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.

Revisiting Becoming-Is-Being

This paper concerns the Gigantomachia in the Sophist (245e-249d). Here I explore the possibility of a harmony between two seemingly at-odds readings of the passage, the “Becoming-Is-Being” reading (advanced chiefly by Fiona Leigh) and what I call the “Moved-And-At Rest” reading (recently advanced by Michael Wiitala). The former argues that the lesson of the Gigantomachia is that at least some changing things are part of the realm of being, specifically souls and the knowing-activity proper to them; the latter argues that Forms are moved, in the sense of being affected, through their participation in other Forms (for instance, Being, Identity, and Difference). Wiitala regards his reading as incompatible with Leigh’s, but I am not convinced. The crux of my argument is that because both readings consider the dunamis proposal (Sph. 247d-e) as at least a mark of being and claim that either Plato endorses it or the gods must accept it, both readings are committed to at least some things, initially relegated to the realm of becoming, are elevated to the realm of being.

Democritus on the Non-necessity of Children

This paper engages with the extant fragments and testimonies where Democritus argues for the non-necessity of having children, because of the many unpleasantnesses that children bring and that children distract from more important matters (LM 27 D388; cf. LM 27 D392-395). The fragments together raise a several interpretive questions. For my purposes, there are three general questions to be addressed: first, why, in Democritus’ view, is having children not a necessity—what are the unpleasantnesses (for instance, what are the sources of struggle and anxiety, why is failure in raising a child the cause of a pain that surpasses any other pain) and “more important matters”? Second, how does Democritus’ stance on children fit into his larger ethical outlook (for example, how is it related to the telos, the goal or end of life, euthumia or euestō, cheerfulness or well-being)? Third, what should be made of Democritus’ stance on children in relation to, say, Aristotle, for whom having a family—which includes having children—and a beautiful family at that, is necessary for eudaimonia (NE I.8)?

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