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Commentary on Larsen 

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image of Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy

How does Plato draw the line between perceiving and reasoning? According to Peter Larsen, he gives perception only the power to perceive isolated proper perceptibles, and treats all other cognitive operations as reasoning. I show problems for this interpretation. I argue that in the Republic, non-rational cognition—perception, either on its own, or perhaps augmented by other non-rational powers Plato does not specify, along the lines of Aristotle’s φαντασία (appearance or imagination)—can generate complex cognitions. Reason’s job is not to integrate the raw data of perception into a coherent experience, for we can do that without reason. Instead reason’s job is to question, criticize and correct non-rational experience. I argue that there are grounds for detecting a similar doctrine in the Theaetetus as well.

Affiliations: 1: New York University


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