Plato's Theory of Explanation

A Study of the Cosmological Account in the Timaeus

By Anne F. Ashbaugh

Subjects: Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780887066085, 204 pages, March 1988
Hardcover : 9780887066078, 204 pages, March 1988

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Table of contents



I. The Nature and Function of Verisimilar Explanations


How Plato Reasoned to Identify the Need for a Verisimilar Account of Phenomena
The Explanatory Power of Verisimilar Accounts
The Correctness of Verisimilar Accounts


II. The Teleological Features of Verisimilar Explanations


Plato's Causal Scheme
The Agency of Mind (Nous)
The End (Telos) of Verisimilar Explanations


III. The Structure of Verisimilar Explanations


The Completeness of the Account
The Most Verisimilar Account
A True Account of Spatiality


IV. Conclusion: Spatiality is the Basis of Verisimilar Accounts




Here is the question: what constitutes a good explanation of phenomena? Whereas true being (forms) can be known through dialectic, concrete phenomena can only be explained. An explanation is verisimilar of dialectical knowledge as concrete things are images of eternal ones. Ashbaugh shows how Plato subtly develops the notion of imaging and explaining, accounting for how physical things can be different from forms and how they are connected to forms.


"The central thesis regarding the development of 'verisimilar' explanation and its relation to 'true' explanation is thought-provoking, generally well-developed and should prove controversial in the best sense of the word. " — Drew A. Hyland, Trinity College

"In contrast to this discussion, the contemporary arguments about mind mirroring nature are hopelessly crude. " — Robert Cummings Neville, Boston University