Plato Paper Notes

Tuesday, May 2, 2000

Specific points of criticism in Meta bk 1 ch 4:

987b12-16: Plato says that ever-changing perceptible things participate in unchanging forms, but he fails to define “participating” for us. This participation must happen, according to Plato, because a thing itself cannot possess its own definition since it is always changing. That definition must be found elsewhere — in the Forms.

988a3-8: In the Platonist’s view, many things are made out of matter, but the Form generates only once. The contrary is true: A thing is made out of one bit of matter, but the Form can generate many instances of itself. He compares this to the act of copulation. The male, the symbolic provider of form, can impregnate many females. He ddoesn’t explicitly say this, but the female symbolizes matter because she can only carry one form at a time (once pregnant, she cannot be made pregnant again).

I’m not sure how mathematical objects fit into this argument. I think it hinges on how he uses the terms “matter” and “substance.”

“Matter” is the stuff out of which something is made. The table is made out of wood. There is a hierarchy inherent in this that leads to the Prime Matter out of which everything is made.

Substance is the definition of something, more than just its constiuent parts. This can also be referred to as “essence.” There’s more to this that I don’t understand.

But back to the mathematical objects behind the criticism. Jesus fuck. This second paragraph is impenetrable and I’m moving on…