Plato Eleatic Dialogues

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  • 8/13/2019 Plato Eleatic Dialogues


    Preferred Citation: Dorter, Kenneth.Form and Good in Plato's Eleatic Dialogues: The Parmenides, Theatetus, Sophist, andStatesman. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1994 1994. http://ark.cdli.or!/ark:/1"#"#/ft$199n%!n/

    Form and Good in Plato's EleaticDialogues

    The Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, and Statesman

    Kenneth Dorter


    Berkeley Los Angeles Oxford

    $ %&& The Regents o( the Uni)ersit* o( !ali(ornia

    &o 'y 'other and to the 'e'ory of'y father

    Preferred Citation: Dorter, Kenneth.Form and Good in Plato's Eleatic Dialogues: The Parmenides, Theatetus, Sophist, andStatesman. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1994 1994. http://ark.cdli.or!/ark:/1"#"#/ft$199n%!n/

    &o 'y 'other and to the 'e'ory of'y father


    &he fo(r dialo!(es e)a'ined here for' a nat(ral !ro(p *ith se+(ential concerns. ince the ai' of thepresent st(dy is to try to (nderstand the !ro(p as a *hole, - have sacrificed the advanta!e of !reaterdetail that ooklen!th co''entaries *o(ld provide, in order to present a 'ore synoptic pict(re. B(t

    altho(!h the treat'ent of individ(al dialo!(es *ill not e as e)tensively detailed as in ooklen!thst(dies, - have tried to pay caref(l attention oth to the concept(al ar!('ents and to the dra'atic andliterary events, and have tried to ens(re that the lessenin! of detail *o(ld not 'ean a lessenin! ofattentiveness.

    - call this !ro(p of dialo!(es leatic, as a convenient incl(sive ter', even tho(!h the ter' is onlyindirectly applicale to the Theaetetus. Unlike the other three dialo!(es, the Theaetetusis cond(ctedneither y Par'enides nor the leatic stran!er, and its s(0ect 'atter is eracleitean and its dra'aticconte)t 2e!arian 3o*in! to the choice of (cleides and &erpsion as the introd(ctory speakers.5evertheless, Par'enides is 'entioned at an i'portant 0(nct(re as so'eone *hose vie*s o(!ht to e

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    considered as an alternative to the philosophy of eco'in! that &heaetet(s defends *itho(t s(ccess316#d161a, and the fail(re to disc(ss the leatic philosopher is ascried only to the fact that he is tooi'portant to e considered in the availale ti'e 316"c164a. e is th(s the only alternative indicatedto the theories that fo(nder in the Theaetetus, and their collapse 'ay a'o(nt to an indirectendorse'ent of the leatic. 5othin! is pres(pposed philosophically y desi!

    7 ) 7

    natin! the dialo!(es in this *ay. 2y intention is rather to avoidthe pres(ppositions involved in callin!the' Plato8s critical dialo!(es, as is often done on the ass('ption that they are partial rep(diations ofthe theory of for's. &he latter desi!nation is in any case 'isleadin! *ith re!ard to the Statesman.

    o'e of the 'aterial has een derived fro' the previo(sly p(lished st(dies listed elo*, and is (sed*ith the per'ission of the editor or p(lisher. (stice and 2ethod in Plato8s Statesman 3.Pana!ioto(, ed.,Justice, La and Philosoph! in "lassical #thens;d'onton:

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    of the t*o, eca(se its aporetic nat(re 'ore closely rese'les Plato8s earlier dialo!(es, *hile thetechnical nat(re of theParmenides'ore closely rese'les the later ones. e!ardless of the order in*hich theParmenidesand Theaetetus'ay

    ;1=Plato's Phaedo: #n (nterpretation3&oronto: University of &oronto Press, 196$, hereafterPP.

    7 $ 7have een *ritten, ho*ever, Plato leaves (s in no do(t that the Theaetetusis 'eant to e read as thefirst 'e'er of a trilo!y, follo*ed y the Sophistand Statesman: at the e!innin! of the Statesman3$>6a ocrates re'arks, - 'yself had a disc(ssion *ith &heaetet(s yesterday ;the Theaetetus=, andno* - have listened to hi' replyin! ;the Sophist=. -n any case, nothin! of s(stantial i'portance *illdepend on the order in *hich *e read theParmenidesand Theaetetus.

    He cannot p(rs(e s(ch a st(dy today *itho(t eco'in! part of the fortyyearold deate, as initiated yE. . . F*en, ao(t *hether Plato radically chan!ed his vie*s at this ti'eIaltho(!h that +(estion isonly incidental to the p(rpose of these st(dies. 5o oservations ao(t the develop'ent of Plato8sphilosophy are co'pletely (ncontroversial, (t so'e are co'paratively so. &here is a !eneral tho(!h

    not (niversal consens(s that in the dialo!(es considered to e early, Plato see's concerned pri'arily toinvesti!ate the nat(re of the virt(es and of other *ays of ein!, especially those that *e *o(ld callval(es?;$= that the dialo!(es considered to elon! to his 'iddle period !ro(nd this concept of nat(reson the ontolo!ical 'odel of the doctrine of separate for's? and that in the leatic dialo!(es (nderconsideration here, *hich are attri(ted to his last period, this theory of for's itself is ro(!ht into+(estion in so'e sense.

