Plato's Opinions: Cognition and Reality in the Timaeus and Critias Público

Morelli, Eric James (2017)

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This dissertation is an interpretation of Plato's Timaeus and Critias and an inquiry into his notion of opinion. I interpret Plato as posing the problem of opinion in the Timaeus and Critias, thoroughly exploring the problem, and leaving traces of its solution. In the first chapter, I show how the problem of opinion emerges in the Timaeus and Critias as a problem of opinion's nature and its relations to knowledge and reality. In the second chapter, to determine the full nature and extent of the problem of opinion and the significance of Plato's treatment of it in the Timaeus and Critias, I consider opinion's appearance in the rest of Plato's works. In the third chapter, I review the elements of a possible solution to the problem of opinion in the Timaeus and Critias' accounts of opinion; their accounts of opinion's ostensible object, becoming; and their various depictions of opining. In the fourth chapter, I develop a theory of opinion on the basis of Plato's treatment of the problem of opinion in the Timaeus and Critias. I conclude that the Timaeus and Critias may be regarded as Plato's critical works on opinion and that a key to understanding them and to solving the problem of opinion Plato poses with them and all his works lies in a distinction one must draw between opinion as a single cognitional act or some incomplete, disordered set of distinct kinds of cognitional acts and opinion as a complete, ordered set of distinct kinds of cognitional acts. I explore the epistemological and metaphysical ramifications of this possible solution to Plato's problem of opinion and consider the likelihood that Plato had arrived at it or something like it.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: The Problem of the Timaeus and Critias 9

1. The Absent Fourth 10

2. Socrates' Recollection 13

3. Critias' Plan 36

4. Timaeus' Speech 42

5. Critias' Speech 47

6. Conclusion 53

Chapter Two: The General Problem of Opinion 54

1. Four Concepts of Opinion 56

1.1 An Imperfect Kind of Cognition 56

1.2 An Inadequate Cognition of Being 61

1.3 An Adequate Cognition of Becoming 63

1.4 Judgment 70

2. Opinion and the Embodied and Divided Soul 70

3. Opinion as Single Act and Process 78

4. False Opinion 81

5. Opinion and Knowledge 83

6. Conclusion 88

Chapter Three: Elements of a Solution to the Problem of Opinion

in the Timaeus and Critias 89

1. Timaeus' and Critias' Accounts of Opinion 95

1.1 Timaeus' Proem 95

1.2 Timaeus on the Divine Soul 101

1.3 Timaeus' Digression on the Existence of Forms 109

1.4 Critias' Proem 116

1.5 Critias' Account of Atlantic Legal Procedure 120

2. Accounts of Becoming 125

3. Plato's Depictions of Opining 148

4. Conclusion 155

Chapter Four: A Theory of Opinion 157

1. A Theory of Opinion 158

1.1 Experience 163

1.2 Understanding 169

1.3 Judgment 176

1.4 A Necessary Distinction 184

2. The Theory's Status 189

3. The Complementarity of Opinion and Understanding 199

4. Becoming and Being 201

5. Soul 206

6. Metaphysics 208

7. Plato's Opinions 209

8. Conclusion 211

Bibliography 212

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