A reconsideration of Plato finds within his work an articulation of Taoist enlightenment.
According to debut author Lovejoy, the objective of human life is the achievement of oneness with God. This “communion with the Divine” is a state of enlightenment. That condition of enlightenment is also one of transcendence in which the true self, unsullied by conceptual pollution and metaphorical obfuscation, reveals itself. And the false self, the unconscious presentation of dualistic thinking, is finally overcome. In the work of Plato, the author discovers the development of a strikingly similar notion, expressed in terms of a “Fourfold Path,” which tracks the soul’s ascent from ignorance to self-realization. That progression is chronicled in the famous divided line analogy, in which human intellect is viewed as a movement through four successive stages: imagination, belief, thought, and intuitive understanding. In Lovejoy’s philosophically vibrant interpretation, Plato sees the substance of the cosmos as a “world soul,” the “original unified substance that is in and through all things.” But the self, understood as an individuated object apart from the world, develops over time largely through the employment of spatial metaphors, which encourage the equation of the soul with the body. Moving beyond the realm of conceptual demarcation—the false self sketched by spatial metaphors—leads one back to the original oneness. As a result, the true self is no longer sundered from God. The author’s exegesis is remarkably inventive, and she rigorously defends her claims with close textual readings of primary works. Lovejoy’s prose can be academically convoluted, but it’s never impenetrable, and always repays the effort. But her translations of the Greek can be unconventional; for example, she renders “phronesis” as reason, which is overly broad and seems less precise than the more typical practical judgment. In addition, her interpretations are peculiarly apolitical—Plato presents these allegories and analogies in the context of an extended discussion of justice and the nature of the best regime.
A captivating take on Plato’s account of the soul.