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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,


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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


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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.

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