Towards an Aesthetic Teleology: Explanation in Plato’s Phaedo, 95b – 99c




“Phantaz Sunlyk”


Prefatory note: The following is a lengthy commentary on an excerpt from Plato’s Phaedo.  In presenting it to the audience of Tekton, my hope is to dispel the ridiculous notion that every aspect of all Greek thought is necessarily anathema to “the pure Gospel”; a notion cherished especially by fundamentalists of the KJV-only sort, and contemporary heretics who like to imagine that the Gospel truth disappeared from the face of the earth because of Greek thought (which fault, by the way, was only remedied by the coming of their founder in the not too-distant past)—none of whom, in my experience, have given the slightest evidence that they have any decent understanding of what they are condemning. 

That said, in the below, no attempt has been made to reconcile those portions of Plato’s thought which truly are at odds with Christian orthodoxy.  Plato said many things, some of which were no doubt in error, and many of which were highly valuable.  Yet behind all of these, it is my hope that the reader will appreciate the spirit of his thought, which strove—with everything within him—towards a perception of truth, goodness, and beauty.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that because of this spirit, Plato is probably closer to Christian truth than those who unwittingly condemn him.

The following is divided into four parts: the Precis, which briefly summarizes our passage; the Outline; the Explication, which offers commentary on obscure or noteworthy portions of the passage; and the heart of this work—the Evaluation—which analyzes the worth of Plato’s argument, and attempts to develop its metaphysical implications.

The Evaluation is divided into four parts: I presents my estimation of Plato as a thinker, and gives a general introduction to what follows; II subjects Plato’s argument to criticism, while going on to affirm it; III, drawing on the results reached in the above, attempts to posit an ultimate metaphysical principle; IV addresses the question of whether or not Plato’s thought, with regard to the ultimate metaphysical principle, can be seen as tending towards Christianity. 

Let it be noted that the ultimate metaphysical principle posited in section III was aimed more at developing Plato’s thought itself than simply presenting the Christian doctrine of God.  I in no way deny creation ex-nihilo; what is said in that portion is said because an eternal generation of the world would seem to cohere better with Plato’s thought.  I leave it to the reader to judge whether or not the basic form of the posited metaphysical principle can be developed towards the Christian doctrine of the Creator God. As for me, those who’ve read my writings on the Trinity know where I stand in this regard.


Precis: Phaedo, 95b – 99c


            Socrates has just overcome Simmias’ ominously sensible objection to Socrates’ defense of the immortality of the soul: that the soul may be a “harmony,” i.e., an entity caused by the interaction of the physical components which constitute the body, in which case the soul would perish with the destruction of the body.  He now faces Cebes’ objection: that even granting that there isn’t simply a one-one correspondence between the life and death of the soul, and the life and death of the body which it happens to inhabit; and allowing that the soul is indeed of such a constitution which can outlive the death of a, or many incarnate existences, it by no means follows that the soul is truly immortal, i.e., intrinsically incapable of non-existence.

            In order to overcome Cebes’ objection, Socrates realizes that he must thoroughly investigate the cause of why things come to be and perish.  He relates of how, in his youth, he believed that such a reason could be found by employing the methodology of natural science.  But far from revealing the actual reason of why things come to be and perish, this method of investigation confuses him—even to the point of causing him to lose his grasp on what he actually did know. 

            Overhearing someone reading from a work of Anaxagoras, he is filled with hope.  He first thought that a path towards that explanation he was seeking had been cleared, ready for him to travel upon, for Anaxagoras seemed to posit Mind as the cause of all things.  But much to his disappointment, Anaxagoras (according to Socrates) was content merely to mention Mind, and rather than show how it explains why things are so, allowed matter and its functions to do so.  Socrates then points out that such a manner of explanation provides only the necessary, and not sufficient, conditions for a state of affairs to be brought about.  He likens the term of such a form of explanation to another Atlas, by which he means another merely physical reality which in fact lacks the capacity to explain. 

The very end of this section is intriguing—Socrates desires to know the Mind, wherein the why of all things is explained.  Yet he knows not how to find it, so he prepares to give the best explanation that he can: the Forms.


Outline: Phaedo, 95b – 99c


I. Real Cause vs. Physical Description

A.     Socrates’ summary of Cebes’ argument. (95b – e)

1.      If the philosopher is not to fear death, the soul must be proven to be immortal (intrinsically incapable of dying).

2.      That the soul is strong, divine, and pre-existed the present incarnate existence does not prove it immortal, but only long lasting.

3.      Entering into a body is the beginning of the soul’s destruction, and the soul may die with the death of the body.

4.      It matters not how many incarnate existences the soul has had or will have, because it is possible that it will die with the death of this body.

5.      Cebes agrees that this is an accurate summary.


B.     In order to do justice to this objection, Socrates must examine it within the broader context of a thorough investigation of the cause of generation and destruction. (95e – 96a)


C.     Socrates’ stance with regard to viewing the merely physical as a real cause. (96a – 97b)


1.      When he was young, Socrates believed that the natural sciences could explain the causes of things; why a thing—

a)      Comes to be,

b)      Perishes, and

c)      Exists

2.      Socrates was often changing his mind while utilizing such a modus operandi:

a)      Are living creatures nourished when hot and cold produce putrefaction?

b)      Do we think with the blood, air, fire, or none of these?

c)      Does the brain provide one with the senses of hearing, sight, and smell, from which comes memory and opinion—and when these latter two are stable—knowledge?

3.      Socrates became convinced that such a manner of investigation cannot reveal why a thing comes to be, perishes, and exists.

4.      What is more, such a manner of seeking the real cause of things made Socrates blind even to that which he did know, such as that—

a)      Bodies grow from nourishment, etc;

b)      Large man is taller than a small man by, e.g., a head;

c)      The same is true with the case of, e.g., a large and a small horse;

d)      Ten is more than eight because of the addition of two to the eight;

e)      And that the same is true, e.g., with regard to why a two cubit-length is longer than a one cubit-length.

5.      Indeed, investigating the cause of things by means of the natural scientific method confused him; for example—

a)      Addition is the opposite of division, yet two (i.e., two entities) can be produced by means of both.

6.      Thus the natural method is not only futile, but counter-productive in seeking why something,

a)      Comes to be,

b)      Perishes,

c)      And exists.


D.     Socrates and the search for the real cause: Anaxagoras (97b – 98b)

1.      One day, Socrates overheard someone reading Anaxagoras, according to whom Mind directs and is the cause of all things.

