The Stoic Appeal to Expertise: Platonic Echoes in the Reply to Indistinguishability

Apeiron 54 (2):129-159 (2021)
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Abstract

One Stoic response to the skeptical indistinguishability argument is that it fails to account for expertise: the Stoics allow that while two similar objects create indistinguishable appearances in the amateur, this is not true of the expert, whose appearances succeed in discriminating the pair. This paper re-examines the motivations for this Stoic response, and argues that it reveals the Stoic claim that, in generating a kataleptic appearance, the perceiver’s mind is active, insofar as it applies concepts matching the perceptual stimulus. I argue that this claim is reflected in the Stoic definition of the kataleptic appearance, and that it respects their more general account of mental representation. I further suggest that, in attributing some activity to the mind in creating each kataleptic appearance, and in claiming that the expert’s mind allows her to form more kataleptic appearances than the amateur, the Stoics draw inspiration from the wax tablet model in Plato’s Theaetetus, where Socrates distinguishes the wise from the ignorant on the basis of how well they match sensory input with its appropriate mental ‘seal’.

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Simon Shogry
Oxford University

Citations of this work

Clear and Distinct Perception in the Stoics, Augustine, and William of Ockham.Tamer Nawar - 2022 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 96 (1):185-207.
Stoicism.Dirk Baltzly - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Vagueness and Kataleptic Impressions.Katja Maria Vogt - 2022 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 96 (1):165-183.
Psychological disease and action-guiding impressions in early Stoicism.Simon Shogry - 2021 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 29 (5):784-805.
Ancient skepticism.Leo Groarke - forthcoming - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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