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Parmenides




  ― 3 ―

Lecture 2 (15th July 1948)

The argument starts off from an account of Zeno's criticism of the doctrine that things are “a many”. Zeno contended this leads to contradictory results and incidentally remarks that he was trying to give the partisans of the many as good as they give - the point being that they had tried to show that Eleaticism led to absurdities - he in his turn was showing that Pythagoreanism led to just as great absurdities. It is a general feature of Rationalist criticism to dub views self-contradictory or self-refuting as against which the true view would be held to be self-establishing, ie., you get a division between the certain and the absurd taking the place of the empirical division between true and false and you'll notice that in the somewhat obscure and partially confused account that Socrates gives of method in the Phaedo the same points are made; i.e., the question is raised whether hypotheses do or do not lead to contradictory consequences (contradict one another); i.e., rationalistic refutation as against the empirical refutation which consists of showing that an hypothesis has consequences that contradict fact or what is assessed as fact by the persons arguing independently of the hypothesis and not as a consequence of it - which of course is the actual way in which Socrates proceeds in the dialogues and which is the account of the Socratic method presented by Burnet in Thales to Plato. It does not really establish Eleaticism if Zeno shows absurdities in the doctrine of multiplicity - just to set one group of arguments against another. The criticism is not complete until the unsoundness of one set of arguments has been shown and of course if we reject the notion of absurdity it would mean showing one of the conflicting hypotheses false because it has false consequences and that is connected again with the view that in fact both Pythagoreanism (Socraticism) and Eleaticism are false and untenable because they are both doctrines of ultimates and the real outcome is that there are no ultimates, either one or many - that there are only empirical or historical things, i.e., no irreducible or absolute realities - no “things-in-themselves” or no limits and hence it is suggested that that is really what Gorgias shows in supporting his thesis “There are none”, namely, no ultimate reality as contrasted with empirical reality though again that doesn't commit us to the sophistic conclusion that empirical reality is mind-dependent - that is only to treat mind as an absolute in the objectionable way.

One way in which the point could be put is if you formulate a notion by combining incompatible elements. For example where XeY:

YaZ

then XYaZ

XeZ (argument depends on XiY)

XeZ

then XYeZ

Unit: (indivisible magnitude) an incompatible … [?]


  ― 4 ―
It is perfectly easy to show many units coalesce into one but can criticise the One in the same way.

Now the particular arguments of Zeno on the many that is mentioned here is that “if things are many they must be both like and unlike”. What does this mean? If we are going to treat that as involving a contradiction then we have to be clear what is meant by “like” and “unlike”. In ordinary discussion we find no difficulty in saying that two things are both like and unlike - namely in the sense they have some characters in common and another character(s) in which they differ.

(1) AaX

BaX

(2) AaY

BeY

The point rather is that like and unlike are incomplete expressions. We should say A and B are alike in being X but are unlike in the fact that only one of them is Y. The general statement A is like B ennumeration of the term (A or B) without any predicate yet having been applied to it. However, Zeno's argument has more force than this - it is directed against the Pythagorean units each of which was just one or has unity as its whole character so that we couldn't distinguish one unit from another - would have to say that they were alike in all respects. On the other hand, if there are two of them we must be able to show some difference between them - they must be unlike if we are to say this is unit X and this is unit Y. Trouble is caused then because it isn't a question of respects in which things can resemble and differ from another but of total natures, of what a thing just is, and of course we get the same difficulty with any rationalistic theory. In Thales, e.g., if two things both just water - water the true substance or constitution then you can't find any difference between one and the other - in other words what we may call “substatialism” is a form of rationalism and is open to the general objections to rationalism. Now, it is partly to escape such difficulties that the later Pythagoreans and Socrates following them made the division between empirical and rational - that later Pythagoreans replaced the doctrine that things are numbers with the doctrine that things are like (approach) numbers - that what is just one or just six stands above experience (history) and things are to be described according as they approach one or other of these standards and Socrates adds to those mathematical standards (including the just equal) such standards as the just beautiful - aesthetic and moral standards - and thus we get the doctrine of forms - a doctrine which separates the empirical or historical from the unhistorial or absolute but in the same way as there is a difficulty (impossibility) of distinguisihing and relating what a thing absoutely and essentially is and what it relatively or accidentally is so there is the difficulty (impossibility) of distinguisihg or relating the two different realms - the realm of the historical


