Friday, November 14, 2014

Plato as a critic of Aristotle

In the 1st book of the Metaphysics Aristotle writes: ‘Above all one might discuss the question (diaporêseie an tis) what on earth the Forms contribute to sensible things (tȏn aisthêtȏn), either to those that are eternal or to those that come into being and cease to be. For they cause neither movement nor any change in them. But again they help in no wise either towards the knowledge of the other things (for they are not even the substance of these, else they would have been in them), or towards their being, if they are not in the particulars which share in them.’ (991a8-14, tr. W. D. Ross) Ross notes: ‘This argument is met by Plato in Parmenides 134 D; this is one of the points relied on by Siebeck for the proof of his theory that the Parmenides (with the Sophist and the Philebus) was directed against criticism urged by Aristotle in discussion. The theory has but little evidence in favour of it.’

As will be seen, it is not quite right to say that Aristotle’s argument in Metaphysics 991a8-14 is ‘met by Plato in Parmenides 134 D’.

In the dialogue, Parmenides opens his enquiry about the Forms by asking Socrates: ‘Do you mean that there are certain Forms (einai eidê atta) by partaking of which these other things get their names? As for example those things that partake of similarity become similar, of largeness large, of beauty and justice just and beautiful?’ When Socrates answers: ‘Yes, certainly’, Parmenides suggests that each thing partakes either of the whole of the Form or of a part of the Form. If it were to partake of the whole Form, he argues, the Form, which is one, would be present as a whole at one and the same time (holon hama) in many things, things that are separate from it (chȏris ousin), and thus it would be separate from itself (auto hautou chȏris an eiê). Socrates reposts: ‘No, it would not, if it were like the day which is one and the same in many places at one and the same time without being separate from itself in any way, in this way each of the Forms, being one, would be present in all things as one and the same.’ Parmenides rejects Socrates’ solution of the problem: ‘You make very pleasantly (hêdeȏs) one and the same thing be in many different places at once, as if you were to spread out a sail over a number of men and claim that one thing as a whole was over many. Are you not saying something like this?’ ‘Perhaps’ says Socrates. Parmenides: ‘Would the whole sail be over each man, or a part of it, a different part in each?’ Socrates: ‘A part’. Parmenides: ‘So the Forms themselves (auta ta eidê) are divisible, and the things which participate in them would participate only in a part of them, and in each of them would be only a part of the Form, not the whole Form.’ (130e5 – 131c7) Parmenides then shows the absurdity of viewing the Forms as divisible: ‘If you divide the largeness itself (auto to megethos) and each of the large things will be large by part of largeness smaller than the largeness itself, won’t it appear irrational? – And further, each thing becomes equal to anything by virtue of partaking of a small part of the equality; can it be equal to anything by participating in that which is smaller than the equality itself? – Suppose that one of us is to have a part of the small; the small will be greater than this part of it because it is part of itself, and thus the small itself will be greater; and that to which this subtracted part is added will be smaller but not larger than before. – Then in what way will the other things (ta alla) partake of the Forms if they cannot partake of the Forms as parts or as wholes?’ (131c12-e1)

Siebeck points out that this argument against the Forms can be found in Aristotle’s early Peri ideȏn as well as Metaphysics Z, 1039a33-1039b2. (See H. Siebeck, ‘Platon als Kritiker aristotelischer Ansichten’, Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik 107 Band, Leipzig 1896, pp. 3-5)

When Socrates admits that it is not easy to deal with this difficulty (to toiouton diorisasthai), Parmenides asks him whether it was not the following consideration that has led him to assume each Form to be one (hen hekaston eidos einai): ‘When a number of things seems to you to be large, it perhaps seems to you that there is one and the same Form (mia tis idea hê autê) as you look on them all; hence you conceive of the large as one.’ When Socrates admits that Parmenides is right, the latter asks: ‘And what about the large and all the other large things, if in your mind you look at them all in the same way, will not again some large appear by virtue of which they all appear large? – So another Form of largeness will make its appearance (anaphanêsetai), which came to its being (gegonos) over and above the largeness itself and the things participating in it; and upon all these again a different one, by which they all will be large. And so there will not be one of each Form for you, but their multitude will be infinite.’ (132a1-b2)

Siebeck notes that this argument appears in the 1st book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics as ‘the Third Man’ (tritos anthrȏpos, 99b17, Siebeck p. 3).

