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Philosophical Review

Plato's Phaedo by David Bostock Review by: Constance C. Meinwald The Philosophical Review, Vol. 98, No. 1 (Jan., 1989), pp. 127-129 Published by: Duke University Press on behalf of Philosophical Review Stable URL: . Accessed: 26/01/2014 04:09
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BOOK REVIEWS 124-126, 140, 142, etc.). But of course, I neither freely choose nor am I responsible for what is contained in my essence; if Adam's essence entails that if placed in such-and-such circumstances he would eat the apple, then he neither chose this action voluntarily nor is he responsible for it. As Molina, Adams, and Plantinga all clearly see, the notion that subjunctives of freedom are contained in one's essence is fatal to the theory of middle knowledge. The Possibilityof an All-Knowing God is a contentious book, one which is well written and, in places, well argued. It is not the last word on its topic, but it is a word that must be heeded by those who work on that topic from now on.

Huntington College The PhilosophicalReview, Vol. XCVIII, No. 1 (January 1989) PLATO'S PHAEDO. By DAVID BOSTOCK. New York, N.Y., Clarendon Press of Oxford University Press, 1986. Pp. vii, 225. This book could perhaps have been helpfully subtitled Arguments for the Immortalityof the Soul. In any case Bostock makes clear in both his Preface and his Introduction the well-defined purpose which such a phrase could have indicated: he concentrates on the immortality theme, and does so by analyzing the arguments which appear in the dialogue. The approach through analyzing arguments, common of course to most Englishspeaking philosophical writers on Plato working today, has the common result of leaving us at a loss as to how to understand the parts of Plato's work which are not obviously doing work in the arguments (in the case of the present work, most notably the myth). Moreover, certain topics one might have hoped to see treated in a book on the Phaedo quite generally (such as the proto-Stoic handling of emotion, the extent to which Plato's doctrine of forms was a development of the Anaxagorean program, and the role of the Phaedo in leading up to Aristotle's analysis of change) do not figure here, presumably because this book is organized around the arguments for the soul's immortality, and treatment of such topics would have distorted and damaged its structure. A final fact about the purpose of Plato's Phaedo concerns its intended audience. Like Julia Annas's book on the Republic (also brought out by Oxford) this book is based on lectures given to undergraduates; in each case the description on the jacket mentions the introductory character of the book, but then goes on to say that the book should serve those familiar with Plato's work as well as persons with no background in philosophy. While this sentiment originally struck 127

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BOOK REVIEWS me as extremely disingenuous, I think that Plato's Phaedo can indeed be recommended to the wide readership for which the publishers evidently hope. The great merit of the book is the clarity with which Bostock sets out and discusses the arguments which are his main subject. This treatment should give beginners an idea both of what philosophical activity consists in and of what kinds of issues are peculiarly philosophical. Occasional sketches of developments in philosophy subsequent to Plato on topics raised by the discussion (including personal identity, language learning, and the proper basis for ethics) may help in this latter project, though Bostock's frequent remark that the issues he has raised are too large for him to go into may be somewhat frustrating. Bostock's practice is to canvass alternative interpretations of passages from the Phaedo, and this should be of value both to those who are learning how to approach a historical text and to others who know this in general but would like a summary of at least some standard views on the passages in question. While Bostock does not claim to advance much that is original he performs a useful service in giving us an extremely readable account of at least some available interpretations. Bostock's discussion of the soundness and validity of various formulations of the arguments and his attempts to respond to difficulties by looking for alternative formulations amount to a good example of interpretative activity: we see him skillfully balancing the demands of faithfulness to the text with the need to attribute good arguments to Plato. He does this in enough detail for readers to form opinions of their own concerning how best to make sense of the texts. Bostock also includes (sometimes in notes) several brief remarks on certain cruxes involving contentious constructions which should interest readers who care about such matters without unduly distracting others. It seems to me that the least successful portions of the book are those treating certain larger questions introduced in connection with the immortality arguments. One such portion is Bostock's discussion of the purpose which the forms of the middle dialogues were supposed to serve. This is uncharacteristic in not giving a view of any range of interpretative options. This departure from comprehensiveness is especially unfortunate, as Bostock's discusson turns out to be largely devoted to developing the suggestion that Plato introduced forms because of certain needs in the philosophy of language. In particular, what led Plato to the theory of forms was ". . . the problem of how we can come to understand a word when there are no appropriate paradigm examples to illustrate what it means" (p. 98). This problem may well owe its central importance in Bostock's account more to concerns prominent in the early portion of our own century than to Plato's text. At least, Bostock does not provide enough evidence to dispel suspicion on this point. 128

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BOOK REVIEWS Another disappointment in Bostock's treatment of these issues is that, at several important points, he ends up identifying a confusion as the basis of Plato's view. For example, when we come (pp. 152-153) to the discussion of what Bostock calls "Plato's principle of causation": "the cause of a thing's being P must itself be P, and cannot be the opposite to being P," we
are simply told that ". . . the truth is that this principle is plainly false, and

could only seem to be true as the result of a conceptual muddle." Bostock diagnoses the confusion; but his remarks concerning what causes must be and his consequent treatment of Plato on causes are unsatisfactorily brief and extremely restrictive, given the notorious vicissitudes of that notion. I had hoped to see discussion of Plato's remarks on explanation and of the vexed question of how Plato understood so-called self-predication which would have revealed the positive appeal of these strange doctrines. Bostock's discussion, like many which have gone before it, does not really do this satisfactorily. But perhaps I hoped for too much. At any rate, Plato's Phaedo should help readers to enjoy thinking about the points it discusses, both as issues in Plato scholarship and as philosophical problems.

Universityof Illinois at Chicago

The PhilosophicalReview, Vol. XCVIII, No. 1 (January 1989) HARM TO SELF: THE MORAL LIMITS OF THE CRIMINAL LAW. By JOEL FEINBERG. New York, N.Y., Oxford University Press, 1986. Pp. xxiii, 420. Harm to Self is the third volume in a four-volume work by Joel Feinberg, The Moral Limits of the CriminalLaw. The longer work addresses the cluster of conceptual issues that surround the question, "What sorts of conduct may the state rightly make criminal?" In the first volume, Harm to Others, Feinberg presents and discusses the "harm principle": that the need to prevent harm to persons other than the actor is always a morally relevant (although not necessarily decisive) reason in support of proposed state coercion. Feinberg defines "harm" as a wrongful setback of an interest, and he explains how the harm principle bears on particular contexts and cases by articulating and defending a number of "mediating maxims." In the second volume, Offense to Others, Feinberg distinguishes harm from offense; whereas harms are wrongful setbacks of interests, offenses are not setbacks of interests, although they are wrongful impositions of unpleasant and unwanted effects. Feinberg puts forward and explains the "offense principle": that offense to others is always a morally relevant (al129

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