2.      Socrates is delighted with this hypothesis, because he believed that it would explain as the cause of things,

a)      According to what is “best,” and

b)      Consequently, in order to find the real cause of something, one needs to discern what is the best way for it to be, and what is the worst.

3.      Hence Anaxagoras seemed to be a man “after [his] own heart.”

a)      If the earth is flat or round, Anaxagoras—were he to abide by the hypothesis that Mind directs all things—ought to be able to say not only which of the two is true, but why, and this because one is the “best” way for it to be, and “better than” the other.

b)      Concerning the heavenly bodies, Anaxagoras—were he to abide by the hypothesis that Mind directs all things—ought to be able to explain why the way that they act and are affected is the best way for them to be, and the harmonious “common good” of the whole.

4.      Socrates would never desire any other cause; he would not exchange his hope for the perception of such a cause for a fortune.

5.      Hence Socrates proceeded to acquire all of Anaxagoras’ works, reading them as quickly as possible.


E.      Socrates and the search for the real cause: disappointment with Anaxagoras. (98b – 99a)

1.      Socrates’ hopes of finding an explanation of such a cause fell to the ground when he discovered that Anaxagoras actually made no use at all of Mind as an explanation of cause, instead positing material entities as the explanations of cause.

a)      This is similar to saying that “Socrates actions are due to his mind,” and then proceeding to explain, e.g., why Socrates is sitting where he is by merely describing the operations of the material components which constitute his body.

b)      Anaxagoras’ method of explanation would attribute Socrates’ talking while in prison to sounds, air, hearing, etc., while failing to mention the real causes of why Socrates is in prison, and speaking.


F.      Yearning for a perception of the real cause. (99a – 99c)

1.      Opposed to Anaxagoras method of explanation, the real cause for Socrates being in prison is due to the fact that it—

a)      Seemed to be the “best” course of action,

b)      Seemed to be “more right” than the alternatives,

c)      And it seemed to be more “honorable” than the alternatives.

2.      To suppose that the mere description of the functions of material entities amounts to giving an account of the cause of an event is to speak lazily:

a)      In so speaking, one fails to distinguish the real cause from the contingent means whereby the cause produces the desired effect.

b)      The majority thinks in such a manner, which is like “groping in the dark.”

c)      The majority fails to look for the “best” as the real cause; rather, they feel that mere description of the physical is sufficient.

d)      As such, the majority’s method of seeking the cause of a thing will discover—if it discovers anything at all—a “stronger and more immortal Atlas to hold everything together more”; i.e., some other merely physical entity which could be seen as the cause of the unity, coordination, and distinctive character of that which is.

3. Socrates would gladly become the disciple of any person who could tell him of “the truly good and binding” which binds and holds all things together.


Explication: Phaedo, 95b – 99c


95d  To prove that the soul is strong, that it is divine, that it existed before we were born as men, all this, you say, does not show the soul to be immortal but only long-lasting.


Having shown that the soul cannot be such a “harmony,” it still remains for Socrates to prove that the soul is intrinsically immortal (i.e., eternal), for from the fact that the soul directs the body (rather than being caused by its various components), it does not necessarily follow that the soul cannot die.

95e – 96a  Socrates paused for a long time, deep in thought … “This is no unimportant problem that you raise, Cebes, for it requires a thorough investigation of the cause of generation and destruction.


The word translated as cause in the above (aitia), is closer in signification to the English word because.  Thus in order to do justice to Cebes’ question, Socrates realizes that he must place it within a broader context.  The very contour of explanation itself must be traced before an adequate answer can be given.

96a, b  When I was a young man I was wonderfully keen on that wisdom which they call natural science, for I thought it splendid to know the causes of everything, why it comes to be, why it perishes and why it exists.


In his youth, Socrates’ inquisitiveness initially led him to seek out the explanation for causation within the physical realm. 

96e  “… I thought that ten was more than eight because two had been added, and that a two-cubit length is larger than a cubit because it surpasses it by half its length.”


Prior to seeking the causes of things by means of natural science, Socrates rightly trusted in ‘common sense.’

 97b “And what do you think now about those things?”  “That I am far, by Zeus, from believing that I know the cause of any of those things. … Nor can I any longer be persuaded that when one thing is divided, this division is the cause of its becoming two, for just now the cause of becoming two was its opposite.”


The physical realm is transitory and ever-changing, and opposite ‘causes’ can produce the same effect (i.e., e.g., division can be seen as producing the effect of two-ness, and addition can be seen as producing the same effect.)  The methodology of natural science is therefore not only futile, but worse, it paralyzes the understanding and confuses the mind to the point that it loses its grasp on the things that it already knew.

97b  I do not any longer persuade myself that I know why a unit or anything else comes to be, or perishes or exists by the old method of investigation, and I do not accept it, but I have a confused method of my own.


Rejecting in principle the ability of purely natural explanation to explain the actual cause of something, Socrates begins to intimate what he believes to be the real cause of things.  The reference to Socrates’ “confused method” of explaining the cause of things is a reference to his positing Forms as the “second best” principle of explanation, which is taken up at 99d, ff. 

97 b – e  One day I heard someone reading, as he said, from a book of Anaxagoras, and saying that it is Mind that directs and is the cause of everything.  I was delighted with this cause and it seemed to me good, in a way, that Mind should be the cause of all … the directing Mind would direct everything and arrange each thing in the way that was best … As I reflected on this subject I was glad to think that I had found in Anaxagoras a teacher about the cause of things after my own heart


Anaxagoras was an Ionian philosopher who flourished in the mid fifth century b.c. He was an associate of the Athenian politician Pericles, and like Socrates himself was prosecuted for impiety.  Though there is disagreement as to the precise nature of his doctrines, it is generally agreed that he assigned Mind a pre-eminent place in his thought, as that which directs the material universe.  It is this aspect of his thought which attracts Socrates—the positing of Mind as the governing agency and ultimate cause of that which is.

98b, c  This wonderful hope was dashed as I went on reading and saw that the man made no use of Mind, nor gave it any responsibility for the management of things, but mentioned as causes air and ether and water and many other strange things.


Anaxagoras’ metaphysics attempted to do justice to both the Parmenidean principle of the self-identity of being and the reality of distinction which we perceive in real life.  He did so by positing that concrete substances consist of distinct types of particles, each of which contains a portion of all particles, and an object’s being what it is determined by the majority of particles which constitute it (e.g., a piece of gold is made up of particles which are predominately gold, and a bone is likewise made up of particles which are predominately bone).  While it is uncertain what exactly Anaxagoras taught with regard to the manner in which these physical particles constitute the cause of a substance, Socrates here clearly takes him to have taught that the (merely) physical particles themselves account for the reason why this or that is such as it is.  In other words, we are back to the merely physical.

