Volume 25, Issue 2, Spring 2021
Sean D. Kirkland
Finding Our Way Home
Materiality and the Ontology of the Limit in Plato’s Philebus
Situating the Philebus within the greater context of Plato’s late-period reconsideration of his own “theory of Ideas,” this essay offers a coordinated interpretation of two of the dialogue’s central passages—the discussion of the God-Given Method and that of the Fourfold Ontology. These passages prove to be interested not in Ideas apart from their material instantiations, as often seemed the case in the middle period dialogues, but in Ideas as they work on and even in materiality as such, producing an intelligible and even beautiful order in the sensible world. This entails, the essay suggests, something like a shift in the direction of Plato’s philosophical gaze and interest toward material being, and thereby a sort of return home to the embodied human condition.