The Appropriation of Myth and the Sayings of the Wise in Plato’s Meno and Philebus

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 78:169-178 (2004)
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In this article, I discuss the incorporation of traditional ‘sayings of the wise’ and the mythical presentation of certain doctrines in the Platonic dialogues, particularly the Meno’s myth of recollection and the Philebus’s myth of the limit and the unlimited. I argue against a common view of Platonic myth, which holds that such passages are merely rhetorical devices and naive presentations of philosophical doctrines, whose aura of traditional authority ultimately forestalls and inhibits philosophical reflection. I attempt to show in the case of the Meno and the Philebus that Platonic myths serve to cultivate and sustain a kind of philosophical reflection and to illustrate the search for first principles, causes, and the origins of things. I maintain that Platonic myth represents a mode of understanding and of thought that mediates between the opinions of individuals and knowledge proper or wisdom



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