Imagination, Self‐Awareness, and Modal Thought at Philebus 39–40

Karel Thein

in Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644384
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191743344 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy

Imagination, Self‐Awareness, and Modal Thought at Philebus 39–40

Show Summary Details


This chapter revisits Plato's image of our soul as a book where two craftsmen are at work, a scribe and a painter (Philebus 39–40). Its focus is on how the painter's elaborations pertain to some important formal features of our belief‐formation. A special emphasis is on the relevance of Plato's image as both a commentary upon and an instance of the discursive thought understood as the soul's inner dialogue. In the Philebus, Socrates' comments are meant to clarify not the conditions of a narrowly conceived theoretical epistemology, but the richness of the everyday thought processes including their modal and counterfactual dimensions. The clarification of these issues goes together with a new treatment of the false pleasures of the soul and their anticipatory character, and with an analysis of the implications of Socrates' remarks on the painter in our soul for the issue of self‐awareness. The proposed interpretation of Philebus 39–40, which argues for a rather strong connection between the pleasures and pains of the soul, the latter's self‐awareness and the modal thinking that relies on comparing various mental representations, is then confronted with the Wax Tablet and the Aviary models of the mind from the Theaetetus, and also with some contemporary theories of belief‐formation and imagination.

Keywords: Plato; Philebus; false pleasure; imagination; self‐awareness; modal thought

Chapter.  18058 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.