Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 13, Issue 1, Fall 2008

Matthew S. Linck
Pages 25-47

Double Vision
On the Sensible and the Intelligible

This article argues that the distinction between the sensible and the intelligible in Plato’s dialogues (here with respect to the Republic) is not a dogmatic assertion or the foundation for a set of doctrines, but is rather the very starting point of philosophical activity. This starting point will be shown to be, in its most fundamental aspect, not something chosen by the philosopher, but rather the attribute that makes the philosopher who he is. Much of my argument will turn on a consideration of the divided line. In Part I, I situate the discussion of the divided line within both its global and immediate context in the Republic. As the divided line will serve as the focal point of my argument it is important to clarify its place in Socrates’ discussion with Glaucon and Adeimantus from the outset of my presentation. Part II consists of a brief analysis of the key passages devoted to the divided line. This analysis will culminate by highlighting the problematic nature of geometrical objects with respect to the schema of the line. I will argue that geometrical objects have no secure place on the line. This insecurity will call into question the apparent continuity between the sensible and the intelligible that the divided line suggests, and might call for a way to mediate or bridge the gap between the sensible and the intelligible. In Part III, I consider one such attempt in Proclus’s commentary on Euclid in order to show how such an attempt fails on Platonic terms and thus cannot constitute the true core of Platonic philosophy. Part IV will argue that if rightly interpreted the divided line itself offers a solution to the problem and clarifies both the nature of philosophical activity and the status of the sensibility/intelligibility distinction within Platonic philosophy