Parmenides by Plato. - HTML preview
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.
Parmenides by Plato, Trans. Benjamin Jowett is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable Document file is furnished free and without any charge of any kind. Any person using this document file, for any purpose, and in any way does so at his or her own risk.
Neither the Pennsylvania State University nor Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, nor anyone associated with the Pennsylvania State University assumes any responsibility for the material contained within the document or for the file as an electronic transmission, in any way.
Parmenides by Plato, Trans. Benjamin Jowett , the Pennsylvania State University, Electronic Classics Series, Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, Hazleton, PA 18201-1291 is a Portable Document File produced as part of an ongoing student publication project to bring classical works of literature, in English, to free and easy access of those wishing to make use of them.
Cover Design: Jim Manis
Copyright © 1999 The Pennsylvania State University The Pennsylvania State University is an equal opportunity university.
of the writer is not expressly stated. The date is ARMENIDES
uncertain; the relation to the other writings of Plato is also uncertain; the connexion between the two parts is at first sight extremely obscure; by
and in the latter of the two we are left in doubt as to whether Plato is speaking his own senti-PLATO
ments by the lips of Parmenides, and overthrow-ing him out of his own mouth, or whether he is Translated by Benjamin Jowett propounding consequences which would have been admitted by Zeno and Parmenides them-INTRODUCTION AND ANALYSIS.
selves. The contradictions which follow from the hypotheses of the one and many have been re-THE AWE WITH which Plato regarded the character garded by some as transcendental mysteries; by of ‘the great’ Parmenides has extended to the others as a mere illustration, taken at random, dialogue which he calls by his name. None of the of a new method. They seem to have been in-writings of Plato have been more copiously illus-spired by a sort of dialectical frenzy, such as may trated, both in ancient and modern times, and be supposed to have prevailed in the Megarian in none of them have the interpreters been more School (compare Cratylus, etc.). The criticism on at variance with one another. Nor is this surpris-his own doctrine of Ideas has also been consid-ing. For the Parmenides is more fragmentary and ered, not as a real criticism, but as an exuber-isolated than any other dialogue, and the design ance of the metaphysical imagination which en-3
abled Plato to go beyond himself. To the latter Socrates that they would examine into the na-part of the dialogue we may certainly apply the ture of the one and many in the sphere of Ideas, words in which he himself describes the earlier although they received his suggestion with ap-philosophers in the Sophist: ‘They went on their proving smiles. And we are glad to be told that way rather regardless of whether we understood Parmenides was ‘aged but well-favoured,’ and them or not.’
that Zeno was ‘very good-looking’; also that The Parmenides in point of style is one of the Parmenides affected to decline the great argu-best of the Platonic writings; the first portion of ment, on which, as Zeno knew from experience, the dialogue is in no way defective in ease and he was not unwilling to enter. The character of grace and dramatic interest; nor in the second Antiphon, the half-brother of Plato, who had once part, where there was no room for such quali-been inclined to philosophy, but has now shown ties, is there any want of clearness or precision.
the hereditary disposition for horses, is very natu-The latter half is an exquisite mosaic, of which rally described. He is the sole depositary of the the small pieces are with the utmost fineness and famous dialogue; but, although he receives the regularity adapted to one another. Like the strangers like a courteous gentleman, he is im-Protagoras, Phaedo, and others, the whole is a patient of the trouble of reciting it. As they en-narrated dialogue, combining with the mere reter, he has been giving orders to a bridle-maker; cital of the words spoken, the observations of the by this slight touch Plato verifies the previous reciter on the effect produced by them. Thus we description of him. After a little persuasion he is are informed by him that Zeno and Parmenides induced to favour the Clazomenians, who come were not altogether pleased at the request of from a distance, with a rehearsal. Respecting the 4
visit of Zeno and Parmenides to Athens, we may Eleatics. But the Eleatic stranger expressly observe—first, that such a visit is consistent with criticises the doctrines in which he had been dates, and may possibly have occurred; secondly, brought up; he admits that he is going to ‘lay that Plato is very likely to have invented the hands on his father Parmenides.’ Nothing of this meeting (‘You, Socrates, can easily invent Egyp-kind is said of Zeno and Parmenides. How then, tian tales or anything else,’ Phaedrus); thirdly, without a word of explanation, could Plato as-that no reliance can be placed on the circum-sign to them the refutation of their own tenets?