98d, e  Again, he would mention other such causes for my talking to you: sounds and air and hearing, and a thousand other such tings, but he would neglect to mention the true causes, that, after the Athaniens decided it was better to condemn me, for this reason it seemed best to me to sit here and more right to remain and to endure whatever penalty they ordered.


Any event can be given two types of descriptions, but only one such description actually gives insight into the actual cause of the event.  For example, my typing this document could be described by saying that c-fibre x28 sends an electric impulse throughout the d-quadrant of my cerebrum, which in turn causes my left and right hands to move, which in turn causes this and that finger to hit this and that letter on the keyboard, or one could say that I type because I have a desire to understand the thought of Plato—to rejoice in perceiving what he taught, and to further my own insights by having them conditioned by his doctrines.  It is the latter type of causation which interests Socrates.

99b, c  Imagine not being able to distinguish the real cause from that without which the cause would not be able to act as a cause.  It is what the majority appear to do, like people groping in the dark; they call it a cause, thus giving it a name that does not belong to it. … they believe that they will some time discover a stronger and more immortal Atlas to hold everything together more, and they do not believe that the truly good and “binding” binds and holds them together.


The somewhat disparaging reference to “a stronger and more immortal Atlas” is a metaphorical way of alluding to another merely physical reality which can be posited as the reason why things are as they are.  In other words, such an Atlas could never be the cause Socrates seeks, for it could not possibly tell why things are this way rather than that—Socrates is seeking as a cause a reality which has reasons, or purposes.  Socrates places the two types of causation in contrast: purely physical “causes” actually do nothing more than describe, and do not at all deserve to be named as being the causes of anything.  The “true cause,” on the other hand, is a that which brings about a state of affairs for a reason.  The logical relationship between these things can be stated as follows: let C stand for the agent/cause, E for the effect which the agent/cause desires to bring about, and M for the means whereby C achieves E:

  1. C  É E
  2. E É M

99c  I would gladly become the disciple of any man who taught the workings of that kind of a cause.


Socrates says that it is this type of cause which he seeks.  And the fact that he is admittedly seeking one who can tell him about such explains why he can say that his “second best” way of explaining things—by reference to the Forms, which are treated from 99d – 106e—is confused.  The cause is perceived, but as though “dimly in a mirror.”  He has definite intuitions about what this agency of causation is, and why its effects are such as they are, but his intuitions are suggestive and provocative, without clearly revealing the very quiddity of that which he desires to understand.


Praeparatio Evangelica?


Evaluation: Phaedo, 95b – 99c




For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.

Wisdom of Solomon, 13:5


            Plato’s thought cannot properly be understood, nor can the towering greatness of his spirit be perceived, until it is seen from within the intellectual-historical context within which it was expressed, and two key factors of that context were tragedy and nihilism.  The first of these—tragedy—affirms that the cosmos is in certain respects fundamentally unknowable, or irrational.  The second, nihilism, denies the objectivity of truth.  Though these two are distinct in several important respects, they united at a single point which follows as a consequence of both.  Tragedy and nihilism constitute an assault upon the valuative quality of being. 

It is only against such a background as this that the immense brilliance and variegated profundity of Plato’s thought can be seen, and his perennial contribution to Western thought recognized as being thoroughly justified.  Plato was not simply a philosopher; he was and remains a philosopher-hero.  The vast remains of his literary production reveal a spirit who fought for the good, the true, and the beautiful—the very qualities without which human dignity and cosmic value cannot be.

            The thought of Plato has a rhythmic, musical quality; we are charmed and slowly carried forward by the very quiddity of the idea through a rigorous logic when suddenly—unexpectedly, yet not for that discontinuous with what has preceded—we are suspended into another world by a radiant metaphor or analogy, as the beauty and truth of eternity caresses our face like a warm breeze.  Just as the song leaves upon the spirit an invisible yet definite stamp of beauty, which once impressed, brings forth of its own accord a luscious array of splendor, and just as the warmth of the summer wind at once grasps us while evading our grasp, so too the thought of Plato, at the moment at which the soul is awakened by it, is carried onward and upward.  The spirit traces the contour of heaven as wave upon wave of beauty floods the mind.  We are left speechless, but this is due to the dizzying grandeur of the thing perceived, rather than the paralysis of the intellect.  A seed is planted which yields fruit within the context of life; we are carried upward as it shoots forth its branches and reaches toward heaven.

            It is within this spirit that the following evaluation of Plato’s quest for the ultimate cause, as it is found in Phaedo, 95b – 99c, will be carried forth.  First, Plato’s seeming affirmation of the explanatory necessity of an ultimate cause will be subjected to criticism, and affirmed.  Second, the metaphysical implications of the preceding will be explored, and a hypothesis will be offered as an ultimate cause.  Third, we will conclude our study by addressing the question of whether or not Christianity can be posited as the proper term of Plato’s thought, with regard to the preceding.


I loved her and sought her from my youth; I desired to take her for my bride, and became enamored of her beauty.

Wisdom of Solomon, 8:2


            In Phaedo, 97c – 99 c, Plato contrasts two distinct candidates for the title of cause (aitia): the favored candidate is Mind (nous), and the rejected candidate can perhaps best be called reduction.  The latter of these is rejected because it merely describes.  The former—Mind—is posited as a likely hypothesis due to the fact that it explains; it is the because which answers not only, “What happened?” but also, “Why has it happened thus?”

            The suggested criterion which answers this last question is unmistakable in our passage; no fewer than thirteen times does Plato use such words as “best,” “better,” “good,” and “right” as the plausible reason why things are as they are. 

It is at this point worthwhile to make a few distinctions: It cannot be supposed that Plato’s argument requires a teleological cause (i.e., a cause whose term is the fulfillment of the purposeful intention of an agent).  While this is no doubt implied as being included within the ideal form of explanation, the account of the “second best way,” (100b, ff.), which posits the Forms as the means of explanation, makes it clear that the sufficient term of explanation is an intelligible principle whose very being possess a reality without which that which participates of it cannot be as it is.  Let us therefore refer to this latter as a protological principle of explanation.   We can make a further distinction by combining the teleological with the protological and arriving at an aesthetic principle of explanation.  By an aesthetic principle of explanation, I understand a principle of explanation that explains phenomena by virtue of their being brought about by the purposeful intention of an agent by virtue of the beauty, or fittingness, of their being such as they are. 

