R. J. Hankinson

in Cause and Explanation in Ancient Greek Thought

Published in print October 2001 | ISBN: 9780199246564
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597572 | DOI:

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Plato offers the first metaphysical exploration of the nature of causation and explanation, and the relationship between these and other metaphysical concepts, such as forms, properties, and the soul. Hankinson focuses on two dialogues, the Phaedo and the Timaeus; in the first of these, Plato rejects the materialism of natural science, in favour of the good as the ground of teleological explanations, and he invokes forms as invariable causal properties. Plato explores the notion of an archê, or ultimate principle, in his argument for the immortality of the soul; this notion comes together with the concept of hypothetical investigation and the casual account of knowledge in the Timaeus. Here, Plato offers a cosmogony invoking a divine artificer who fashions the universe from a receptacle, a material substratum that can receive all forms. In Plato's philosophy, there is the emergence of a concern with the correct form that an explanation ought to take, and also an emphasis on teleological explanation.

Keywords: forms; hypothesis; immortality; material substratum; Metaphysical concepts; Phaedo; properties; receptacle; soul; teleological explanation; Timaeus

Chapter.  20816 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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