Works In Progress

Negative Predication in Parmenides’ Third Antinomy

The focus of this paper is the second part of the Parmenides. Parmenides, in this part of the dialogue, demonstrates a form of dialectical training that would enable Socrates to grasp the truth with authority (Prm. 136b6-c5; cf. 135d3-6). When this happens, Socrates can save the theory of Forms from the criticisms of the dialogue’s first part (Prm. 135b5-c4). How does Parmenides’ Third Antinomy (Prm. 160b-164b) helps Socrates achieve this end? I argue that this section of argumentation distinguishes two meanings or significations (sēmeion) of the phrase mē estin, “is not.” On the first, if something is not, then it has no share of being at all. All of the being has been knocked out of it. On the second, if something is not, this means only that it is not identical with the nature of being, with being itself. I show that the second meaning marks the beginning of an analysis of not-being—of negative predication—that is central to understanding the development of Plato’s thought both in and after the Parmenides. For instance, it is necessary for an account of true speech—speaking truly requires saying of things that are both how they are and how they are not. Parmenides’ Third Antinomy begins to show how to accomplish the latter.

Proclus and Parmenides’ Likeness Regress

This paper concerns 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 sensible things as a relation of “resemblance” (eikōn), “likeness” (homoios), and “modeling” (eikazon). The response, credited to the fifth-century CE Neoplatonist Proclus, claims that Parmenides misconstrues the relation between the Forms and sensible things: Parmenides describes the relation as symmetrical, when in fact it is asymmetrical. There are different versions of this general charge in the literature. Proclus’ particular version, however, has not been discussed in detail—it is only a single paragraph of the nearly twelve-page discussion that ever receives consideration. The result is a misunderstanding of Proclus’ response to Parmenides’ criticism, a misunderstanding that I aim to correct. The correction is not just of historical interest, though. Proclus’ response is similar in important ways to a different line of response found in the literature: that Socrates is confused about relations, and therefore that the Form of Likeness and other relational Forms should be removed from Plato’s ontology. I show that even if Socrates is confused about relations, it is not necessary to remove the Form of Likeness. Rather, as Proclus proposes, we can redefine its role and thereby rescue Socrates’ third account of participation.

Life and Lifeforms in Early Greek Atomism

This paper is a collaboration with Caterina Pellò. Our project asks how, if at all, do the Atomists distinguish different kinds of living things? The question is challenging because the Atomists claim that plants are just animals in the ground. In addition, the Atomists claim that all animals—including plants—possess reason and understanding. We explain these claims by arguing, first, that that the Atomists’ theory of the soul does not offer a criterion that sharply separates different kinds of living things, as well as living things from non-living things. Second, we show that the Atomists equate thought, sensation, and soul, and therefore make little or no distinction between being ensouled, perceiving, and thinking—which in turn challenges distinctions between plants, animals, and humans. Finally, we examine the surviving evidence of the Atomists’ embryology, arguing that the Atomists equate different kinds of living things as products of the same generative process and attribute to them similar physical and mental capacities.

Speech, Thought, and the Interweaving of Forms

There is an intimate connection between speech and thought for Plato. In fact, they are essentially the same thing (Soph. 263e; cf. 264a-b, Tht. 189e-190a). There is also an important connection between speech and thought, on the one hand, and the Forms, on the other (Prm. 134e-135c). Specifically, all speech and thought depends on the interweaving of Forms with each other (Soph. 259e). Why is the interweaving of Forms with each other necessary for all speech and thought? Some scholars offer a “semantic answer” to this question, proposing that all speech and thought is about or “contains” Forms. Yet this approach cannot be correct. I offer an alternative answer that focuses on the metaphysical requirements for speech and thought. Briefly, my answer centers on the structuring role that some Forms play in the intelligible and sensible realms. If the structuring Forms were not woven together with each other, then there would be no objects of speech and thought. Indeed, there would not be anything at all.