stance as determining the date of Parmenides The conclusion at which we must arrive is that and Zeno; fourthly, that the same occasion ap-the Parmenides is not a refutation of the Eleatic pears to be referred to by Plato in two other philosophy. Nor would such an explanation afford places (Theaet., Soph.).
any satisfactory connexion of the first and sec-Many interpreters have regarded the ond parts of the dialogue. And it is quite incon-Parmenides as a ‘reductio ad absurdum’ of the sistent with Plato’s own relation to the Eleatics.
Eleatic philosophy. But would Plato have been For of all the pre-Socratic philosophers, he speaks likely to place this in the mouth of the great of them with the greatest respect. But he could Parmenides himself, who appeared to him, in hardly have passed upon them a more unmean-Homeric language, to be ‘venerable and awful,’
ing slight than to ascribe to their great master and to have a ‘glorious depth of mind’?
tenets the reverse of those which he actually held.
(Theaet.). It may be admitted that he has as-Two preliminary remarks may be made. First, cribed to an Eleatic stranger in the Sophist opin-that whatever latitude we may allow to Plato in ions which went beyond the doctrines of the bringing together by a ‘tour de force,’ as in the 5
Phaedrus, dissimilar themes, yet he always in be surprised to find Plato criticizing the very con-some way seeks to find a connexion for them.
ceptions which have been supposed in after ages Many threads join together in one the love and to be peculiarly characteristic of him. How can dialectic of the Phaedrus. We cannot conceive that he have placed himself so completely without the great artist would place in juxtaposition two them? How can he have ever persisted in them absolutely divided and incoherent subjects. And after seeing the fatal objections which might be hence we are led to make a second remark: viz.
urged against them? The consideration of this that no explanation of the Parmenides can be difficulty has led a recent critic (Ueberweg), who satisfactory which does not indicate the in general accepts the authorised canon of the connexion of the first and second parts. To sup-Platonic writings, to condemn the Parmenides pose that Plato would first go out of his way to as spurious. The accidental want of external evi-make Parmenides attack the Platonic Ideas, and dence, at first sight, seems to favour this opin-then proceed to a similar but more fatal assault ion.
on his own doctrine of Being, appears to be the In answer, it might be sufficient to say, that no height of absurdity.
ancient writing of equal length and excellence is Perhaps there is no passage in Plato showing known to be spurious. Nor is the silence of greater metaphysical power than that in which Aristotle to be hastily assumed; there is at least he assails his own theory of Ideas. The arguments a doubt whether his use of the same arguments are nearly, if not quite, those of Aristotle; they does not involve the inference that he knew the are the objections which naturally occur to a work. And, if the Parmenides is spurious, like modern student of philosophy. Many persons will Ueberweg, we are led on further than we origi-6
nally intended, to pass a similar condemnation ist, the Politicus, and the Laws, much as Univer-on the Theaetetus and Sophist, and therefore on sals would be spoken of in modern books. Indeed, the Politicus (compare Theaet., Soph.). But the there are very faint traces of the transcendental objection is in reality fanciful, and rests on the doctrine of Ideas, that is, of their existence apart assumption that the doctrine of the Ideas was from the mind, in any of Plato’s writings, with held by Plato throughout his life in the same form.
