John Proios
Cornell University
Plato’s invention of the metaphor of carving the world by the joints (Phaedrus 265d-66c) gives him a privileged place in the history of natural kind theory in philosophy and science; he is often understood to present a paradigmatic but antiquated view of natural kinds as possessing eternal, immutable, necessary essences. Yet, I highlight that, as a point of distinction from contemporary views about natural kinds, Plato subscribes to an intelligent-design, teleological framework, in which the natural world is the product of craft and, as a result, is structured such that it is good for it to be that way. In Plato’s Philebus, the character Socrates introduces a method of inquiry whose articulation of natural kinds enables it to confer expert knowledge, such as literacy. My paper contributes to an understanding of Plato’s view of natural kinds by interpreting this method in light of Plato’s teleological conception of nature. I argue that a human inquirer who uses the method identifies kinds with relational essences within a system causally related to the production of some unique craft-object, such as writing. As a result, I recast Plato’s place in the history of philosophy, including Plato’s view of the relation between the kinds according to the natural and social sciences. Whereas some are inclined to separate natural from social kinds, Plato holds the unique view that all naturalness is a social feature of kinds reflecting the role of intelligent agency.
Keywords Plato  Division   Natural Kinds  Social Kinds   Teleology
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Animal Sacrifice in Plato's Later Methodology.Holly Moore - 2015 - In Jeremy Bell, Michael Naas & Thomas Patrick Oates (eds.), Plato's Animals: Gadflies, Horses, Swans, and Other Philosophical Beasts. Indianapolis, IN, USA: pp. 179-192.
Plato's Method of Division.Laura Wedner Grams - 2002 - Dissertation, Emory University
The Metaphysics of Social Kinds.Rebecca Mason - 2016 - Philosophy Compass 11 (12):841-850.
Three Kinds of Social Kinds.Muhammad Ali Khalidi - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (1):96-112.
Are Natural Kinds and Natural Properties Distinct?Emma Tobin - 2013 - In Stephen Mumford & Matthew Tugby (eds.), Metaphysics and Science. Oxford University Press. pp. 164-182.
Dividing Plato’s Kinds.Fernando Muniz & George Rudebusch - 2018 - Phronesis 63 (4):392-407.
The Metaphysics of Natural Kinds.Alexander Bird - 2018 - Synthese 195 (4):1397-1426.


Added to PP index

Total views
126 ( #87,844 of 2,463,235 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
80 ( #9,132 of 2,463,235 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes