Platonic Epogōgē and the “Purification” of the Method of Collection

Abstract

Despite Aristotle’s claim in Topics I that all dialectical argument is either syllogism or epagoge, modern scholars have largely neglected to assess the role of epagoge in Platonic dialectic. Though epagoge has no technical use in Plato, I argue that the method of collection functions as the Platonic predecessor to Aristotelian epagoge. An analysis of passages from the Sophist and Statesman suggests that collection is a purificatory practice. I argue that collection is not only Plato’s account of generalization from a sensible many to an intelligible many, as suggested by the Phaedrus, but also functions as a method of diacritical selection that allows inquiry to move from the intelligible many produced by division to the intelligible unity of a definition. This reading contributes a deeper understanding of the mutual relationship of division and collection within Platonic dialectic as well as a way of unifying the accounts of dialectic in the Sophist and Statesman with the otherwise idiosyncratic account of dialectic in the Republic. Finally, this analysis of Platonic epagoge sheds light on the connection between inquiry and argument present in Aristotle’s use of epagoge.

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Holly Moore
Luther College

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