the exception of the Meno, the Phaedrus, the For the truth is, that the Platonic Ideas were in Phaedo, and in portions of the Republic. The ste-constant process of growth and transmutation; reotyped form which Aristotle has given to them sometimes veiled in poetry and mythology, then is not found in Plato (compare Essay on the Pla-again emerging as fixed Ideas, in some passages tonic Ideas in the Introduction to the Meno.) regarded as absolute and eternal, and in others The full discussion of this subject involves a as relative to the human mind, existing in and comprehensive survey of the philosophy of Plato, derived from external objects as well as tran-which would be out of place here. But, without scending them. The anamnesis of the Ideas is digressing further from the immediate subject chiefly insisted upon in the mythical portions of of the Parmenides, we may remark that Plato is the dialogues, and really occupies a very small quite serious in his objections to his own doc-space in the entire works of Plato. Their tran-trines: nor does Socrates attempt to offer any scendental existence is not asserted, and is there-answer to them. The perplexities which surround fore implicitly denied in the Philebus; different the one and many in the sphere of the Ideas are forms are ascribed to them in the Republic, and also alluded to in the Philebus, and no answer is they are mentioned in the Theaetetus, the Soph-given to them. Nor have they ever been an-7
swered, nor can they be answered by any one favour of you. First, tell me your half-brother’s else who separates the phenomenal from the real.
name, which I have forgotten—he was a mere To suppose that Plato, at a later period of his life, child when I was last here;—I know his father’s, reached a point of view from which he was able which is Pyrilampes.’ ‘Yes, and the name of our to answer them, is a groundless assumption. The brother is Antiphon. But why do you ask?’ ‘Let real progress of Plato’s own mind has been partly me introduce to you some countrymen of mine, concealed from us by the dogmatic statements who are lovers of philosophy; they have heard of Aristotle, and also by the degeneracy of his that Antiphon remembers a conversation of own followers, with whom a doctrine of numbers Socrates with Parmenides and Zeno, of which the quickly superseded Ideas.
report came to him from Pythodorus, Zeno’s As a preparation for answering some of the dif-friend.’ ‘That is quite true.’ ‘And can they hear ficulties which have been suggested, we may the dialogue?’ ‘Nothing easier; in the days of begin by sketching the first portion of the dia-his youth he made a careful study of the piece; logue:—
at present, his thoughts have another direction: Cephalus, of Clazomenae in Ionia, the birth-he takes after his grandfather, and has given up place of Anaxagoras, a citizen of no mean city in philosophy for horses.’
the history of philosophy, who is the narrator of
‘ We went to look for him, and found him giv-the dialogue, describes himself as meeting ing instructions to a worker in brass about a Adeimantus and Glaucon in the Agora at Ath-bridle. When he had done with him, and had ens. ‘Welcome, Cephalus: can we do anything learned from his brothers the purpose of our visit, for you in Athens?’ ‘Why, yes: I came to ask a he saluted me as an old acquaintance, and we 8
asked him to repeat the dialogue. At first, he com-sion of your argument is intended to elicit a simi-plained of the trouble, but he soon consented.
lar absurdity, which may be supposed to follow He told us that Pythodorus had described to him from the assumption that being is many. ’ ‘ S u c h the appearance of Parmenides and Zeno; they is my meaning.’ ‘I see,’ said Socrates, turning had come to Athens at the great Panathenaea, to Parmenides, ‘that Zeno is your second self in the former being at the time about sixty-five his writings too; you prove admirably that the years old, aged but well-favoured—Zeno, who was all is one: he gives proofs no less convincing that said to have been beloved of Parmenides in the the many are nought. To deceive the world by days of his youth, about forty, and very good-look-saying the same thing in entirely different forms, ing:—that they lodged with Pythodorus at the is a strain of art beyond most of us.’ ‘Yes, Ceramicus outside the wall, whither Socrates, Socrates,’ said Zeno; ‘but though you are as then a very young man, came to see them: Zeno keen as a Spartan hound, you do not quite catch was reading one of his theses, which he had the motive of the piece, which was only intended nearly finished, when Pythodorus entered with to protect Parmenides against ridicule by show-Parmenides and Aristoteles, who was afterwards ing that the hypothesis of the existence of the one of the Thirty. When the recitation was com-many involved greater absurdities than the hy-pleted, Socrates requested that the first thesis pothesis of the one. The book was a youthful com-of the treatise might be read again.’
position of mine, which was stolen from me, and
‘ You mean, Zeno,’ said Socrates, ‘to argue therefore I had no choice about the publication.’