            Was Plato right to advance the necessity of a protological principle of explanation, and to reject merely reductive forms of explanation?  Initially, the answer to such a question seems hidden in an impenetrable obscurity.  The principal difficulty involved with all candidates for explanation which go beyond the reductive is that they seem to multiply hypotheses unnecessarily.  All of the complex argumentation and arithmetic whereby such modern philosophers and cosmologists as John Leslie,[1] J. D. Barrow and F. J. Tipler[2] prove the extraordinary improbability of a universe which allows the conditions for biological life (thus implying something like an Intelligence as an explanatory principle), seems to lose all force in light of Hume’s single remark that, “[If] I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me what was the cause of the whole twenty.  This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts.”[3] 

            Thus we see in Hume an advocate of the reductive form of explanation, which was so vehemently rejected by Plato.  According to this hypothesis, a description of the physical processes whereby a substance or event is brought about is sufficient to answer the question, “Why is it thus?” 

            To the advocate of such a form of explanation, it could be objected that each of the individual causes which constitute the full cause for a substance or event’s coming about are contingent, and therefore the explanation falls short of its task because it itself requires an explanation.[4] Plato’s own reasons for rejecting this form of explanation would seem to imply such an objection, but there is good reason for thinking that the objection needs to be modified before it can be registered. 

First of all, if we adopt such a principle, it would follow that the only acceptable principle of explanation would be a logically necessary being, or Form.  But what possible reasons could be given for affirming such a thing?  For to claim that x exists of logical necessity is simply to claim that the subject x cannot be coherently imagined without simultaneously affirming its concrete, actual existence;[5] the very definition of x entails its actual existence.  This is surely a mistaken notion, for it would imply that something can be defined into existence, yet the referential signification of words works the other way round.[6]  In other words, if it were to be claimed that, “x is a that which necessarily exists,” it would have to imply that we are aware of some necessary connection between x and actual existence, such that the former implies the latter.  But we are aware of no such thing.  Logic can only tell us that if this or that is the case, then this or that will follow; it cannot tell us whether or not anything at all actually is—we learn this by other means.  As we have not experienced a necessary existent, we cannot use logic to prove its being.

So the real questions which must be answered are these: granting that we cannot posit the logically necessary as the principle of explanation, might we still be warranted in positing as a principle of explanation anything beyond the physical substances and events which are the direct objects of our experience?[7]  And furthermore, if our answer to this question is “Yes,” can we have any right to believe that we’ve actually arrived at a sufficient term of explanation?

I answer both in the affirmative.  The second question will be addressed in section III below; we can begin to address the first question with a distinction.  For any substance or event, we are aware of two possible manners of explanation for its being as it is: physical explanation, and personal explanation.  A physical explanation explains by virtue of the powers and liabilities of physical substances.  A personal explanation explains by virtue of the will and power of an intelligent agent.[8]  Furthermore, we are aware of the fact that for certain phenomena, physical explanation is not an adequate means of explanation for its being as it is.  We cannot explain Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro without reference to the mind of Mozart; the sanctified gentleness of Alyosha Karamazov was not a necessary consequence of the merely physical goings-on in the lump of matter that was Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s brain.

            While it is commonly held that complexity is the principal characteristic of such phenomena which justifies the positing of a personal, rather than merely physical explanation, it would seem that this misses the point.  For when we hear Mozart, it is not the complexity of the composition which immediately draws our attention, nor do we revere Dostoevsky for the grammar within which the character of Alyosha Karamazov is shown. Rather, what seems to be the case is that in such instances we recognize a language—value, which will henceforth be referred to as beauty.[9] 

            In all explanation, we seek to give an account for a phenomenon by reference to substances or events which, at least, have the capacity to bring about the phenomenon.  Yet it would be as misguided to try to explain beauty by reference to the merely physical as it would to attempt to generate one primary color by any combination of any, or all of the others; the physical cannot explain the beautiful.

            It could perhaps be doubted whether beauty actually exists in its own right, or is merely superimposed upon reality by us.  But against this objection the following can be raised.  The perception of beauty is a function of our affective capacity rather than our effective capacity; when I look outside my window and see Mt. Sentinel, I do not will to have the sensation of beauty; rather, my having the sensation is consequent upon perception.  To reply that not all persons are so affected—that is, that not everyone who looks at Mt. Sentinel recognizes it as being beautiful—is to say little.  Such an apparent disparity could more plausibly be attributed to certain affective inadequacies in those who fail to perceive the beauty, than in the lack of existence of the beauty itself.  Similarly, it does not follow that four two’s do not actually equal eight because certain persons are inept at mathematics, and thus fail to recognize the fact.  Just as with mathematics, so too with the beautiful, we deal with phenomena whose principles and reality can be adequately recognized by all, provided we attune ourselves to the subject of our inquiry.

            Second, it is worthwhile to consider whether or not beauty is essentially consequent upon physical reality, i.e., whether or not instantiations of beauty are merely epiphenomena of certain combinations of physical substances.  Were this the case, the beauty of Mt. Sentinal would be nothing more than the necessary consequence of the conjunction of the physical particles which constitute it, and so on. 

Against this, at least two objections can be raised.  First, it is possible to describe all of the physical units that constitute an object through which beauty is conveyed, taking full account of the powers and liabilities of those physical units, without describing the beauty itself.  Second, beauty is not instantiated only in the physical; it is perfectly fitting to ascribe beauty to ethical formulations, or the purely mathematical theories of the physicist.[10]  Beauty is therefore a distinct property which is not identical with any physical properties, nor is it entailed by any physical property as physical.  Both its being and its being recognized indicate a distinct form of reality.

            Hence I conclude that we are justified in seeking an explanation beyond the physical in any case wherein beauty is present; in such a case, what is required is a protological explanation.  We must posit as an hypothesis a reality which is capable of explaining phenomena that we experience in the world.  Plato, therefore, was correct in claiming that reductive explanation—mere physical description—is an inadequate form of explanation. 


I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist.

Sirach, 24:3


Thus far we have established two distinct forms of reality: the physical and the beautiful.  Our next tasks are to discover whether personhood supervenes upon the physical, or is a distinct form of reality, and if the latter, to construct a hypothesis according to which these three distinct manners of subsistence ought to be coordinated one with another.