  ― 5 ―
and the realm of the unhistorical (becoming and being) - it is that difficulty that Socrates is vainly trying overcome in the Phaedo with the doctrine of participation and its that attempt that is now being shown up in Parmenides. What is being shown is that you don't reduce your difficulties by formulating those two realms. Empirically speaking there is no difficulty in saying A and B both like and unlike when we mean in different respects. It would be impossible to say things like and unlike in the same respect but this point is obscured by Socrates when he argues that things could not partake of one another because if we are dealing with the same respect there would be the same opposition whether we are concerned with particular examples, A and B, or with general possibilities, a question of comparability or otherwise of general characteristics. No difference in either case and if it is a question of different respects, i.e., likeness in respect of X no opposition to likeness in respect of Y and in fact the two cases are not distinct at all but both can be understood only empirically.

N.B. Socrates difficulties in Phaedo with relations in general (smaller and greater).




  ― 6 ―

Lecture 3 (22nd July 1948)

And this is linked up with the Socratic treatment of relations or with the fact that in spite of the Euthyphro he constantly uses relational predicates as if they were on the same footing as qualitative predicates and especially such predicates as great and small i nthe argument on generation from opposites and again in the final argument, an example which crops up again in the Parmenides and whereas there might be some force in speaking of beauty itself, or goodness itself, it is a very different matter to speak of greatness itself or smallness itself - these being unintelligible unless you get the other term of the relation. But of course if Socrates were to complete these expressions, if he were to make it a question not of being great as such but of being great in comparison with Simmias he couldn't very easily say that that was something that had its reality apart from particulars - or if we take his two important examples Beauty and Equality we could see some force in speaking of being beautiful or even the beautiful in itself which we couldn't see in speaking of the Equal itself - that which is just equal - because equality implies two things and even if we were to admit that never in sense-experience do we encounter things that are absolutely equal still the notion of absolute equality would be a notion of two things absolutely equal and couldn't be said to be conceivable apart from particulars and thus Socrates' use of relational examples actually weakens his case - gives something that obviously can't be thought about apart from particulars - though it can be said that even in the case of qualities his position will not hold - that it is impossible to think of absolute beauty except by thinking of something that is beautiful or of absolute humanity except by thinking of someone who is a man. The doctrine of the Universal apart from the particular is rendered plausible by the fact that there is no single particular which we have to think of in order to think of the universal or the kind and that leads us to the mistaken conclusion that we can think of them apart from all particulars.

Fallacy of composition:

Ai(non-X)

Ai(non-Y)

does not give:

Ai(non-X)(non-Y)

N.B. valid:

Aa(non-X)

Aa(non-Y)

Aa…

Aa(non-X)(non-Y)…

The confusion regarding relations and qualities is facilitated by the whole theory of Forms which can be said to give a relational account of all qualities - to treat being beautiful as partaking of the form beauty or coming under the form beauty and this is connected with the line of argument against Socrates that in the very attempt to speak of forms as entities apart from particulars he is making them particulars -


  ― 7 ―
he is making the particular and the form the two terms of a relation - two terms both required for the relation and he is making the relation indistinguishable from those relations which he must admit to exist between two particulars, e.g., Socrates is smaller than Simmias - something whose truth would seem to be wholly in the realm of particulars or becoming (sense-perception) - certainty not accounted for by saying that there is such a thing as smallness or more accurately comparative smallness.

Another way of expressing this criticism is to say that if there are to be two terms, Particular and Form, then each of these things must have characters of its own independent of the relation - otherwise nothing to enter into the relation and therefore Socrates is wrong in saying tha the particular has its whole character, is entirely determined by this relation. But if we admit that the particular has a character of its own apart from the form then we are rejecting the theory of forms as an explanation of predication or of the characters of things and when at the same time we treat the form as having characters of its own we are treating it as a particular and the whole theory of forms breaks down.

