College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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Analogy, Plato, Image, Metaphysics, Method


The philosophical concept of analogy is fundamental to the theory of imaging that characterizes Plato’s metaphysics, cosmology, and methodology. While Plato never explicitly conceptualizes the philosophical role of analogy, his dialogues are rife with analogies and images that are often pivotal to the thought expressed there. An analysis of celebrated analogies such as the sun and the good in the Republic, the “second sailing” in the Phaedo, the “receptacle” (chōra) in the Timaeus, and the example of weaving in the Statesman reveals that even if the theory each elucidates is not explicitly concerned with analogy, the theories these images enable are structured by analogy. Thus, although there is no theory of analogy in Plato’s dialogues, the dialogues’ theory is itself analogical. Given this, the broader philosophical point that any account of reflection will have recourse to the structure of analogy because of the unique capacity of the analogical form to reflect the nature of similarity without occluding difference, something a mere likeness is unable to accomplish. It is concluded, therefore, that i) in its thinking, rather than merely in its expression, Plato’s philosophy is analogical and ii) analogy is key to philosophy’s self-reflection.