that being, if it is many, must be both like and
‘I quite believe you,’ said Socrates; ‘but will unlike, which is a contradiction; and each divi-you answer me a question? I should like to know, 9
whether you would assume an idea of likeness Pythodorus said that in his opinion Parmenides in the abstract, which is the contradictory of and Zeno were not very well pleased at the ques-unlikeness in the abstract, by participation in tions which were raised; nevertheless, they either or both of which things are like or unlike looked at one another and smiled in seeming or partly both. For the same things may very well delight and admiration of Socrates. ‘Tell me,’
partake of like and unlike in the concrete, though said Parmenides, ‘do you think that the abstract like and unlike in the abstract are irreconcilable.
ideas of likeness, unity, and the rest, exist apart Nor does there appear to me to be any absurdity from individuals which partake of them? and is in maintaining that the same things may partake this your own distinction?’ ‘I think that there of the one and many, though I should be indeed are such ideas.’ ‘And would you make abstract surprised to hear that the absolute one is also ideas of the just, the beautiful, the good?’ ‘Ye s , ’
many. For example, I, being many, that is to say, he said. ‘And of human beings like ourselves, of having many parts or members, am yet also one, water, fire, and the like?’ ‘I am not certain.’
and partake of the one, being one of seven who
‘And would you be undecided also about ideas are here present (compare Philebus). This is not of which the mention will, perhaps, appear laugh-an absurdity, but a truism. But I should be amazed able: of hair, mud, filth, and other things which if there were a similar entanglement in the na-are base and vile?’ ‘No, Parmenides; visible ture of the ideas themselves, nor can I believe things like these are, as I believe, only what they that one and many, like and unlike, rest and mo-appear to be: though I am sometimes disposed tion, in the abstract, are capable either of admix-to imagine that there is nothing without an idea; ture or of separation.’
but I repress any such notion, from a fear of fall-10
ing into an abyss of nonsense.’ ‘You are young, part.’ ‘Then the ideas have parts, and the ob-Socrates, and therefore naturally regard the opin-jects partake of a part of them only?’ ‘That ions of men; the time will come when philoso-seems to follow.’ ‘And would you like to say that phy will have a firmer hold of you, and you will the ideas are really divisible and yet remain not despise even the meanest things. But tell me, one?’ ‘Certainly not.’ ‘Would you venture to is your meaning that things become like by par-affirm that great objects have a portion only of taking of likeness, great by partaking of great-greatness transferred to them; or that small or ness, just and beautiful by partaking of justice equal objects are small or equal because they are and beauty, and so of other ideas?’ ‘Yes, that is only portions of smallness or equality?’ ‘Impos-my meaning.’ ‘And do you suppose the indi-sible.’ ‘But how can individuals participate in vidual to partake of the whole, or of the part?’
ideas, except in the ways which I have men-
‘Why not of the whole?’ said Socrates. ‘Be-tioned?’ ‘That is not an easy question to an-cause,’ said Parmenides, ‘in that case the whole, swer.’ ‘I should imagine the conception of ideas which is one, will become many. ’ ‘ N a y,’ said to arise as follows: you see great objects pervaded Socrates, ‘the whole may be like the day, which by a common form or idea of greatness, which is one and in many places: in this way the ideas you abstract.’ ‘That is quite true.’ ‘And sup-may be one and also many.’ ‘In the same sort of posing you embrace in one view the idea of great-way,’ said Parmenides, ‘as a sail, which is one, ness thus gained and the individuals which it may be a cover to many—that is your meaning?’
comprises, a further idea of greatness arises,
‘ Yes.’ ‘And would you say that each man is cov-which makes both great; and this may go on to ered by the whole sail, or by a part only?’ ‘By a infinity.’ Socrates replies that the ideas may be 11
thoughts in the mind only; in this case, the con-you cannot disprove the assertion without a long sequence would no longer follow. ‘But must not and laborious demonstration, which he may be the thought be of something which is the same unable or unwilling to follow. In the first place, in all and is the idea? And if the world partakes neither you nor any one who maintains the ex-in the ideas, and the ideas are thoughts, must istence of absolute ideas will affirm that they are not all things think? Or can thought be without subjective.’ ‘That would be a contradiction.’