The position is that even in speaking of Forms we are speaking of them as if they were particulars - objects of experience having various characters like objects of sight and sound and in the same way the relations which Socrates puts up as holding between particulars and forms are themselves relations found in sense-experience. When in particular we speak of various beings having a share in something we are speaking of a matter of observation - we can see the partaker and the partaken of and we can see the partaking going on and what Parmenides is largely concerned to do in the opening part of the dialogue is to take the literal meaning of the Socratic formulations of the relations between particulars and forms and show that this cannot be what Socrates requires forhis theory because his theory requires a relation between two things on different levels (orders of beings) and no relation we are acquainted with can fulfil this requirement because all relations we are acquainted with are relations among particulars and themselves matters of observation just as particulars e.g., “copying” on which Taylor regards the criticism of Parmenides as unsound because it turns similarly on the question of likeness between copy and original and leaves the priority of the original - but to that we can say (i) that the copy or original has likeness with whatever consequences that involves; (ii) copying is a process we know empirically - we understand what we mean by one perceptible picture


  ― 8 ―
is a copy of another perceptible picture but doesn't help us to understand what is meant by saying that a perceptible particular is a copy of an imperceptible universal. Socrates has in fact to say that partaking, copying and so forth don't quite express his meaning - none of these empirical relations is the relation between the empirical and the rational entity which means then that Socrates is just not able to state his theory.




  ― 9 ―

Lecture 4 (27th July 1948)

The particular ways in which Parmenides brings out the weaknesses of the Socratic position are not all important in themselves but are at least important in showing that Socrates' position can't be coherently stated. If you take the original position on the question whether all things have forms or not you can see in the Socratic uncertainty the weakness in the doctrine of Forms, i.e., if simply a question of accounting for predication clearly the theory would apply to everything and those who say Socrates could easily have said this (thus avoiding the inconsistency) don't explain why he should have fallen into the inconsistency and it should be noticed that the things whose participation or non-participation in forms is in question are already “kinds”, i.e., the question is whether Man or Fire or Water is a form - again whether Air, Mud or Dirt have forms where it must be clearly understood that the so-called particulars in these cases have characters of their own so that the theory of Forms is not being offered as the solution of the problem of predication but as involving something additional - as involving some kind of value or worth so that worthless things like mud are not accorded a form though they have a character. These things however worthless they are taken to be must be just something or just nothing and so it is not simply in the interests of precision that the Forms are introduced or it is not precision that sensible things lack. Unless we were attaching some ethical or pseudo-ethical character and not instead a logical character to the Forms we would see that our logical problem was solved by not going beyond particulars - it is only because they are taken as in some sense higher that forms are spoken of as separate from particulars. That is, if not separate - if concerned just with the character things have then no sense in speaking of A Form - on the other hand if we do speak of A Form we are speaking of it as a particular something so even then we don't get beyond particulars.

N.B. In Phaedo oscillation between accidental and essential participation.

Now similar points come out in connection with the question of “sharing”, especially whether each particular has the whole of the form in it or has only a part of the form in it - when in ordinary speech we refer to participation we treat the thing partaken of as being broken into parts such that each partaker has a different part and that leaves the problem how having different parts of the same thing can involve - be what is meant by “having the same character” or “being alike”.

The position is similar to the situation in Stout's theory of universals,


  ― 10 ―
namely that qualities of particular things are particular so that if two particular things - e.g., a curtain and a carpet - are red then each has its own redness and the question is then how it comes about that we are able to say two things have a common character at all. Stout says the two characters have the same kind, belong to the distributive unity of red and that is why we seem to be able to attach the same predicate to the things though actually each has its own different character. (Cf., F. P. Ramsey, “Foundations of Mathematics” .)

The main lines of criticism are these: we seem only to have pushed the difficulty back a step - just as difficult for two qualities to be of the same kind as for two things to be of the same quality. Stout doesn't explain how we attach to the two things exactly the same predicate - how we can say each of them has a quality of the kind red without having to break up having a quality of the kind red into a number of different instances. A second difficulty of the distributive unity is this - the suggestion that we know the kind red as red1, red2, red3… and so on - the objection to all Nominalist or neo-nominalist doctrines that unless we have recognised the quality independently of the distributive unity we should never have been able to form this distributive unity - should never have known what terms to take together in this unity - applies exactly to the Berkeleyan theory of Universality. Or, to put it otherwise, that unless we had known that each of two things has a certain quality we should never have known that they resembled each other, e.g., similarity not prior to quality. In fact it might be said that we come to distinguish qualities sharply and especially to find names for them more in terms of differences than in terms of resemblances - by seeing a thing stands out from ints surroundings - by having a quality which they have not - than by seeing that in the ordinary way of putting [?] things a certain quality reappears or is repeated in a number of instances. I would say in fact that when Stout contends that the qualities of particular things are particular he doesn't show us what he means by calling one set of these things entities things and the other set qualities, and thus doesn't show how particular things may not be of the same kind without having to have an intermediate class of qualities distributed among them in the same way as he says that qualities can be of the same kind without themselves having qualities throught the medium of which they are brought under the kind; i.e., if he


