Self-predication in Plato: The 'formal' explanation

1999 1999

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Abstract (summary)

Plato often treats Forms as paradigm cases of the Forms they are. So the Form F-ness is an F thing and perfectly so. If Forms are understood as universals, then just as F-ness is predicated of F particulars, so too F-ness is predicated of itself (i.e., the Form self-predicates or has the property it is). In the case of some Forms, this is a desirable outcome. All Forms necessarily are one, and as such, Oneness necessarily partakes of itself So too, the Form of Rest should itself be a non-changing thing as all Forms are necessarily immutable.

Yet if Plato intends all Forms to self-predicate then the following types of problems result: (1) metaphysical absurdities (e.g. the Form Man must be a literal man, and hence alive); (2) immediate inconsistencies with Platonic commitments concerning Forms (e.g. Change must change rather than being immutable); (3) an inconsistent view of Forms as both universals and perfect particulars.

To resolve these problems I proceed in the following way. After examining the issue of self-predication in more detail, I explore the traditional analyses of self-predication and argue that each suffers both substantive and methodological shortcomings.

Next, I discuss Robert Heinaman's promising methodology for resolving this issue, namely, generating criteria of adequacy based on key evidence related to self-predication. After demonstrating that Heinaman's criteria are unjustified, I supplant his criteria with four of my own. I then generate an analysis of self-predication that meets these criteria, and which portrays Plato's self-predicative commitments in a consistent manner.

Ultimately I analyze self-predication in terms of formal causation, Plato's view that the Form F-ness makes F things F through its presence. The Form F-ness is an F thing precisely because it formally causes other things to be F. I defend this analysis of self-predication both by showing that it is the only account of this phenomenon consistent with the criteria of adequacy, and by providing independent evidence that Plato views formal causation.

Indexing (details)

0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Formal causation; Plato; Self-predication
Self-predication in Plato: The 'formal' explanation
Geenen, Richard Carl
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 60/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
0599400617, 9780599400610
Shields, Christopher
University of Colorado at Boulder
University location
United States -- Colorado
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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