thought?’ ‘I acknowledge the unmeaningness
‘ True; and therefore any relation in these ideas of this,’ says Socrates, ‘and would rather have is a relation which concerns themselves only; and recourse to the explanation that the ideas are the objects which are named after them, are rela-types in nature, and that other things partake of tive to one another only, and have nothing to do them by becoming like them.’ ‘But to become with the ideas themselves.’ ‘How do you like them is to be comprehended in the same mean?’ said Socrates. ‘I may illustrate my mean-idea; and the likeness of the idea and the indi-ing in this way: one of us has a slave; and the viduals implies another idea of likeness, and an-idea of a slave in the abstract is relative to the other without end.’ ‘Quite true.’ ‘The theory, idea of a master in the abstract; this correspon-then, of participation by likeness has to be given dence of ideas, however, has nothing to do with up. You have hardly yet, Socrates, found out the the particular relation of our slave to us.—Do you real difficulty of maintaining abstract ideas.’
see my meaning?’ ‘Perfectly.’ ‘And absolute
‘What difficulty?’ ‘The greatest of all perhaps knowledge in the same way corresponds to ab-is this: an opponent will argue that the ideas are solute truth and being, and particular knowledge not within the range of human knowledge; and to particular truth and being.’ Clearly. ’ ‘ A n d 12
there is a subjective knowledge which is of sub-to impart them will require superhuman ability; jective truth, having many kinds, general and there will always be a suspicion, either that they particular. But the ideas themselves are not sub-have no existence, or are beyond human knowl-jective, and therefore are not within our ken.’
edge.’ ‘There I agree with you,’ said Socrates.
‘They are not.’ ‘Then the beautiful and the
‘ Yet if these difficulties induce you to give up good in their own nature are unknown to us?’
universal ideas, what becomes of the mind? and
‘It would seem so.’ ‘There is a worse conse-where are the reasoning and reflecting powers?
quence yet.’ ‘What is that?’ ‘I think we must philosophy is at an end.’ ‘I certainly do not see admit that absolute knowledge is the most exact my way.’ ‘I think,’ said Parmenides, ‘that this knowledge, which we must therefore attribute arises out of your attempting to define abstrac-to God. But then see what follows: God, having tions, such as the good and the beautiful and the this exact knowledge, can have no knowledge of just, before you have had sufficient previous train-human things, as we have divided the two ing; I noticed your deficiency when you were talk-spheres, and forbidden any passing from one to ing with Aristoteles, the day before yesterday.
the other:—the gods have knowledge and author-Your enthusiasm is a wonderful gift; but I fear ity in their world only, as we have in ours.’ ‘Yet, that unless you discipline yourself by dialectic surely, to deprive God of knowledge is mon-while you are young, truth will elude your grasp.’
strous.’—’These are some of the difficulties
‘And what kind of discipline would you recom-which are involved in the assumption of abso-mend?’ ‘The training which you heard Zeno lute ideas; the learner will find them nearly im-practising; at the same time, I admire your say-possible to understand, and the teacher who has ing to him that you did not care to consider the 13
difficulty in reference to visible objects, but only to be a tremendous process, and one of which I in relation to ideas.’ ‘Yes; because I think that do not quite understand the nature,’ said in visible objects you may easily show any num-Socrates; ‘will you give me an example?’ ‘You ber of inconsistent consequences.’ ‘Yes; and you must not impose such a task on a man of my should consider, not only the consequences which years,’ said Parmenides. ‘Then will you, Zeno?’
follow from a given hypothesis, but the conse-
‘Let us rather,’ said Zeno, with a smile, ‘ask quences also which follow from the denial of the Parmenides, for the undertaking is a serious one, hypothesis. For example, what follows from the as he truly says; nor could I urge him to make assumption of the existence of the many, and the the attempt, except in a select audience of per-counter-argument of what follows from the de-sons who will understand him.’ The whole party nial of the existence of the many: and similarly joined in the request.
