Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Parmenides Part Two

What to make of the dense and difficult eight deductions of Part Two? As Kyle observes, Plato seems more than ever here to want us to think these matters through for ourselves in preference to telling us what he thinks, and has even apparently thrown a few errors of reasoning in to keep us on our toes. This hardly seems fair, since we're dealing not with a mere example or simplified exercise for illustration, but with the most fundamental questions about the nature of reality, and the method for investigating it.

Among the unexpected outcomes of this process, given the scorching critique in Part One, is the necessity of forms, though how we are to conceive forms at this point remains an unsettlingly open question.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Parmenides' critique of Forms

In the beginning of Parmenides, the character Parmenides asks the young Socrates four questions about the theory of forms and their ability to explain our knowing:

1. Are there forms of equality and sameness, rest and motion, etc., and if so, are there forms of the opposities of these?

2. Are there forms of the just, the beautiful, the good, and so forth?

3. Are there forms of composite things, such as human beings, fire, water, etc.?

4. What about forms of lowly, crude, undignified things like dirt?

Young Socrates is certain about the first two, becomes shaky on the third (forms of composite things create complexities, whereas the point of the theory is to simplify and explain), and rejects the fourth, though Parmenides hints that he will have to include forms of such things if he is to maintain the theory consistently.