Volume 43, Issue 1/2, Winter/Spring 2019
In Honor of Alexander P. D. Mourelatos
Plato in Search of a Language Without Particulars
Timaeus 49a6-50a4 in a New Light
The paper starts by setting the stage for two perennial pairs of problems about the receptacle: “metaphysics / physics” and “matter / space” (I.). Then it provides a close reading of 49a6-50a4 that reinforces the reconstructionist interpretation, but also deviates from Cherniss in some respect. When applying the proposals Plato makes in 49a6-50a4, it reveals a Plato in search of a feature-placing language or language without particulars (LWOP) (II. and III.): though not formulating it himself, Plato provides all necessary material for doing so. Having argued ex negativo and against the exclusivity-thesis regarding the first debate about the receptacle (in III.), the paper offers a new piece of evidence for the space interpretation of the receptacle—though not breaking new ground—because my LWOP thesis presupposes the interpretation of the receptacle as space and argues against the material-substrate reading (IV). Throughout the paper, I have consciously operated with a less Aristotle-centered framework than those most often applied, a procedure that does justice to Plato’s different ontology and semantics of the sensible phenomena. My Plato does not pave the way to Aristotle in this passage because he does not wish to do so.