That personhood is not identical with physical reality seems to be certain, and this can be shown with relative simplicity.  A person is an individual; a body is a conjunction of distinct parts, which are in turn a conjunction of distinct particles.  Therefore, if I, a person, am a merely physical subsistence, it will necessarily follow either that I am identical either with the whole of my body considered as an individual unit, or with a single unit within my body.  Clearly, the first of these is not the case; the loss of my hair, or even certain of my limbs does not entail the loss of my person.  The second would also seem to be false, for there is no single bodily unit within my body that has the properties which my person has.[11]  Since no two entities with distinct sets of properties can be identical, it necessarily follows that if I, as a person, have a distinct set of properties from those in my body, then I cannot be identical with my body.  My person has a distinct set of properties from the properties of my body; therefore, the person that I am is not my body.

Thus we are aware of three distinct forms of reality: the physical, the personal, and the beautiful.  The question now before us is why, and how these distinct forms of reality can exist in a unity, such that each may participate in the others while remaining not identical with the others.

At this point, we have two options: we can either assert that each form of reality, while being distinct from the other two, just happens to exist with the other two, or we can identify one form of reality as principal, and the cause of the other two.  The first option seems implausible, for it is in no sense obvious how three forms of reality, being actually distinct, could co-exist without positing something distinct from each that explains their co-existence.  A realm would need to be posited which is such that its properties allows it to comprehend the other three while remaining itself self-identical; were there such a realm, we would have reason to analyze each of the three and discover the single thing in each which allows them to subsist within this self-identical realm.  But to do this would be to do no more than posit a fourth form of reality and establish it as principal.  Therefore, it would be more fitting to explore the other possibility.

We have three principles of reality: the beautiful, the physical, and the personal.  Recalling the distinction between physical and personal causation mentioned above, we are now in a position to explore which of these two has metaphysical priority over the other.  If, as I argued above, the personal cannot be accounted for by reference to the physical, and the personal and the physical do not of any logical necessity entail each other, then it necessarily follows that the personal has metaphysical priority over the physical.  Therefore, the metaphysical principal is either the beautiful or the personal.  Let us first treat of the beautiful.

The experience of beauty is always that of an awakening—the content of the beautiful is expressed through its form, and at the same time the form conceals the content.  The soul is thus enraptured; of its own accord, the beautiful draws the soul to itself, yet the movement towards the beautiful never exhausts the content of the beautiful, nor the soul’s desire for union with it.  The soul’s encounter with the beautiful therefore precipitates a paradox: I move toward the beautiful that I may move beyond it, and it is only by going beyond it that I can unite myself to it.  Unity with the beautiful can only be had by the soul’s surrendering to her; the form falls upon us like sunshine disclosing a rhythm, the perception of which renders the soul supple to her incantations as wave upon wave of her splendor, once touching us, reverses and carries us with her toward her source.

The beautiful would thus seem to be more like a language than anything else.  I look outside my window at a variegated wonder as the diamond-studded sky of midnight announces itself, striking my heart with all of the light and force of a bolt of lightning.  It is as though an invisible hand has drawn a figure in space, and its coming to reality in concrete expression is a mysterious echo that grows louder and louder the more it is attended to, but ever remaining inarticulate.  If ever the words of this language are clearly perceived, it is always such that a thought is born in the mind whose roots and tentacles recede the moment comprehension is attempted; the spirit traces the contour of the impress left upon the soul, and it discovers that it is unable to depart and leap forth into the dizzying heights where into the footprints of the beautiful have vanished.

Now, the personal.  It seems that the three chief capacities of the person are the capacities of expression, perception, and reason.  By the capacity of expression I understand the ability of a person to bring forth from within himself his thoughts and present them to another.  By the capacity of perception I understand the ability of a person to receive within himself the reality of another.  By the capacity of reason I understand the ability of the person to follow the intelligible contour of reality, such that if something is not immediately present to the mind it may be inferred by virtue of its connection, whether physical, metaphysical, or logical, with something that is immediately present to the mind. 

To further explore the person, let us give consideration to what the above mentioned capacities would seem to imply.  Each of them—expression, perception, and reason—necessarily entail the existence of an other as either the source, or term, of their realization.  If I am to express myself, there must be a that to which the expression is offered.  If I am to perceive, there must be a that from which I receive.  If I am to reason, there must be a that which is the object of my intention.  Personhood, therefore, would seem to imply plurality. 

In light of the preceding, I posit the following hypothesis as the metaphysical because—the “truly good and binding” which “binds and holds” all things together.[12]  The Arche of all reality is personal, and such that its very nature entails the existence of the Beautiful; the Beautiful is the internal res of the Arche, and the content of its expression.  The coordinating principle of the internal res of the Arche—the internal axis around which the constellation of the Beautiful aligns itself—is the Good, and it is this which constitutes the grammar whereby the Arche expresses itself.  As such, the Arche is the source and term of an aesthetic teleology.

Thus there are three: The Arche, the Good, and the Beautiful. 

As the Arche is essentially good, beautiful, and personal, its very nature is diffusive and ecstatic; at every moment at which it exists, the Arche brings into being a world of communion which partakes of its splendor.  Thus that which is, is a very locus of beauty and goodness.  It is as it is because being so is an expression of the Arche.  The very essence of the Arche entails its being so, and it could not possibly be otherwise: it is good, it is possible, it is so. 

All things proceed forth from the Arche with as much fluid naturalness as shine coming forth from the sun, and just as the path of the ray leads back to its source, so too the world and all things in it point beyond themselves by presenting themselves, each in its own way reflecting the inexhaustible fecundity of the Arche.  The sun-dazzled flowers of the field blossom forth and adorn the meadow like a garland of stars, and the clouds dance across the heavens as though an enthroned ocean, pouring forth into the earth and giving birth to the sweet fragrance of life—the secret language known only to its source. 

The cosmos is the song from the mouth of the god.  Perhaps such an explanation as this can be considered a worthy term for Plato’s quest for “the truly good and binding” which “binds and holds” all things together,[13] as it is presented in Phaedo, 95b – 99c.


It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Luke, 2:26


The final pronouncement with regard to the ultimate cause in our section of the Phaedo ends with Socrates stating that, “I would gladly become the disciple of any man who taught the workings of that kind of cause.”[14]  If this passage is viewed in light of what we find later in the Timaeus, namely, that “to find the maker and father of this universe is hard enough, and even if I succeeded, to declare him to everyone is impossible,”[15] a suggestion arises within the mind which, because of its very neatness, arouses suspicion almost immediately.  Plato, according to this interpretation, is aware of two things: 1) there is a transcendent being who is the source of all the things and the term of the human quest, and 2) he is unable, by his own means, to find it.  Thus we arrive at the notion of the praeparatio evangelica: Ancient Greek Philosophy has left those who ascended to its very summit with eyes gazing expectantly into the heavens and arms extended outward with open hands, waiting to receive the fullness of God’s truth as it was to be revealed in Jesus the Christ.