  ― 11 ―
can avoid the regress at the stage of the qualities could equally have stopped it at the things without introducing what he calls particular qualities at all - on the other hand, if he takes this first step he will have to go on taking similar steps and there will always be something between whatever point he has arrived at and the generic unity or kind and that sort of difficulty comes out in the further part of Parmenides' criticism concerning likeness.

We can say that there is a sense in which the redness of the carpet is different from the redness of the curtain - the sense in which the redness of the carpet means the curtain's being red which is just a way of referring to the proposition “The curtain is red” and the state of affairs the curtain's being red is a different state of affairs from the carpet's being red. But to assert that is not in the least to assert that the curtain has red1, the carpet red2 - the two situations are different though they are both occurrences of redness - in that sense we could talk of the quality as a thing, i.e., could talk of “the carpet's being red” as a thing - could make that the subject of a proposition just as the carpet is the subject of a proposition, but this still doesn't mean that there are a number of different rednesses which we can call particular. It really means that there is no logical distinction between things and propositions, i.e., in what we call a thing there is implied the same distinction of place and character that is explicit in the proposition or, as I have put it, when we are talking of things we are talking of sorts of things.




  ― 12 ―

Lecture 5 (5th August 1948)

The difficulty about saying that the carpet and curtain have the same quality red is that this seems to imply on the other side of the Parmenidean dilemma a certain entity, the quality red which is completely in several places at the same time. That of course is the result of treating a quality as a thing and it is a position that is unavoidable if we speak about a form which is clearly meant to be a distinct entity - which in fact on the Socratic view is the only real entity. That of course leads Socrates into similar difficulties at the next stage - the Forms being instances or particulars of Reality or “real being” and the difficulty being to show that anything but the supreme Form “real being” exists at all - the conclusion to which the Eleatics would want to force him. So the Eleatic criticism applies alike to the many particulars which are said to come under a given form and the many forms which on the same showing would come under “formality” or “real being”. Now the question is if we didn't treat the quality as a thing which could either be broken up into separate pieces for the separate things which were said to have the quality with the consequence that they had nothing in common or could be said to be wholly in each particular with the consequence that the particulars would have to be identical or else it would be again a different things that would be embodied in each of them. The question is what we can treat it as being and the answer or part of the answer is that we can no more treat the thing as an independent and self-explanatory category, or a something that can stand by itself, than we can so treat the quality - that thing and quality amount to subject and predicate and there are different functions of the same entity the term or sort of thing or otherwise that instead of having on the one hand things and on the other hand qualities (two classes we could never get together again once we had separated them) we have complex situations in which place and character respectively are alwys themselves complex and embody a similar distinction. Thus (cf., “The Meaning of Good” ) the term red thing and the term red are the same term - the use of the expression thing meaning merely we are thinking of it as a subject, that is as locating something while when we use red simply this usually means that we are thinking of it as a predicate or describing something - but admitting that difference of emphasis the term in either case means “processes of a certain kind going on” and without including kind or generality in any term we couldn't have significance - couldn't say anything at all. Now that means that in recognising one situation we are recognising kind or being of a certain kind and we don't have to look for repetition or resemblance in order to recognise the kind or more correctly we have repetition already in the form of continuance - we


  ― 13 ―
have phases of a process (though the division may be rather arbitrary and in no case implies units) but still a process that could be divided into P1, P2, P3 etc., such that R in P1 passes into R in P2 and that into R in P3 and so without any question of a different red we do have this repetition - we do have a class of phases of the process - phases if we like which can be said to resemble one another but to suggest we started with comparison [?] would be to suggest that we have a unit phase - a phase of no duration - out of which the whole process can be built up, i.e., would be to fall into the Pythagorean error.

