heed to relevant passages in the Timaeus, Philebus and Laws in order to establish the main point of this paper. Finally, in section V, I consider the challenge apparently introduced against my thesis by Plato’s occasional talk of immortality and eschatology in those dialogues, and argue instead that many of those passages add further strength to the view defended in this essay.
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