The relationship between Plato (and the Platonic Legacy) and Christianity has been the source of continually contradictory opinions.  The Plato scholar is likely to be weary of reading Plato through the lens of Christian theology, and no doubt views it as unfortunate that the true genius of the master has been whittled down until the variegated profundity which characterizes his doctrine fits neatly within the restricting confines of Christianity.[16]  Likewise, even in the ancient world the inheritors of the Platonic Legacy were quick to assert the distinction and superiority of their doctrine, which is perhaps shown when Poryphyry “draws a contrast between the conduct of Ammonius who left the Christianity in which he was born for Hellenism, which alone was lawful, and that of Origen who left Hellenism for that ‘barbarous enterprise’ which is Christianity.”[17]

Similarly, any camaraderie between Christianity and Greek thought, Plato’s or otherwise, has often been viewed with the utmost disdain by Christians, ancient and modern.  The comment of Adolf von Harnack, asserted not without a hint of scorn, that Christian dogma is “in its conception and development a work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the gospel,”[18] is far from being an idiosyncratic sentiment.  According to this position, nearly every theological shortcoming of the patristic era is attributed to the Church fathers’ unscrupulous adoption of Greek thought—usually Plato’s, as it was later developed in Middle- and Neo-Platonism—to such a degree that any trace of kinship with it is to implicitly brand a stigma upon the author in whom it is found.[19]  Indeed, the modern school of theology commonly known as Neo-Theism can in many ways be seen as an attempt to release Christian doctrine from the shackles of “Platonism”—any concord between the two is to be replaced with the attitude of Tertullian, who asked,

What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? . . . Our instruction comes from the porch of Solomon, who himself taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart.  Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic and Platonic dialectic composition.[20]


            On the other hand, a more irenic spirit towards Plato can be detected in many of the Church fathers, and to see the two as existing in a perpetual and absolute antagonism would be most inaccurate.  Upon his conversion, Justin Martyr never saw fit to rid himself of his philosopher’s gown, and Clement of Alexandria could all but equate the pedagogical significance of philosophy for the Greeks with the Old Testament for the Jews.[21]  That such an attitude as this, in one way or another, won the day is an established fact.  Thus in many ways Plato’s thought is a fundamental component of Christian theology.  For better or worse, its presence in such thinkers as Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine—according to whom Greek thought was good and noble in many important respects, though needing the correction and fulfillment which only the gospel could provide—has passed into the permanent heritage of the Church.

            Thus in the following, my task will be to discover whether or not, and if so, to what extent Plato’s thought with regard to the ultimate principle of reality indicates a void which can be fulfilled by the specifically Christian.  It will be my conclusion that Plato’s doctrine indeed may be developed along Christian lines, but that such a development is in no way the necessary consequence of Plato’s thought.

            That Plato was on a quest for the metaphysical ground of reality cannot be denied.  The thing that is “most important,” says Plato, is “to make the ascent and see the good.”[22]  The character of this quest is best described in those places wherein Plato writes of beauty.  The one who seeks the beautiful “stands outside human concerns and draws close to the divine;”[23] such souls “are beside themselves, and their experience is beyond their comprehension because they cannot fully grasp what it is that they are seeing.”[24]  Elsewhere he elaborates more fully on the nature of this ascent

This is what it is to go aright, or be led by another, into the mystery of Love: one goes always upwards for the sake of this Beauty, starting out from beautiful things and using them like rising stairs: from one body to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, then from beautiful bodies to beautiful customs, and from customs to learning beautiful things, and from these lessons he arrives in the end at this lesson, which is learning of this very Beauty, so that in the end he comes to know just what it is to be beautiful.[25]


            The soul’s movement in this journey is thus from things visible to the invisible, and from the plurality of the world of sense to the unity of the intelligible realm.  Yet even though “the invisible always remains the same, whereas the visible never does,”[26] “our sense perceptions” nevertheless “must surely make us realize that all that we perceive through them is striving to reach” the invisible reality of which they partake.[27]  Thus the visible realm has a certain revelatory power—it points beyond itself and provides the mind with the materials whereby it can make its ascent.  This is why, for example, the one who gazes into the sky will “believe that the craftsman of the heavens arranged them and all that’s in them in the finest way possible for such things.”[28]

            Whether Plato posited a(n impersonal) Form at the summit of reality, or had an intuition of something more along the lines of a supreme god, is not entirely clear.  Grube is adamant in asserting the ontological priority of the Forms over the demiurge (i.e., the intelligent agent to whom the formation of the cosmos is explicitly attributed in certain of Plato’s dialogues) to the point of being polemical,[29] but as our passage in the Phaedo indicates, there is evidence enough to warrant further investigation into the matter.

            In the Republic, Plato says of the Form of the Good that, “not only do the objects of knowledge owe their being known to the good, but their being is also due to it, although the good is not being, but superior to it in rank and power.”[30]  That this Form is indeed identical with that which was sought in the Phaedo seems probable.  At the same time, it would be hasty to imagine that this implies a necessary dichotomy between a prospective Intellegence and the Good itself, for the analogy between the god of the sun and the Good[31] would seem to imply that the previously mentioned “maker or our senses” who made “the power to see and be seen”[32] is, if anything, identical with the Good, in the sense of being the Good seen from the perspective of causing or acting.  The allusion to “the real maker,” who in Republic, 597b – d is described as making the Forms seems to lend support to this, as this is precisely what is asserted of the Good in the passage mentioned previously.

            Alongside these one can place the description of the divine reason as the ultimate cause given in Philebus.[33]  “The only account,” says Socrates, “that can do justice to the wonderful spectacle presented by the cosmic order . . . is that reason arranges it all, and I for my part would never waver in saying or believing it.”[34]  Later this divine reason is described as “all-encompassing wisdom,”[35] and belonging “to that kind which is the cause of everything.”[36]

            But it is in the Timaeus that we arrive at what can be considered Plato’s most developed hypothesis of the ultimate cause.  Though the exact manner in which the “maker and father of this universe”[37] is causally related to the Forms is not offered, we see here again a clear affirmation of an Intelligence (demiurge) as the (efficient) cause of the visible realm.  The demiurge looks to “the eternal model” of the world of Forms and makes our world accordingly.  Thus “modeled after that which is changeless and is grasped by a rational account,” the cosmos is “most beautiful” and the demiurge is “the most excellent” of all causes.[38] 

            Even more interesting is the account offered to explain why the demiurge formed the cosmos—

Now why did he who framed this whole universe of becoming frame it?  Let us state the reason why: He was good, and one who is good can never become jealous of anything.  And so, being free of jealously, he wanted everything to become as much like himself as was possible. . . . The god wanted everything to be good and nothing to be bad so far as that was possible, and so he took over all that was visible—and brought it from a state of disorder to one of order, because he believed that order was in every way better than disorder. . . . This, then, in keeping with our likely account, is how we must say divine providence brought our world into being as a truly living thing, endowed with soul and intelligence.[39]


Here we have what can only be seen as a distinctly personal being: The demiurge is good and loves goodness, and he desires to impart his goodness beyond himself. 