Socrates does not give up: ‘But may not each of the Forms (tȏn eidȏn hekaston) be just a thought of them (toutȏn noêma) to which it would appertain to be born (prosêkêi engignestai) nowhere else than in souls (en psuchais). For in this way each would be one and would no more suffer (ouk an eti paschoi) what was said just now (ha nundê elegeto, 132b3-6).’ Parmenides asks: ‘Is each thought one (hen), but a thought of nothing (oudenos, ‘of not even one’)? Guided by Parmenides, Socrates admits that each thought is a thought of something (tinos, b11), of something that is (ontos, c2), of something that is one (henos tinos), which that thought thinks to be present over all (ho epi pasin ekeino to noêma epon noei, c3), to wit a Form which is one (mian tina ousan idean), ever being over all (aei on epi pasin, c6-7), and that all this appears to be so by necessity (Anangkêi au phainetai, c8). Parmenides asks: 'is not this necessity the necessity that compelled you to say that things participate in the Forms (ouk anangkêi hêi t’alla phêis tȏn eidȏn metechein, c9-10?' Parmenides thus reduces Socrates’ new suggestion to his original theory of Forms with all its difficulties.

It appears that Aristotle had the Parmenides in front of his eyes when he wrote in the 1st book of Metaphysics: ‘According to the assumption on which our belief in the Ideas (ideas) rests, there will be Forms (eidê) not only of substances (tȏn ousiȏn) but also of many other things (for the thought is one (to noêma hen) not only in the case of substances but also in the other cases, and there are sciences (epistêmai) not only of substance but also of other things, and a thousand other such difficulties confront them).’ (990b22-27, tr. W. D. Ross, with one exception; Ross translates Aristotle‘s to noêma hen ‘the concept is single’, which obscures the relation between Aristotle’s passage and Plato’s argument in the Parmenides).

Socrates makes one more attempt to save the Forms: ‘It appears to me that these Forms stand in the nature as paradigms; the other things (ta de alla) resemble them and are likenesses of them and this participation of other things in the Forms is nothing other than their becoming a resemblance of them.’ Parmenides asks: ‘If something resembles the Form, must not the Form be similar to that which is like it, in so far as it resembles it? – And must not that which is like that which is like it of necessity participate in the same Form?’ Parmenides thus shows Socrates that his paradigms end up being infinitely multiplied, and concludes: ‘So the others do not partake of the Forms by similarity, but one must look for something else by which they partake.’ (132d1-133a6)

Aristotle notes in the 1st book of the Metaphysics: ‘To say that the Forms are paradigms and that the other things share in them is to use empty words and poetical metaphors.’ (991a20-22)

Parmenides invites Socrates to reflect on his inability to defend his theory: ‘Do you see, then, how great is the difficulty (aporia) if someone were to distinguish (diorizêtai) the Forms being in themselves on their own? … There are many other difficulties, but the greatest is this: If someone should say that the Forms cannot be known if they are such as we maintain they must be, one could not show him that he is saying a falsity (pseudetai), unless the controversialist happened to be a man of great experience and natural ability, willing to follow plentiful labours of demonstration, starting from afar (porrȏthen).’ (133a8-b9)

The word pseudetai implies that a man who qualifies a statement of another as false knows the truth. Nothing in the dialogue entitles Parmenides to brand the controversialist in this manner. This is not an imposition made by oversight; Plato thus makes it clear that it is he who speaks here with all his authority: the truth is that there are Forms and that the other things are by virtue of participating in them. It is against this affirmation of the Forms that Parmenides raises ‘the greatest difficulty concerning them.

