The Stoic Appeal to Expertise: Platonic Echoes in the Reply to Indistinguishability

Apeiron 54 (2):129-159 (2021)
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One Stoic response to the skeptical indistinguishability argument is that it fails to account for expertise: the Stoics allow that while two similar objects create indistinguishable appearances in the amateur, this is not true of the expert, whose appearances succeed in discriminating the pair. This paper re-examines the motivations for this Stoic response, and argues that it reveals the Stoic claim that, in generating a kataleptic appearance, the perceiver’s mind is active, insofar as it applies concepts matching the perceptual stimulus. I argue that this claim is reflected in the Stoic definition of the kataleptic appearance, and that it respects their more general account of mental representation. I further suggest that, in attributing some activity to the mind in creating each kataleptic appearance, and in claiming that the expert’s mind allows her to form more kataleptic appearances than the amateur, the Stoics draw inspiration from the wax tablet model in Plato’s Theaetetus (190e–196d), where Socrates distinguishes the wise from the ignorant on the basis of how well they match sensory input with its appropriate mental ‘seal’ (σφραγίς).

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Simon Shogry
Oxford University


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