of likeness and unlikeness, motion, rest, genera-Here we have, first of all, an unmistakable at-tion, corruption, being and not being. And the tack made by the youthful Socrates on the para-consequences must include consequences to the doxes of Zeno. He perfectly understands their things supposed and to other things, in them-drift, and Zeno himself is supposed to admit this.
selves and in relation to one another, to individu-But they appear to him, as he says in the Philebus als whom you select, to the many, and to the all; also, to be rather truisms than paradoxes. For these must be drawn out both on the affirmative every one must acknowledge the obvious fact, and on the negative hypothesis,—that is, if you that the body being one has many members, and are to train yourself perfectly to the intelligence that, in a thousand ways, the like partakes of the of the truth.’ ‘What you are suggesting seems unlike, the many of the one. The real difficulty 14
begins with the relations of ideas in themselves, nomena. Still he affirms the existence of such whether of the one and many, or of any other ideas; and this is the position which is now in ideas, to one another and to the mind. But this turn submitted to the criticisms of Parmenides.
was a problem which the Eleatic philosophers To appreciate truly the character of these criti-had never considered; their thoughts had not cisms, we must remember the place held by gone beyond the contradictions of matter, mo-Parmenides in the history of Greek philosophy. He tion, space, and the like.
is the founder of idealism, and also of dialectic, or, in It was no wonder that Parmenides and Zeno modern phraseology, of metaphysics and logic should hear the novel speculations of Socrates (Theaet., Soph.). Like Plato, he is struggling after with mixed feelings of admiration and displea-something wider and deeper than satisfied the con-sure. He was going out of the received circle of temporary Pythagoreans. And Plato with a true in-disputation into a region in which they could stinct recognizes him as his spiritual father, whom hardly follow him. From the crude idea of Being he ‘revered and honoured more than all other phi-in the abstract, he was about to proceed to uni-losophers together.’ He may be supposed to have versals or general notions. There is no contradic-thought more than he said, or was able to express.
tion in material things partaking of the ideas of And, although he could not, as a matter of fact, have one and many; neither is there any contradic-criticized the ideas of Plato without an anachronism, tion in the ideas of one and many, like and un-the criticism is appropriately placed in the mouth like, in themselves. But the contradiction arises of the founder of the ideal philosophy.
when we attempt to conceive ideas in their There was probably a time in the life of Plato connexion, or to ascertain their relation to phe-when the ethical teaching of Socrates came into 15
conflict with the metaphysical theories of the take a firmer hold of him, and then he will de-earlier philosophers, and he sought to supple-spise neither great things nor small, and he will ment the one by the other. The older philosophers think less of the opinions of mankind (compare were great and awful; and they had the charm Soph.). Here is lightly touched one of the most of antiquity. Something which found a response familiar principles of modern philosophy, that in in his own mind seemed to have been lost as well the meanest operations of nature, as well as in as gained in the Socratic dialectic. He felt no in-the noblest, in mud and filth, as well as in the congruity in the veteran Parmenides correcting sun and stars, great truths are contained. At the the youthful Socrates. Two points in his criticism same time, we may note also the transition in are especially deserving of notice. First of all, the mind of Plato, to which Aristotle alludes Parmenides tries him by the test of consistency.
(Met.), when, as he says, he transferred the Socrates is willing to assume ideas or principles Socratic universal of ethics to the whole of na-of the just, the beautiful, the good, and to ex-ture.
tend them to man (compare Phaedo); but he is The other criticism of Parmenides on Socrates reluctant to admit that there are general ideas attributes to him a want of practice in dialectic.
of hair, mud, filth, etc. There is an ethical univer-He has observed this deficiency in him when talk-sal or idea, but is there also a universal of phys-ing to Aristoteles on a previous occasion. Plato ics?—of the meanest things in the world as well seems to imply that there was something more as of the greatest? Parmenides rebukes this want in the dialectic of Zeno than in the mere interro-of consistency in Socrates, which he attributes gation of Socrates. Here, again, he may perhaps to his youth. As he grows older, philosophy will be describing the process which his own mind 16
went through when he first became more inti-method which Socrates had heard Zeno practise mately acquainted, whether at Megara or else-in the days of his youth (compare Soph.).