Yet the relationship between this personal being and the Forms is ambiguous.  The Timaeus explicitly describes the demiurge as distinct from the Forms—it is these to which he looks when he fashions the cosmos.  At the same time, the fact that no causal relationship is posited between the Forms and the demiurge similar to the causal relationship posited between the demiurge and the cosmos, is a not inconspicuous silence.  There seem to be two possibilities: Either 1) the demiurge is a literary device used as an analogy for displaying the effective dynamis of the supreme Form—the Good, or the Beautiful, or 2) the relationship between personhood, reason, and the intelligible Forms had not resolved itself in Plato’s thought, and what we see in such passages as the above is evidence of this unresolved tension in his thought.  If the first option were the case it would be wrong to see in Plato’s thought an open system which could be brought to perfection by Christianity.  If we affirm the second option it is possible that Christianity is the term of Plato’s thought, but it must be kept in mind that this does not follow necessarily from any explicit statements in his writings themselves.

In attempting to address this dilemma, it is worthwhile to draw attention to one aspect of Plato’s epistemology.  For both the Good and the Beautiful—the highest of all Form(s)—there is a certain ineffability that influences the manner in which they may be known.  The Good, though in one sense “an object of knowledge,”[40] is at the same time the that which enables “the objects of knowledge” to be known, while being higher than them “in rank and power.”[41]  Hence the Good is known in a manner peculiar to itself—

[I]t is the nature of the real lover of learning to struggle toward what is, not to remain with any of the many things that are believed to be, that, as he moves on, he neither loses nor lessens his erotic love until he grasps the being of each nature itself with the part of his soul that is fitted to grasp it, because of its kinship with it, and that, once getting near what really is and having intercourse with it and having begotten understanding and truth, he knows, truly lives, is nourished . . .[42]


            Similarly, the knowledge of the Beautiful would seem to be beyond the power of the mind.  By attending to the images of the Beautiful “in the right order and correctly,”[43] one enters “the great sea of beauty, and, gazing upon this”[44] arrives at “the goal of all Loving,” when “all of a sudden (exaiphnes) he will catch sight of something wonderfully beautiful in its nature . . .”[45]  Thus even though the Beautiful is without doubt a positive reality, recourse must be made to apophatic description in order to speak of it—

It will not appear to him as one idea or one kind of knowledge.  It is not anywhere in another thing, as in an animal, or in earth, or in heaven, or in anything else, but itself by itself with itself, it is always one in form . . .[46]


And elsewhere, Plato can say—


The place beyond heaven—none of our earthly poets has ever sung or ever will sing its praises enough! . . . What is in this place is without color and without shape and without solidity, a being that really is what it is, the subject of all true knowledge, visible only to the intelligence . . .[47]


            Furthermore, if Letter VII is indeed from the hand of Plato, we have an explicit affirmation of the apophatic character of the highest form of knowledge.  Here, the author asserts that—

There is no writing of mine about these matters, nor will there ever be one.  For this knowledge is not something that can be put into words like other sciences . . . like light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, it is born in the soul and straightaway nourishes itself.[48]


The manner in which such knowledge is arrived at is through an ascent, which consists of a four-fold movement: the name, definition, and image yield to knowledge, which in its turn transposes the soul to the thing itself as student and teacher join together in the quest.[49]

            What is to our purposes in this account of knowledge is the fact that it is by attending to subordinate realities—in a spirit of pure eros—that communion with the higher reality is realized.  And notice also that this epistemic doctrine fits in precisely with what we have seen above.  The invisible world of Forms (and the demiurge) is imaged by the cosmos; by attending to the sun one gains an intimation of the Good; and it is by fixing one’s gaze upon worldly beauties that one is led beyond them to the “place beyond the heavens” where the Beautiful itself is.  In each case, the movement is from the lower to the higher, and the many to the one—it is by intellection that the soul approaches the term of its quest, yet at the final moment the soul is passive.  At the utmost of its limits, the thing itself is revealed to and born within the soul, “like light flashing forth.”

            Our passage in the Phaedo ends with Socrates’ stated desire to know the Mind who is the because of all that is; it is only after he confesses his inability to find it that he goes on to the “second best” principle of explanation, the Forms.[50]  Could it possibly be the case that, just as the soul arrives at the Forms by attending to their images, so too the soul arrives at the Mind by attending to the Forms?  In other words, is there an implicit ironical structure in the dialectical conclusion of the Phaedo? 

            The question is tantalizing, and in our initial attempt to offer an answer we can assert the following.  First, it is certain that Plato posited the Form of the Good, or the Beautiful, as the highest principle of reality.  Second, it is most probable that Plato believed in an Intelligent, and therefore personal being who is the effective cause and governing principle of the cosmos.  Third, it seems probable that Plato’s thought—if pressed—would in some way be forced to admit that this personal Intelligence is at least entailed by the ultimate Form of the Good, or Beautiful, if not identical with it. 

Can we move beyond this?  If we take into account the aspect of Plato’s epistemology described above, and are willing to grant the possibility that there is an implicit irony where our passage of the Phaedo leaves off, then it is indeed possible that Plato believed in a personal Mind as the ultimate principle of reality.  In this case, Plato would be asserting that by attending to the Forms the soul will receive an intimation of the Mind in whom they subsist, and this movement is from plurality to unity. 

To assert that the Forms subsist within the divine Mind is to counter the standard understanding of Plato’s metaphysics and run the risk of being accused of reading Plato anachronistically.  On the other hand, this interpretation was not unknown to the inheritors of the Platonic Legacy.[51]  I thus tentatively submit this hypothesis, and believe it worthy of further consideration.

