Platos Forms in Transition: A Reading of the Parmenides

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To grasp this is to solve the mystery of the Parmenides and understand its crucial role in Plato's philosophical development. From the Appendix to the Fourth Deduction. From the Fifth to the Eighth Deduction. A Reading of the Parmenides Samuel C. The theory of forms. A crucial feature of the method of hypothesis as described in the Meno , Phaedo , and Republic is that it eventually becomes necessary to go beyond just considering what accords with one's hypothesis by examining the hypothesis itself, with a view to ultimately grounding it in an unhypothesized first principle.

Plato's Forms in Transition. A Reading of the Parmenides » Brill Online

The Parmenides is best understood as conducting the projected examination of Socrates' favored hypothesis. Since the "theory of forms" is more accurately a hypothesis under development in the Symposium , Phaedo , and Republic , Rickless's attempt to furnish a systematic reconstruction of the "theory" in would-be definitive fashion not only is misplaced but also makes it more difficult than necessary to understand what to make of Parmenides' criticisms.

These criticisms promote an adequate formulation of the hypothesis by pointing out the disastrous consequences of, most notably, conceiving of the participation relation in too crudely physical a manner and conceiving of the forms themselves as perfect instances or exemplars of the properties to which they correspond.

Certainly there are places in the middle-period dialogues where the hypothesis is presented in ways that suggest the latter crude conception, notably in the Phaedo 's description of the form of equality as "the equals themselves" auta ta isa , 74c1 , a problematic plural recurring in the Parmenides when Socrates refers to the form of similarity as "the similars themselves" auta ta homoia , b1. There is no need to embrace the plural's implication that the form of equality is a pair of equal things, however, for the more adequate formulation of the hypothesis later in the dialogue, when Socrates describes how he came to rely on it in his inquiries, suggests that this early statement of the dialogue's governing hypothesis is intentionally problematic.

In the later passage, Socrates describes how he can no longer accept, as explanations of what makes things beautiful, references to their having a bright color or a certain shape c9-d2 , saying that he prefers instead the safe explanation that "if anything else is beautiful besides the beautiful itself auto to kalon , it is beautiful for no other reason than that it participates metechei in that beautiful" c; cf.

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The point of rejecting bright color or a certain shape as what makes things beautiful is that, while these properties may well be sufficient to make some things beautiful sometimes, neither is in fact necessary, whereas the form of beauty is supposed to be that property instantiation of which is both a necessary and sufficient condition of a thing's being beautiful. Already in the Phaedo , then, Plato suggests a conception of forms as properties, and of participation as property instantiation, that is much less problematic than the conception of forms as individual and perfect instances of a property that drives some of the Parmenides criticisms.

The important passage just quoted, moreover, already suggests that there is a fundamental difference between the way the form of beauty is beautiful and the way other things are beautiful. Rickless's presumption that it possible to reconstruct a canonical middle-period theory of forms in part explains his inattentiveness to the indications in dialogues prior to the Parmenides that Plato already envisaged a way to conceive of the forms that would not founder upon Parmenides' criticisms.

For the attempt to provide a single, over-arching statement of the "theory of forms" that will account for all previous references to these entities results in a certain dumbing down of the view. This is apparent, for example, in Rickless's understanding of the problem of the compresence of opposites, encapsulated in his Impurity of Sensibles principle, that "for any property F that admits a contrary con-F , all sensible F things are con-F" He claims to find direct evidence for this principle in Republic 5's description of "the many beautiful things," on which the sight-lovers focus their attention, as also appearing ugly a-b , for Rickless takes these many beautiful things to be particular objects.


He fails to notice, however, that when the sight-lovers are introduced as accepting "beautiful things" kala pragmata but not beauty itself c , these are the "beautiful sounds, colors , shapes , and all the things fashioned from these" the sight-lovers have just been said to enjoy b It is surely no accident that the same properties the Phaedo 's Socrates can no longer accept as making things beautiful recur so prominently here.

The connection is just one thing that tells in favor of the more philosophically sophisticated interpretation of the problem of the compresence of opposites developed by Terence Irwin in "The theory of Forms," in G. Rickless's flat-footed understanding of the problem of the compresence of opposites drives him to embrace a conception of forms as free from this impurity: This is, of course, the fundamental theorem of Purity in Rickless's high theory of forms, generalized in the Parmenides ' higher theory into the axiom of Radical Purity, both of which Socrates is supposedly being taught to abandon in the dialectical exercise.

This dumbing down is also apparent in the way Rickless cashes out Plato's common description of the form of F-ness as being F auto kath' hauto in terms of the Itself-by-Itself axiom and the Separation theorem that follows from it in his reconstruction, viz.

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The consequent failure to explore how the form of F-ness' being F kath' hauto is for it to be F in a specific manner, distinct from that in which sensible particulars are F, has disastrous consequences for Rickless's response to the Third Man Argument. Plato Parmenides a Ff. Lewis - - Philosophical Studies 35 2: Rickless - - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. An Introduction to Greek Philosophy.

Intro to Plato

David Roochnik - - Teaching Co.. Zuckert - - Review of Metaphysics 51 4: Plato's Reception of Parmenides.

Two Recent Interpretations of Plato's Parmenides. Wylter - - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 6 All of a Sudden: Heidegger and Plato's Parmenides. A Journal for the History of Philosophy 11 2: Plato's Forms in Transition.