where, with the Eleatic and Megarian philoso-The discussion of Socrates with Parmenides is phers. Still, Parmenides does not deny to Socrates one of the most remarkable passages in Plato.
the credit of having gone beyond them in seek-Few writers have ever been able to anticipate ing to apply the paradoxes of Zeno to ideas; and
‘the criticism of the morrow’ on their favourite this is the application which he himself makes of notions. But Plato may here be said to anticipate them in the latter part of the dialogue. He then the judgment not only of the morrow, but of all proceeds to explain to him the sort of mental after- ages on the Platonic Ideas. For in some gymnastic which he should practise. He should points he touches questions which have not yet consider not only what would follow from a given received their solution in modern philosophy.
hypothesis, but what would follow from the de-The first difficulty which Parmenides raises re-nial of it, to that which is the subject of the hy-specting the Platonic ideas relates to the man-pothesis, and to all other things. There is no trace ner in which individuals are connected with them.
in the Memorabilia of Xenophon of any such Do they participate in the ideas, or do they method being attributed to Socrates; nor is the merely resemble them? Parmenides shows that dialectic here spoken of that ‘favourite method’
objections may be urged against either of these of proceeding by regular divisions, which is de-modes of conceiving the connection. Things are scribed in the Phaedrus and Philebus, and of little by partaking of littleness, great by partak-which examples are given in the Politicus and in ing of greatness, and the like. But they cannot the Sophist. It is expressly spoken of as the partake of a part of greatness, for that will not 17
make them great, etc.; nor can each object of light, which is indeed the true answer ‘that monopolise the whole. The only answer to this the ideas are in our minds only.’ Neither realis, that ‘partaking’is a figure of speech, really ism is the truth, nor nominalism is the truth, but corresponding to the processes which a later logic conceptualism; and conceptualism or any other designates by the terms ‘abstraction’ and ‘gen-psychological theory falls very far short of the eralization.’ When we have described accurately infinite subtlety of language and thought.
the methods or forms which the mind employs, But the realism of ancient philosophy will not we cannot further criticize them; at least we can admit of this answer, which is repelled by only criticize them with reference to their fitness Parmenides with another truth or half-truth of as instruments of thought to express facts.
later philosophy, ‘Every subject or subjective Socrates attempts to support his view of the must have an object.’ Here is the great though ideas by the parallel of the day, which is one and unconscious truth (shall we say?) or error, which in many places; but he is easily driven from his underlay the early Greek philosophy. ‘Ideas must position by a counter illustration of Parmenides, have a real existence;’ they are not mere forms who compares the idea of greatness to a sail. He or opinions, which may be changed arbitrarily truly explains to Socrates that he has attained by individuals. But the early Greek philosopher the conception of ideas by a process of generali-never clearly saw that true ideas were only uni-zation. At the same time, he points out a diffi-versal facts, and that there might be error in culty, which appears to be involved—viz. that the universals as well as in particulars.
process of generalization will go on to infinity.
Socrates makes one more attempt to defend Socrates meets the supposed difficulty by a flash the Platonic Ideas by representing them as para-18
digms; this is again answered by the men? This is the difficulty of philosophy in all
‘argumentum ad infinitum.’ We may remark, ages: How can we get beyond the circle of our in passing, that the process which is thus de-own ideas, or how, remaining within them, can scribed has no real existence. The mind, after we have any criterion of a truth beyond and in-having obtained a general idea, does not really dependent of them? Parmenides draws out this go on to form another which includes that, and difficulty with great clearness. According to him, all the individuals contained under it, and another there are not only one but two chasms: the first, and another without end. The difficulty belongs between individuals and the ideas which have a in fact to the Megarian age of philosophy, and is common name; the second, between the ideas due to their illogical logic, and to the general ig-in us and the ideas absolute. The first of these norance of the ancients respecting the part two difficulties mankind, as we may say, a little played by language in the process of thought.
parodying the language of the Philebus, have No such perplexity could ever trouble a modern long agreed to treat as obsolete; the second re-metaphysician, any more than the fallacy of mains a difficulty for us as well as for the Greeks
‘calvus’ or ‘acervus,’ or of ‘Achilles and the of the fourth century before Christ, and is the tortoise.’ These ‘surds’ of metaphysics ought stumblingblock of Kant’s Kritik, and of the to occasion no more difficulty in speculation than Hamiltonian adaptation of Kant, as well as of the a perpetually recurring fraction in arithmetic.
