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Platonic Dualism

Probably the
earliest
systematic
concept of mind
and body stems
from the
philosophy of the
Greek
philosopher Plato
(429-347 BC).
Plato, like
Descartes, saw
the mind as
identical with the
soul. However,
unlike Descartes,
Plato argued that
the soul both
pre-existed and
survived the
body, going
through a
continual process
of reincarnation
or
"transmigration".
An important
concept to bear
in mind when
considering
Plato's
understanding of
the soul's
relationship to
the body is his
"theory of
forms".
According to this
view, each thing
that exists on
earth - or even
as an object of
language - has a
corresponding
"form" or perfect
idea. So, in the
example used by
Plato, a simple

thing such as a
bed would be
linked to the
perfect idea of a
bed that exists
independently
(which all other
beds share). The
same thing
would also apply
to such things as
colours, moral
values or types
of animal. For
instance, the
thing that all the
different shades
of red have in
common is that
they all
correspond in
some way to the
form, or perfect
idea, of "red".
For Plato, the
soul - or mind obtained
knowledge
through
recollection of
these forms. By
doing this the
soul was simply
returning to the
state of
knowledge which
it had before
birth. Because of
this view, Plato's
arguments for
dualism centre
on the
relationship
between
reincarnation and
the process of
obtaining
knowledge
through
acquaintance

with the forms.


The Arguments
Plato presents 4
main arguments
for dualism,
which can all be
found in the
dialogue Phaedo.
(i) Coming to be
and ceasing to
be (The Cyclical
Argument). This
argument relies
on the notion
that opposites
rely upon one
another and in
fact lead to one
another. In terms
of life and death,
this leads to the
conclusion that,
if life leads to
death, then
death must also
lead to life. So,
the living come
from - or are
reincarnations of
- the dead, which
then die and are
born again (and
so on).
(ii) Knowing is
Remembering
(The Recollection
Argument). The
second argument
is based on the
idea that all
knowledge is
simply a form of
recollection. This
is proven by
showing that a
young, untutored
boy, with no

knowledge of
maths or
geometry, can be
led to display or
"arrive at"
knowledge which
he did not know
he possessed.
How, Plato
argues, could he
display such
knowledge unless
he were
recollecting it?
(iii) The
Indestructibility
of the Soul (The
Affinity
Argument). The
third argument
attempts to
prove that the
soul - although it
may arguably
predate birth also survives
death. Since the
body is mortal,
changing and
made up of
different parts,
the soul - which
seems not to be
composed of
many parts must therefore
also be immortal
and unchanging.
(iv) The
Argument from
Opposites. Since
death is the
opposite of life,
and opposites
are mutually
exclusive,
therefore when
the body dies,

life must go on.