Plato on Parts and Wholes: The Metaphysics of Structure

Plato on Parts and Wholes: The Metaphysics of Structure

Plato on Parts and Wholes: The Metaphysics of Structure

Plato on Parts and Wholes: The Metaphysics of Structure

Synopsis

What is the relation between a whole and its parts? Is a whole identical to its parts, or is there some other relation of composition? These questions are much discussed in modern philosophy; but Plato's rich discussion of composition has been neglected. Verity Harte provides the firstsustained examination of this Platonic discussion and explains its relations to modern debates. She reveals how, in several late works, Plato criticizes the view that a whole is identical to its parts. She then goes on to discuss the intriguing alternative conception of wholes he offers in itsplace. This book is an invaluable resource both for scholars of Plato and for modern metaphysicians. For scholars of Plato, Harte's careful textual analysis provides fresh insights into some of his most difficult works. For modern metaphysicians, she illuminates the contemporary debate by placing it withinan historical context.

Excerpt

This book has its origins in my doctoral work at Cambridge University. For their wise counsel during this early stage in the development of my ideas I am grateful to my supervisors, Myles Burnyeat, Nicholas Denyer, and Malcolm Schofield; to my fellow graduate students, especially Mary Hannah Jones and Melissa Lane; and to my examiners, David Bostock and David Sedley.

In writing the book, I have chosen not to revise my doctoral thesis, but to write from scratch. I hope that this has made it a better book; it has certainly delayed its completion. In the meantime, I have again been fortunate in my intellectual environment. After a brief and enjoyable sojourn at St Hilda's College, Oxford, I joined the Philosophy Department at King's College London in 1996. To all my colleagues I am indebted for their contribution to my continuing philosophical education and for the supportive and invigorating community they help to create. Special thanks are due to the members, past and present, of the KCL Thursday reading group in ancient philosophy, in particular those who attended our reading of the Timaeus; our discussions were of considerable importance in the development of the material on the Timaeus presented here.

Papers based on early drafts of chapters of this book have been presented to the B-Club in Cambridge; to Philosophy Departments at Bristol, Harvard, King's College London, Ohio State, Sheffield, and Sussex; and to the Classics Department at Pittsburgh. I have been fortunate in my audience on all these occasions. In a form close to the present one, the material in Chapter 1 was given as a paper to the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, at Harvard University, in October 2000. It is to be published in volume 17 of the Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy (Leiden: Brill, 2002). I am

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