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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:



does not give:


N.B. valid:





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 -

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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

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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.