Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 16, Issue 2, Spring 2012

Bradley Jay Strawser
Pages 217-232

Those Frightening Men
A New Interpretation of Plato’s Battle of Gods and Giants

In Plato’s Sophist (245e–247e) an argument against metaphysical materialism in the “battle of gods and giants” is presented which is oft the cause of consternation, primarily because it appears the characters are unfair to the materialist position. Attempts to explain it usually resort to restructuring the argument while others rearrange the Sophist entirely to rebuild the argument in a more satisfying form. I propose a different account of the argument that does not rely on a disservice to the materialist nor restructuring Plato’s argument. I contend, instead, that the argument is enthymematic in nature, allowing the definitions employed to flow out of the reasoning as originally presented. Moreover, it suggests that Plato’s idealism was so deeply ingrained that modern defenses of materialism were not even live options.