            Do we see in Plato the supreme instancing of the praeparatio evangelica?  To say that Plato tended towards monotheism is to say little.  The defining element of Christian theology is not simply monotheism, but the doctrine of the Trinity, and its being rendered present in creation by the two-fold movement of the Incarnation of the Son of God and the descent of the Spirit.  And needless to say, we have only scratched the surface of Plato’s thought in the preceding, and no doubt inadequately at that. 

Nevertheless, I for my part would like to believe that Plato was one of those rare minds whose term is not simply the words whereby thought is expressed, but such that it can be justified only by the canon of the reality towards which it strives.  In this case, Plato’s thought could be seen as moving toward Christianity insofar as Christianity is true, good, and beautiful. 

Perhaps the question of whether or not Christianity can benefit from the thought of Plato is equally worthy of consideration.  I leave this to the readers to judge, and hope that they will come to a conclusion based on Plato’s writings themselves, rather than the unwarranted stigma that has been imposed upon him by those who are unworthy to stand in judgement over him.[52]

[1] E.g., Uviverses, London, 1989

[2] The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford, 1986

[3] David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, pg. 59f., H.D. Aiken (ed.), New York, 1948

[4] I.e., e.g., granting that the phenomenon of P (this piece of granite lying at this specific location at the base of Mt. Pegan) is a consequence of events E1, E2, E3 . . . En, and the laws of nature L1 and L2, the phenomenon, events, and laws which constitute the chain of causation or not logically necessary, which (presumably) implies that there is something which still needs to be explained.

[5] I.e., its existing as a reality, independent of the mind.

[6] I.e., our language primarily signifies realities perceived in experience via the senses, or states of mind.

[7] It should be noted that a being’s not existing of logical necessity need not imply that its existence isn’t metaphysically necessary.  In this case, its existence would not be contingent, and it would be the necessary explanatory principle for all of reality

[8] By power I understand the capacity of a substance or agent to produce an effect, by liability I understand the capacity of a substance to be affected, and by intelligent agent I understand a distinct substance of a rational nature.

[9] Hence to say that the complexity in Mozart or Dostoyevsky indicates a personal cause is simply to say that the intensity and range of expressed value indicates a personal cause; simplicity and complexity seem to be helplessly arbitrary notions, as they rely to such a great extent on the one who is describing them as such.

[10] Socrates remark in Crito, 48b, that “the good life, the beautiful life, and the just life are the same,” is worth mentioning at this point.  The comment is made in what is surely an ethical context, and if a beautiful life is instantiated in particular (good) actions, it necessarily follows that the beauty itself of the action is not identical with the merely physical processes whereby the action is brought about in the world: Socrates’ drinking hemlock is morally repugnant if it is a suicide attempt, but morally beautiful if it is “more right and honorable to endure whatever penalty the city ordered rather than escape and run away.” (Phaedo, 99a)

[11] I.e., e.g., there is no single bodily unit within my body of which can be predicated such things as “desiring to see my little sister,” “feeling exhausted,” etc.

[12] Phaedo, 99c

[13] Phaedo, 99c

[14] Phaedo, 99c

[15] Timaeus, 28c

[16] E.g., G.M.A. Grube, Plato’s Thought (Boston, 1958, first published in 1935), pg. 170—“It is characteristic of Plato to express the divine principle as both a unity and a plurality, for he was a Greek and a pagan for all that later interpreters seek to impose monotheism upon him and insist in looking in his work for traces of their own supposedly higher religious conceptions, instead of explaining him in terms of his own.”

[17] Henri Crouzel, Origen (Edinburgh, 1989), pg. 11, alluding to Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, 6.  It should be noted that Origen was almost certainly a Christian from birth, and thus Poryphyry would be in error had he actually asserted otherwise.

[18] History of Dogma, vol. 1 (Tubingen, 1931), pg. 20

[19] E.g., E.J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Eugene, OR, 1982), pg. 57—“Origen tried to build a harmonious synthesis of strict monotheism and a Platonic hierarchial order in the Trinity—and failed.  Along with a great deal of excellent theology he handed down an unfortunate mixture of truth and error that would exert an unhappy influence on Greek theology for a long time.”  Cf. also John Meyendorff, St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality (Crestwood, New York, 1974), pg. 122—“Fundamentally irreconcilable with the Biblical concept of creation ex nihilo, Platonism had been the greatest temptation for Eastern Christian thought from the time of Origen.  Its final defeat came only with Palamas . . .”

[20] Prescription against the Heretics, 7

[21] E.g., Stromata, 1:5:28—“Accordingly, before the advent of the Lord, philosophy was necessary to the Greeks for righteousness.  And now it becomes conducive to piety, being a kind of preparatory training to those who attain to faith through demonstration.  ‘For thy foot,’ it is said, ‘will not stumble,’ if you refer to what is good, whether belonging to the Greeks or to us, to Providence.”  Justin Martyr even goes so far as to claim that such Greek philosophers as Socrates and Heraclitus “are Christians” on account of their living in accordance with the divine logos. (1 Apology, 46)

[22] Republic, 519c

[23] Phaedrus, 249d

[24] Phaedrus, 250a, f.

[25] Symposium, 211c, f.

[26] Phaedo, 79a

[27] Phaedo, 75b; cf. Timaeus, 29b—“Since these things are so, it follows by unquestionable necessity that this world is an image of something.”

[28] Republic, 530a

[29] Grube, op. cit., 166ff.

[30] Republic, 509b

[31] Republic, 508b, ff.

[32] Republic, 507c

[33] Even were it true that this work is not from the hand of Plato himself, the portion which is alluded to in the following is coincident with certain of the assertions to be found in the undoubtedly authentic works.

[34] Philebus, 28e

[35] Philebus, 30b

[36] Philebus, 30e, cf. 27b—“’We therefore declare that the craftsman who produces all these must be the fourth kind, the cause, since it has been demonstrated that it differs from the others?’  ‘It certainly is different.’”

[37] Timaeus, 28c

[38] Timaeus, 29a

[39] Timaeus, 29d, ff.

[40] Republic, 508e

[41] Republic, 509b

[42] Republic, 490a, f.

[43] Symposium, 210e

[44] Symposium, 210d

[45] Symposium, 210e

[46] Symposium, 211b

[47] Phaedrus, 247c, f.

[48] Letter VII, 341c

[49] Letter VII, 342a, f.

[50] Phaedo, 99d

[51] Cf. Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, vol. 1 (New York, New York, 1993, originally published in 1962), cps. 42 - 47

[52] Many thanks are due to Dr. Richard Walton, who was kind enough to entertain all of my questions, and taught me how to appreciate Plato.