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Title: Cause, explanation and theory in Plato's Phaedo
Author: Bailey, Dominic Timothy John
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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This work is an investigation into a passage in Plato’s Phaedo in which Socrates tells his audience that, in the teeth of a certain difficulty, he can only establish the conclusion he wants - that the soul is immortal - if he comes up with a theory about coming to be and passing away generally. There then follows a discussion in which Socrates rejects the professed causes of those who had thought abut the matter before him, and then proceeds to outline his own method for getting at the truth. I begin in Section 1 with a detailed textual argument for the conclusion that the adjective αιτιον and the noun αιτια refer to logically different kinds of beings, a conclusion whose liability to misunderstanding leads me to a general discussion of Platonic teleology in Section 2. Section 3 argues at length against the thought that Socrates rejects the purported causes of others because of their susceptibility to logical controversies about opposites, concluding instead that he is using an epistemological indifference argument. The debate returns again to the details of the text in Section 4, where I arbitrate between two scholars in the debate about what exactly Socrates’ hypothesis is and how, as we are advised, we are to “hang on” to it in the course of inquiry. Section 5 dwells at length on an analogy between Plato and Frege, with a view to explaining what Socrates means when he recommends that would-be investigators conduct their research by looking in λογοι. Section 6 discusses the nature of the relation between a hypothesis and its results, arguing that Socrates’ inspiration for characterising the relation is drawn from Greek Harmonic Theory. Section 7 relates the epistemological themes considered so far to the question of whether any λογοι can turn true beliefs into knowledge, drawing the optimistic conclusion that they can, by way of an analysis of the image of the Sun in Republic VI. Section 8 considers at length what unhypothetical principles might be, and Section 9 concludes the work with an overview of Plato’s theory of explanation and justification, and how it relates to modern perspectives on those subjects.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral