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Recollection and Philosophical Reflection in Plato's Phaedo

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Interpretations of recollection in the Phaedo are divided between ordinary interpretations, on which recollection explains a kind of learning accomplished by all, and sophisticated interpretations, which restrict recollection to philosophers. A sophisticated interpretation is supported by the prominence of philosophical understanding and reflection in the argument. Recollection is supposed to explain the advanced understanding displayed by Socrates and Simmias (74b2-4). Furthermore, it seems to be a necessary condition on recollection that one who recollects also perform a comparison of sensible particulars to Forms (74a5-7). I provide a new ordinary interpretation which explains these features of the argument. First, we must clearly distinguish the philosophical reflection which constitutes the argument for the Theory of Recollection from the ordinary learning which is its subject. The comparison of sensibles to Forms is the reasoning by which we see, as philosophers, that we must recollect. At the same time, we must also appreciate the continuity of ordinary and philosophical learning. Plato wants to explain the capacity for ordinary discourse, but with an eye to its role as the origin of philosophical reflection and learning. In the Phaedo, recollection has ordinary learning as its immediate explanandum, and philosophical learning as its ultimate explanandum.

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