Soul and Incorporeality in Plato
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This article takes a closer look at what Plato’s dialogues tell us about the incorporeality of the soul as one of the well-established Platonic doctrines, on a par with the soul’s immortality and its self-moving nature. What motivates the proposed rereading is Plato’s timidity in describing the soul, human or not, as being entirely without body of any kind. The aim of the article is not to contest the obvious fact that Plato treats souls as essentially distinct from bodies, but to understand why the assumption of incorporeality receives no detailed discussion of its own. One possible answer is that such a theoretically rigorous discussion is always less important to Plato than his emphasis on the variety of actions and experiences ascribed to the soul both here and in the afterlife. While having an essential moral dimension that connects to the soul’s activity of thinking, these actions and experiences contribute to the description of the soul as a fully individual agent, akin to that of a person. To highlight the immortality of this agent, it is more opportune for Plato to start from various facets of the soul’s natural self-motion, while leaving aside possible arguments in favor of the soul’s full ontological bodilessness. In any case, the Platonic soul is introduced as a fundamental part of reality. Its natural agency can therefore be tackled separately from its explicit ontology. By this means, the agency –akin to human agency – that is attributed to the soul can retain its provisional ontological neutrality.
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