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Embodied Intelligent (?) Souls: Plants in Plato’s Timaeus

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image of Phronesis

In the Timaeus, plants are granted soul, and specifically the sort of soul capable of perception and desire. Also in the Timaeus, perception requires the involvement of to phronimon. It seems it must follow that plants are intelligent. I argue that we can neither avoid granting plants sensation in just this sense, nor can we suppose that ‘to phronimon’ is something devoid of intelligence. Indeed, plants must be related to intelligence, if they are to be both orderly and good. Plants must have individual souls if they are to be distinguished from each other, each with an orderly life; but the intelligence their perceptions require is not similarly individuated, for their ultimate good is only derivative: it is only as completing the body of the cosmos that plants are good things. Plants have their own perceptions and desires in virtue of the intelligence ordering the cosmos as a whole.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of York United Kingdom, Email:


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