Works In Progress

Negative Predication in Parmenides 161e-162b

This paper defends emendations proposed by Shorey (1891) to a complex and difficult passage in the second part of the Parmenides: 161e3-162b8. The argument is supposed to show why the-One-that-is-not must partake somehow of being. I argue that the emendations should be retained for three reasons. First, I show that the larger context in which the argument appears concerns the meaning or signification of the phrase mē estin, “is not.” This suggests that we should learn something about different meanings of the phrase in this section of the dialogue. Second, focusing on the argument itself, I offer an interpretation that reveals the important role negative predication plays in distinguishing various ways of being. Third, I situate my interpretation within the broader context of the Parmenides. I show how my interpretation aligns with the explicit purpose for which Parmenides’ undertook to demonstrate a method of training in dialectical argument for the young Socrates: to help him see his way through the difficulties raised in the dialogue’s first part.

Proclus and Parmenides’ Likeness Regress

This paper focuses on a well-known response to Parmenides’ criticism of Socrates’ third account of participation (Prm. 132d1-133a7), an account that describes the relation between the Forms and their participants as a relation of “resemblance” (eikōn), “likeness” (homoios), and “modeling” (eikazon). The response is found in the fifth-century CE Neoplatonist Proclus’ commentary on the Parmenides, as well as later authors. Proclus claims that Parmenides misconstrues the relation between the Forms and their participants: Parmenides describes the relation as symmetrical, when in fact it is asymmetrical. Some scholars still champion this general response, though they differ in their explanations of the asymmetry between the Forms and their participants. Proclus’ own explanation, however, has been misunderstood, and I aim to correct this. The correction is not just of historical interest, though. It turns out that Proclus’ explanation has implications for an altogether different response to Parmenides’ criticism: that Socrates is confused about relations, and therefore that the Form of Likeness—and perhaps other relational Forms too—should not be included in Plato’s ontology. I show that even if Socrates is confused about relations, it is not necessary to expunge the Form of Likeness. Rather, as Proclus himself does, we can redefine its role and thereby rescue Socrates’ third account of participation.