This is connected with the sort of question raised by Xenophanes concerning identification - how can we ever know that we meet the same person again - or see the same sum on two different occasions - how could we ever know that it is the same sun on two different occasions - how could we even know that it is the same sun before and after going behind a cloud and of course it must be admitted that we do make false identifications, e.g., conjuring depends on the fact that people tend to identify whatever went behind an obstacle with whatever comes out on the other side. But there is no reason for thinking that we never make true identifications or that we could have any coherent experience at all without recognising this sort of identity - without recognising the continued existence of what we have not continuously observed - but, of course, what enables us to do this is the recognition of the continuous existence of something we do continuously observe and this recognition of continuous existence is part of the recognition of fact or objective activity, in any way whatever. Now within this continuity we have resemblance but resemblance is still a notion subsequent to continued existence - you could say, I think, that for Alexander continuity and existence are the same thing and at the same time you might say that cyclic continuity or the continuance of a certain activity through phases of differing activities enables us to form the conception of interrupted continuity and thus to think that a thing subsequently observed not merely resembles a thing previously observed but is the same thing. But it is the same thing not in having an essential thinghood or inner substance which it preserves throughout a period (its “history”) but as being the same sort of thing - as maintaining the same character in continuous process so that in one sense Person X today is not the same as Person X yesterday namely that the X processes that we now observe actually different from the X processes we then observed but in another sense it is the same person namely there is an X process of which the X processes yesterday and the X processes today are parts or phases. Now Heraclitus would argue that this maintenance of character is always cyclical, that it is through ups and downs like that of sleeping and waking, that any persistent thing persists but also that in connection with each phase of the


  ― 14 ―
cycle there are cycles, that a person keeps awake or keeps normally [?] active by continuous interchange with his surroundings and it is in terms of such exchanges - in terms of law or formula of such cycles that we can speak of existence and character.

Question of Existence - bound up with question of kind (character). Presentation of some special character (interests). Stout - principal error situation of categorical names [?]. (Kind and existence.)




  ― 15 ―
If two orders of being (“reality”) then at least real difference. Question of third order of being; if so, no connection; but, if over-all reality admitted, different orders unnecessary.

Burnet takes Third Man argument to be an obscure way of expressing this criticism.

Lecture 6 (9th September 1948)

If we take the form as a standard and the particular as something that approaches this standard, that comes up to the standard to a greater or less extent then we are compelled to form the notion of something that fully comes up to the standard - of a perfect particular as contrasted with the imperfect particular on the one hand and the perfect form on the other hand - of an intelligible particular coming between the sensible particular and the intelligible form.

(Question of 2nd segment of the divided line; but should be a difficulty for the Socratic doctrine.)

And if we don't take this as breaking down the original distinction then we are involved in further difficulties - the difficulties in finding the relation between forms and intelligible particulars on the one hand and intelligible particulars and sensible particulars on the other hand without having to insert in each case some intermediate entity and so on indefinitely. Another way of putting it is that what intervenes of forms the connecting link between form and particular is the proposition - that between the particular Socrates and the universal man you have the notion of being a man which is applied to Socrates and others - you have the propositional function “X is a man” (or the class of propositions — is a man) and this would be the Third Man that these Eleatic critics are, however obscurely, referring to. Or putting it otherwise unless the proposition “Socrates is a man” shows that Socrates and man are terms of exactly the same order it would be unintelligible to say Socrates is a man - the notion of something having the human character would be one that we had to form unless we were to treat forms and particulars as occurring in different universes but that would not be a notion that we could understand. Essentially, then, the Third Man is a reproach or objection to the Socratic theory but it is also at times treated by Socrates as something he could embody in his theory - in the Republic the ideal soul and the ideal State are what we might call perfect or intelligible particulars and it is by this and not by the pure form that we are to judge and find the shortcomings of historical particulars


  ― 16 ―
—a natural enough development since we can't find the pure form and make it a standard or measuring rod without making it a particular; or again if we take the doctrine of the Phaedo we can say that the soul is the Third Man or intelligible particular - that it is the intermediate link or go between since it is supposed to be able to pass back and forward between the realm of being and the realm of becoming - since it is in the same sense a historical thing and in some sense an unhistorical thing. But if this passage shows anything it really shows that the distinction between the realm of being and becoming should not be made and if there were really separate realms of reality then nothing could pass between one and the other.

