Abstract Collicott, Torres, Gessas

Plato is regarded as an anti-environmental philosopher in part because of (a) his supposedly otherworldly metaphysics and (b) a remark Socrates makes in the Phaedrus to the effect that he has nothing to learn from open country and trees. (a) Plato claims that he never wrote his actual philosophy down, but also indicates that it is instead encrypted in the dialogues; Aristotle testifies that his Forms are actually numbers; and numbers are hardly otherworldly. (b) Contextualizing the remark in the Phaedrus reveals its irony: Plato himself makes a cameo appearance as a plane tree; one other tree is identified by species – a vitex, symbolizing chaste Platonic love, one of the principal themes of the Phaedrus (as of the Symposium), and another by genus – a prophetic oak that speaks the truth. Plato exhibits profound ecological insight in the Republic, Timaeus, and Critias. In these dialogues he anticipates ecosystem ecology, more particularly, and Gaian Earth system science. He exhibits a nascent environmental ethic in the Critias and Laws.