Plato's Parmenides

Plato's Parmenides

Plato's Parmenides

Plato's Parmenides

Synopsis

Of all Plato's dialogues, the Parmenides is notoriously the most difficult to interpret. Scholars of all periods have disagreed about its aims and subject matter. The interpretations have ranged from reading the dialogue as an introduction to the whole of Platonic metaphysics to seeing it as a collection of sophisticated tricks, or even as an elaborate joke. This work presents an illuminating new translation of the dialogue together with an extensive introduction and running commentary, giving a unified explanation of the Parmenides and integrating it firmly within the context of Plato's metaphysics and methodology.

Scolnicov shows that in the Parmenides Plato addresses the most serious challenge to his own philosophy: the monism of Parmenides and the Eleatics. In addition to providing a serious rebuttal to Parmenides, Plato here re-formulates his own theory of forms and participation, arguments that are central to the whole of Platonic thought, and provides these concepts with a rigorous logical and philosophical foundation. In Scolnicov's analysis, the Parmenides emerges as an extension of ideas from Plato's middle dialogues and as an opening to the later dialogues.

Scolnicov's analysis is crisp and lucid, offering a persuasive approach to a complicated dialogue. This translation follows the Greek closely, and the commentary affords the Greekless reader a clear understanding of how Scolnicov's interpretation emerges from the text. This volume will provide a valuable introduction and framework for understanding a dialogue that continues to generate lively discussion today.

Excerpt

Toute interprétation du dialogue qui laissera séparées les deux parties de l’oeuvre ne
pourrait nous satisfaire
.

—WAHL (1951), 8

PLATO VERSUS PARMENIDES

Of all Plato’s dialogues, the Parmenides is notoriously the most difficult to interpret. Scholars of all periods have violently disagreed about its very aims and subject matter. The interpretations have ranged from reading the dialogue as an introduction to the whole of Platonic—and more often Neoplatonic—metaphysics to viewing it as a record of unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) “honest perplexities,” as protreptic “mental gymnastics,” as a collection of sophistic tricks, or even as an elaborate (though admittedly tedious) joke.

Part I of the dialogue and especially the Third Man Argument have no doubt received more than their fair share of effort and ingenuity. During the last forty-odd years, the Third Man Argument has undergone detailed scrutiny by logicians, philosophers, classicists, and, in general, anyone who felt any connection with the subject, however distant. But while fine logical tools have been used to interpret the Theaetetus and the Sophist with important and interesting results, the Parmenides as a whole seems to have been,

1. For a summary of Neoplatonic interpretations, see Dodds (1928), Wundt (1935). The esotericist interpretation (e.g., Migliori [1990]), influenced by Krämer, can be seen as a variant of this trend. In the same vein, Séguy-Duclot (1998) interprets the dialogue as pointing beyond itself, to higher levels, up to a henological point of view above ontology.

2. Vlastos (1965b [1954]), 145.

3. Grote (1875), III, chap. 27; Peck (1953–54); cf. Kutschera (1995). See also Wilamowitz (1948), I 402; most recently Gill, “Introduction,” in Gill and Ryan (1996). Klibansky (1943: 28 n. 1) attributes such a view already to Aclnous (Albinus), possibly on the strength of chaps. 5 and 6 of his Didaskalihos.

4. E.g., Owen (1986 [1970]).

5. Cf., e.g., Taylor (1934), 29.

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