Fiona Leigh – Restless Forms, Motionless Causes

Event Date: 5 March 2012
Senate House
University of London
London WC1E 7HU

The Aristotelian Society presents:

Dr Fiona Leigh (UCL): Restless Forms, Motionless Causes

It is widely held that Plato’s Forms rest or change or both in Plato’s Sophist. The received opinion is, however, quite false – or so I will argue. There is no direct support for it in the text and several passages tell against it. I will further argue that, contrary to the view of some scholars, Plato did not in our dialogue advocate a kind of change recognizable as ‘Cambridge change’, as applicable to his Forms. The reason that Forms neither change nor rest is that they are purely intelligible entities, not susceptible to changing or being at rest. Since Plato continues in the Sophist to treat Forms as causes, it follows that Forms are changeless causes. I ask what conception of cause might allow for this view, and reject the suggestion that Plato was some kind of proto-dispositionalist about causation. Instead I suggest that he understood causation to incorporate a notion of structuring, such that Forms can be seen to structure their participants and so cause them to possess the attributes they possess.

Dr Fiona Leigh is a Lecturer in Philosophy at University College London, where she joined the Department in 2009, after earning her PhD (Monash). Fiona’s area of research specialty is Plato’s later metaphysics, especially Plato’s Sophist, and she has published papers in journals including Phronesis, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, Aperion, and Journal of Philosophy of Education. She has edited the proceedings of the 6th Keeling Colloquium, a collection of papers on the voluntary, friendship and luck in Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics (Brill, forthcoming 2012). Currently she is working on a monograph length reading of the Sophist, and is interested in the potentially positive role of art in Plato’s work. Fiona has an MA in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, and a BA (hons) in Philosophy and Social Theory from the University of Melbourne.

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