The Rational Enterprise: Logos in Plato's Theaetetus

By Rosemary Desjardins | Go to book overview

THREE
KOMPSOTEROS THEORY OF PERCEPTION

Turning now from the kompsoteros theory of generation to the account of perception similarly attributed by Socrates to the kompsoteroi, one is suddenly struck by a remarkable discovery: for between the structure of their theory of generation as they apply it at level Alpha, and their account of sensation as now presented at level Beta, there seems to emerge a clearly articulated analogy. But thus to talk simply of a theory of sensation is already misleading; for despite the existence in Greek of a single word, aisthēsis, to cover all forms of sense-apprehension, what Socrates immediately focuses on is what we might describe as the move from sensation to perception—that is to say, the shift from a merely physical event to an epistemological act.

Picking up, therefore, where the account of generation left off, the epistemological approach of level Beta now requires a closer look at those swift motions generated in the interaction between passive/subjective and active/objective "twins" now themselves in turn become parent motions. These, as just explained above, consist of dual currents of activity conceived of, on the one hand, as swift motions streaming out from subject to object and thereby constituting the power to sense (as in the case of sight, hearing, etc.: 156b2-7), and on the other, as swift motions streaming out from object to subject and thereby constituting sensibles (such as whiteness and other colors, sounds, etc." 156b7-c3, d1-e1). Since the original active and passive motions that generate these twin currents of sensibility are ceaseless, it would seem that (short of shutting one's eyes, etc.) this kind of swift motion radiating out and mutually impinging on subjects and objects must be occurring all the time. Since, however, these are simply physical occurrences, not unlike those that we might today talk of at the physical and neurophysiological level, what the theory has thus far described is the occurrence of brute sensation only, not perception—and to that extent is as yet hardly relevant in any significant way to our overall interest in

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