Platonic ideas. It has been said that ‘you cannot It is otherwise with the objection which follows: criticize Revelation.’ ‘Then how do you know How are we to bridge the chasm between hu-what is Revelation, or that there is one at all,’ is man truth and absolute truth, between gods and the immediate rejoinder—’You know nothing of 19
things in themselves.’ ‘Then how do you know arise from the denial of universals, similar to that that there are things in themselves?’ In some which arose in the last century from Hume’s respects, the difficulty pressed harder upon the denial of our ideas of cause and effect. Men do Greek than upon ourselves. For conceiving of God not at first recognize that thought, like digestion, more under the attribute of knowledge than we will go on much the same, notwithstanding any do, he was more under the necessity of separat-theories which may be entertained respecting ing the divine from the human, as two spheres the nature of the process. Parmenides attributes which had no communication with one another.
the difficulties in which Socrates is involved to a It is remarkable that Plato, speaking by the want of comprehensiveness in his mode of rea-mouth of Parmenides, does not treat even this soning; he should consider every question on the second class of difficulties as hopeless or in-negative as well as the positive hypothesis, with soluble. He says only that they cannot be ex-reference to the consequences which flow from plained without a long and laborious demonstra-the denial as well as from the assertion of a given tion: ‘The teacher will require superhuman abil-statement.
ity, and the learner will be hard of understand-The argument which follows is the most singu-ing.’ But an attempt must be made to find an lar in Plato. It appears to be an imitation, or answer to them; for, as Socrates and Parmenides parody, of the Zenonian dialectic, just as the both admit, the denial of abstract ideas is the speeches in the Phaedrus are an imitation of the destruction of the mind. We can easily imagine style of Lysias, or as the derivations in the that among the Greek schools of philosophy in Cratylus or the fallacies of the Euthydemus are a the fourth century before Christ a panic might parody of some contemporary Sophist. The in-20
terlocutor is not supposed, as in most of the other as sacred to us, as the notions of One or Being Platonic dialogues, to take a living part in the were to an ancient Eleatic. ‘If God is, what fol-argument; he is only required to say ‘Yes’ and lows? If God is not, what follows?’ Or again: If
‘No’ in the right places. A hint has been already God is or is not the world; or if God is or is not given that the paradoxes of Zeno admitted of a many, or has or has not parts, or is or is not in higher application. This hint is the thread by the world, or in time; or is or is not finite or infi-which Plato connects the two parts of the dia-nite. Or if the world is or is not; or has or has not logue.
a beginning or end; or is or is not infinite, or The paradoxes of Parmenides seem trivial to infinitely divisible. Or again: if God is or is not us, because the words to which they relate have identical with his laws; or if man is or is not iden-become trivial; their true nature as abstract terms tical with the laws of nature. We can easily see is perfectly understood by us, and we are inclined that here are many subjects for thought, and that to regard the treatment of them in Plato as a from these and similar hypotheses questions of mere straw-splitting, or legerdemain of words.
great interest might arise. And we also remark, Yet there was a power in them which fascinated that the conclusions derived from either of the the Neoplatonists for centuries afterwards. Some-two alternative propositions might be equally thing that they found in them, or brought to impossible and contradictory.
them—some echo or anticipation of a great truth When we ask what is the object of these para-or error, exercised a wonderful influence over doxes, some have answered that they are a mere their minds. To do the Parmenides justice, we logical puzzle, while others have seen in them should imagine similar aporiai raised on themes an Hegelian propaedeutic of the doctrine of Ideas.