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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

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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.

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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.