Paolo Gigli (University of Geneva): Change and spatial priority in the Theaetetus

The standard contemporary account of change explains it by using a notion of temporal priority, i.e., that which holds true of something at a certain time does not hold true of it at a later time. However, an explanation of change that avoids any reference to time is more appealing, also because the classical explanations of what time is are in terms of change. I will argue that Pl. Tht. 156c6-d3 suggests an account of change that avoids this problem. My presentation divides into three parts. In the first part, I criticise two common understandings of the passage and put forward and defend a third reading. According to this reading, any change involves two components, which stand in a relation of spatial priority. More precisely, I argue that Socrates makes three claims: (i) slowness and swiftness are present in any change, (ii) what is slow produces what is swift, (iii) what produces is spatially prior to what is produced. In the second part of my presentation, my main concern is to define the notion of spatial priority. I hence show that this notion can explain how production works without making any reference to metaphysical or temporal priority. In the third part, I use the notion of spatial priority to offer an alternative to the standard temporal understanding of change.


This lecture was given on Fri, 2 July 2021, 13:00 (UK time) as part of the workshop Change and Changemakers in Ancient Philosophy. The workshop is a collaborative initiative of the Change and Changemakers Network (Siegen) together with the Mereology of Potentiality Project (Oxford).