Wednesday, April 2, 2008

On Plato's Dualism

Plato's dualism is a dualism of matter and form. For Plato, the distinction between mind and body is one example of the larger distinction between form and body. As matter nears closer to form, it becomes more and more formally organized, the reverse as it recedes from form. Circular objects are good examples: the more perfectly circular particulars are closer to the form of circularity. But then the roundness of my finger, say, is a case of my person being a mix of matter and form. There are many ways that my body is exemplifying form. The fact that I can do logic and mathematics, then, is not the only form/matter distinction that I exemplify. This is the sense in which the mind/body distinction is only one example of a larger distinction, the real metaphysical distinction, matter and form. The significance of this for philosophy of mind, I think, is that there is nothing metaphysically unique about my rational capacity. Dualism, for Plato, is already established by my finger's having the property of circularity, a formal, not physical, property. The further intuition that thinking logically is somehow mental, whereas simply being round is not, is no part of Plato's dualism. So, perhaps, the claim that the "rationality assumption" in intentional psychology has no correlate in physical description is incorrect. Physical descriptions are shot through with references to formal properties, and so intentional psychological descriptions are not metaphysically exceptional in that sense.

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