A Likely Account of Necessity: Plato’s Receptacle as a Physical and Metaphysical Foundation for Space

Journal of the History of Philosophy 50 (2):159-195 (2012)
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Abstract

This paper aims to show that—and how—Plato’s notion of the receptacle in the Timaeus provides the conditions for developing a mathematical as well as a physical space without itself being space. In response to the debate whether Plato’s receptacle is a conception of space or of matter, I suggest employing criteria from topology and the theory of metric spaces as the most basic ones available. I show that the receptacle fulfils its main task–allowing the elements qua images of the Forms to exist as sensible things by being that in which the elements appear, change and move–in virtue of being pure continuity. All further qualifications required for a full notion of space are derived solely from the content of the receptacle.

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Barbara Michaela Sattler
University of St. Andrews

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