Question of forms fictional question, but brushed aside in Parmenides.




  ― 17 ―

Lecture 7 (16th September 1948)

The actual examples of regress that Parmenides uses are different from that. You could take the argument involving sharing to involve a regress, or Stout's theory of universals to involve a regress along the lines that just as the particular qualities of particular things are inserted between the things themselves and the kind, so you would have to insert qualities of qualities between the particular qualities of the kind and so on ad infinitum without getting any nearer being able to show how what was different could be the same, e.g., if the original conception of difference weren't such as to be able to include similarity - if we needed to go outside the thing at all in order to get the kind. And that illustrates the point that a regress is just a way of expressing an original contradiction or a duality of conception of something - the things shall we say in this instance being conceived of as both of the kind and not of the kind from which in theories of this sort the particular is distinguishable. But it is only in being of a kind that it can be called a particular (participator) at all - not just as a particular without qualification, it is a particular X. There is the same problem in the Phaedo, in the Socratic treatment of a thing as being entitled to be called X because it comes under or partakes of the form X - the point being that we can't distinguish the particular from the form nor a particular which partook of X from a particular which didn't unless there was something which partook of X in the particular itself by which we distinguish it and if there were it would be by that character of its own that we should describe it and not by its relation to something else outside it. Therefore the treatment of the form as broken up in various particulars would give us the same problem of bringing the various parts of the form under the form as we had in bringing the various particulars under the form, and in that way we would be led on to an infinite regress apart from special difficulties raised by Parmenides of how the presence of predicability of a part of the form would enable us in any way to predicate the whole form of the thing.

The next kind of regress that Parmenides brings up is that of the similarity of the form to the members of the class whose similarity it is intended to explain which gives us a second class of similars - namely the previous class plus the forms whose similarity will require a further form to explain it and so on ad infinitum. Now this is where Taylor raises the difficulty regarding the confusing of the asymmetrical relation of copying with the symmetrical relation of likeness - a difficulty which however is met by the fact that where the asymmetrical relation exists the symmetrical relation


  ― 18 ―
also exists and any problem there might be of explaining this second relation (resemblance) would have to be faced. Secondly, Taylor objects that the form is not predicated of itself or not in the same way as it is predicated of particulars and so the question is not one of resemblance (having the same predicate in the same manner). But here we must notice that the Parmenides is looking back at the Phaedo where it is quite clearly implied that the form is predicable of itself as of particulars. Socrates says if anything besides beauty itself is beautiful it is beauty itself that makes it beautiful - the suggestion being that the beautiful object derives its beauty not just from beauty itself but from the beauty of beauty itself - where in fact the phrase that is rendered “beauty itself” or “absolute beauty” could also be rendered the “just or perfectly beautiful” (whole nature to be beautiful); the point being that there is no clear distinction between the form and the perfect particular and indeed that there can't be so long as we talk about the form as something specific, something particular. So that Parmenides is bringing out difficulties that Socrates has already involved himself in and that he must involve himself in as soon as he talks about this or that form instead of just postulating a proposition. And the regress here could be said to arise from the contradiction or duality of conception of the form itself, namely the attempted conception of it as something “above” particulars and yet the necessity of regarding it as a particular involved in saying “it” at all.

I have suggested then that a regress is just a way of bringing out an initial contradiction by leaning [?] now on one side and now on another - a contradiction if you like between the declaration that something is unintelligible and the unavoidable answer that it is intelligible. (Cf., “Universals and Occurrences” ).

With reference to the arguments of Mr. Merrylees who takes it that the assertion of “X is Y” must be understood as “X is expressive of (the Y)” - the universal or form Y, I argue that if, in order to make “X is Y” intelligible we have to say X is expressive of the expressive of the Y… ad infinitum. So that we never arrive at the exact interpretation of the assertion. If, on the other hand, we are supposed to stop at the 2nd stage - if “X is expressive of Y” is intelligible with one interpretation then we could have stopped at “X is Y” - taken it as intelligible without further interpretation. Once again an initial contradiction - it is contended that the propositional form needs interpretation but in the very contending it is implied that the propositional form doesn't and can be understood as it stands.