    &he first part of theParmenidesappears to attack the theory o(tri!ht, altho(!h the si!nificance of thisattack is rendered a'i!(o(s y Par'enides8 concl(din! re'ark that if one does notaccept so'e s(chtheory, he *ill not have anythin! on *hich to fi) his tho(!ht . . . and in this *ay he *ill (tterly destroythe po*er of disco(rse 31">c. &he Theaetetus, for *hatever reason, then proceeds to all (t i!norethe theory of for's in its atte'pt to define kno*led!e. &his is follo*ed y the Sophist, in *hich

    so'ethin! like a theory of for's is e'ployed, (t for's that are very different fro' those of the'iddle dialo!(es. -nstead of foc(sin! on val(es, it foc(ses on kinds, *hich are e)plicitly said to eval(ene(tral 3$$%a. &he Statesmanthen contin(es this approach and applies it to political +(estions.-t 'i!ht see' fro' this, as 'any co''entators concl(de, that Plato has rep(diated his 'iddle periodtheory of for's and replaced it *ith so'ethin! 'ore

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    s(rrendered on the +(estion of the separation of for's, this contin(ed assa(lt *o(ld 'ake no sense.

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    &he repeated dis0(nction et*een *hat is in itself, (nchan!in!, eternal, rational, !ood, and divine, and*hat co'es to e and passes a*ay, chan!es, and is characteristic of *hat is h('an rather than divine,repeats all the essentials of the 'iddle period theory of for's. 5ot all the points are 'ade *ith thesa'e e'phasis and detail as in thePhaedoand%epu)lic, (t that *o(ld hardly e s(rprisin! if Plato.had no reason to e)pect his readers to think that he had aandoned his earlier vie*s. 5evertheless, thelack of detail in his presentation per'its advocates of the revisionist thesis to +(estion ho*

    concl(sively and co'pletely the theory of for's is reaffir'ed here.o the foc(s of the controversy reverts to the date of the TimaeusI *here the affir'ation of theontolo!ical difference et*een for's and individ(als is entirely (na'i!(o(sIand *hether thatdialo!(e can e sho*n to e later than theParmenides. &he datin! of the dialo!(es has een a perilo(senterprise. arlier acco(nts, s(ch as chleier'acher8s,;4=

    ;4=(ntroductions to the Dialogues o& Plato3Ca'rid!e: Dei!hton, 16".

    7 > 7

    that *ere ased on a vie* of ho* Plato8s tho(!ht oughtto have developed, ovio(sly have no po*er as

    independent evidence for a partic(lar vie*. &he dialo!(es the'selves !ive (s occasional scraps ofevidence *hen one dialo!(e pres(pposes prior kno*led!e of another, as in the case of the leaticdialo!(es, or in the case of the Timaeus, *hich recalls the%epu)lic. B(t this does not take (s far, andin partic(lar it does not estalish *hether the Timaeus*ith its (na'i!(o(s affir'ation of theseparation of the for's is earlier or later than the Parmenides, *hich +(estions their separation.

    &he only other d(e that has co'e do*n fro' anti+(ity is

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    7 7

    co(ntedJ Do *e co(nt (no0ectionale 3re'ovale y elision, apostrophe, or crasis hiat(s in thesa'e *ay as o0ectionale hiat(s, and, if not, *hat differences in *ei!htin! sho(ld e assi!nedJ -shiat(s affected y p(nct(ation, and does it therefore 'atter *hich edition is (sedJ -n co(ntin! (n(s(al*ords, do *e co(nt only the first occ(rrence or all occ(rrences, and, if only the first, does the len!th ofthe dialo!(e need to e taken into acco(nt at allJ -n addition to all these decisions, *hich consideraly

    li'it the possiility of scientific o0ectivity, *e '(st also decide *hether to take into acco(nt thenat(re and s(0ect 'atter of the dialo!(es. ho(ld *e e)pect to find the sa'e stylistic feat(res in anarrative 'yth 3Timaeus, an e)ercise in astract dialectic 3ParmenidesI*hich is so ano'alo(s as tohave fre+(ently een dis'issed y stylo'etrists as sp(rio(s, or a set of speeches 3 S!mposium, as indialo!(es like the%epu)lic, Theaetetus, orLas-

    -n vie* of all these variales, and of the f(rther co'plication that several investi!ators relied on fla*edass('ptions or on data otained y fa(lty co(ntin! 3*hether their o*n or that in

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    1661 particles late 31/%;9= late 3"/%

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    = Brand*ood, *ritin! t*o years after Cherniss,

    re0ected the latter8s ar!('ents for placin! the Timaeusa'on! the final three;1"= &he Place of the Timaeusin Plato8s Dialo!(es, "lassical /uarterl!, n.s., " 319>" %99>?reprinted in . .

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    Development in Plato's etaph!sics;aalle: Fpen Co(rt, 196>= appendi) --.

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    that the pri'ary concern of philosophy is in an area characteried y historical pro!ress, s(ch asdescriptive lo!ic, it *o(ld not see' condescendin! to r