  ― 19 ―
N.B. difficulty about relations raised by Parmenides. For example, smaller than Simmias: particulars but whole esp. [?] of same generality as qualitative predicate. Doctrine of Forms rejects situational logic: anything a situation, involves relations. Emphasises the separate term.

Lecture 8 (23rd September 1948)

I have contended that the arguments put forward by Parmenides even if they are not all effective, nevertheless are quite sufficient to dispose of the doctrine of forms and, in general, to dispose of dualism and this would be to set up the alternatives of a complete empiricism - a doctrine of the sensible as the only reality or as we may call it, a complete idealism denying the sensible altogether. It is nothing againt this presentation that it leads us in the empirical direction since as we have seen it is still only in empirical terms that we could understand what Parmenides says not merely in opposition to Pythagoreanism but in support of his own position which means that the only anti-empirical alternative very soon breaks down and we are driven back on the empirical.

The longer and the main position of the Parmenides does show the breakdown of Eleaticism - the impossibility of stating it consistently - the position being stated with an extraordinary elaboration which might lead us to think that Plato when he wrote the dialogue wasn't very sure of his own position, but which still shows that Eleaticism fails on the same sort of grounds as those on which it had destroyed Socraticism (Pythagoreanism) - the position being capable of fairly simple statement. We may take it that Plato was concerned at this period with questions of method and that he had not arrived at a very satisfactory position. That is, he is not satisfied with the sort of position that he attributes to Socrates in the Phaedo, yet hasn't got a clear alternative procedure or hasn't realised the implications of his alternative procedure especially its empiricist implications. First of all just as in the Phaedo we have the talk about the consequences of a hypothesis without its being realised that these are not consequences of the hypothesis alone but follow from the hypotheses together with other propositions which are assumed to be matters of positive information.

And when we take consequences in this way it has to be noted that we may take as the consequences of a hypothesis what are not its consequences at all because the other proposition which we were certain was true is actually not true. This is specially important in regard to Falsification of a hypothesis because when we say


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the hypothesis AaB has been falsified because along with the true proposition XaA implies the false conclusion XaB we are taking as matters of definite knowledge XaA and XoB (? AoB) which prove the hypothesis false. But if one of our premises itself were false then AoB is not proved. That is, AaB is not destroyed or falsified. The point that Parmenides specially insists on is that of seeing not merely what follows from a hypothesis but what follows from denying it (what is true if the hypothesis is false). Now here again the case of falsification would be the most important but of course the falsification of the contradictory of the hypothesis is actually the proof of that hypothesis which then properly speaking is not a hypothesis but a conclusion - is no longer being tested by its consequences but is being by premises independently known. Hence in effect when Parmenides says we should consider the consequences both of a proposition's being true and its being false he is saying that we should both test a proposition of which we are doubtful by its consequences and try to prove it from propositions of which we are not doubtful. Suppose again our hypothesis is false then we are staring from the hyposthesis AoB and along with the true premise AaY drawing the conclusion YoB so if we get a falsification here (i.e., YaB) which gives us two data AaY and YaB ? AaB is proved and this is the hypothesis we started from so that we need no longer treat it as a hypothesis. It is misleading then to talk about the method of testing both a proposition and its contradictory - what we should speak about are two distinct questions, Testing and Proving.

Turning very briefly to the hypotheses which are professedly shown to have contradicted [?] any conclusions we find them in their positive form “if it is true” and “if one is” and whatever may be meant by that distinction the vital point is that in Eleaticism we have the same sort of an initial contradiction as was seen to lead to an infinite regress in Pythagoreanism - namely that the Eleatic one must be and can't be distinguished from its own being - that Parmenides wants to say that this entity is and yet also wants to say this entity is the very same thing as being in which case it would be meaningless to say “it is”. That sort of contradiction runs right through the pre-Socratics, all of whom want to identify being material or being of a certain substance or, as we may put it, want to take being as a term not as the copula. This implies an initial contradiction which leads to further contradictions when we try to work with it logically - to treat it as if it were a definite or specific thing. In falsifying the conditions of discourse they are led into contradictions by the fact that they can't help using this discourse.

Cf. Naturalistic fallacy - same thing both identified and distinguished.

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