Parmenides begins to unfold this difficulty by ascertaining that the Forms that exist alone by themselves do not exist in us (en hêmin). Consequently, the Forms are what they are in relation to themselves and not in relation to things among us; things in which we participate are what they are in relation to themselves and not to the Forms, though they are of the same name. Thus a master has a slave, a slave has a master; they are what they are in relation to each other, a man related to a man; the Form of mastership (autê despoteia) is what it is in relation to the Form of slavery (autês douleias) and the Form of slavery is what it is in relation to the Form of mastership. The things among us do not have their power (tên dunamin) in relation to the Forms, and the Forms do not have their power in relation to things among us. Absolute knowledge (autê men ho esti epistêmê) is knowledge of absolute truth (tês ho estin alêtheia autês), and each branch of absolute knowledge (hekastê tȏn epistêmȏn, hê estin) is knowledge of each being that truly is (hekastou tȏn ontȏn, ho estin). Knowledge among us (hê par’ hêmin epistêmê) is knowledge of the truth among us (tês par’ hêmin alêtheias), and each branch of knowledge among us is knowledge of each thing that are among us. We do not have the Forms, they cannot be among us; what the kinds themselves are (auta ta genê ha estin hekasta) is known (gignȏsketai) by the Form of knowledge (hup autou tou eidous tou tês epistêmês), which we do not have. So none of the Forms (tȏn eidȏn ouden) is known to us, for we do not participate in knowledge itself. (133c3-134b12)

Socrates responds to the last point with a simple ‘It seems not’ (Ouk eoike), just as he similarly responded to Parmenides’ previous points: ‘How do you mean?’ (Pȏs legeis), ‘Of course’ (Panu ge), ‘Yes’ (Nai), ‘Necessarily’ (Anangkê). But when Parmenides now goes on to say ‘Unknowable to us is therefore the beauty itself, what it is, and the good itself and everything we consider as Forms that are (hȏs ideas autas ousas)’, Socrates answers ‘I am afraid so’ (Kinduneuei). Kindunos means ‘danger’, and Socrates’ apprehension should be taken on board. (B. Jowett translates Socrates’ Kinduneuei ‘It would seem so’, R. E. Allen ‘Very likely’.) Parmenides’ next words are ‘See then (Hora dê) something even more terrible than this (eti toutou deinoteron tode).’ (Jowett: ‘I think that there is a stranger consequence still’, Allen: ‘Consider then whether the following is still more remarkable’.) (132b13-c4) And he explains: If there is a kind of knowledge that is knowledge itself (auto ti genos epistêmês), it is much more exact than knowledge among us, so that only god can have it. ‘We have agreed (hȏmologêtai hêmin) that neither those Forms (ekeina ta eidê) have any power (dunamin) over things among us (pros ta par hêmin), nor things among us have any power over those … it follows that the god’s most exact mastership can never rule over us and his most exact knowledge cannot know us or anything else where we are.’ – Socrates remarks: ‘The argument (ho logos) that deprives god of knowledge is too remarkable (lian thaumastos). (134c5-134e8)

Socrates thus rejects the greatest argument against the Forms in the name of piety, which provides Parmenides with an opportunity to reflects on all the difficulties concerning the Forms: ‘These mentioned and many more on top of these in which the Forms are of necessity involved (anangkaion echein ta eidê) if these Forms of things that are exist (ei eisin hautai hai ideai), and if one is going to define each Form (kai horieitai tis auto ti hekaston eidos). So that a hearer will deny the existence of the Forms, and argue that even if they existed, they would be of necessity unknowable to human nature. And saying this (kai tauta legonta), he would appear to say something significant (dokein ti legein) and be remarkably difficult to persuade (thaumastȏs hȏs dusanapeiston onta). Only a man of considerable natural gifts will be able to learn that there is a kind of each thing (genos ti hekastou), a substance alone by itself (ousia autê kath’ hautên), and an even more remarkable will discover this and will be able to teach it to someone who has examined all these difficulties with sufficient care.’ (134e9-135b2)

Parmenides then reprehends Socrates for attempting too early, before being trained, to define some kind of beautiful and just and good and each one of the Forms (horidzesthai kalon te ti kai dikaion kai agathon kai hen hekaston tȏn eidȏn). ‘What sort of training’, Socrates asks. Parmenides replies ‘The one you heard Zeno use’. (135c8-d7)

[Concerning Zeno’s exercise I wrote in my previous blog (Oct. 16, 2014): ‘Zeno in his lecture defended Parmenides’ thesis that ‘all is one’ (hen einai to pan, 128a8-b1) by pointing to absurd contradictions in which things would be involved, if they were many. Socrates remarked that he saw nothing surprising in Zeno’s depicting contradictions concerning things apprehended by our senses, for such things are affected by many contradictions. Socrates would be really surprized, if Zeno distinguished and set apart the Forms of things alone by themselves, such as similarity and dissimilarity, many and one, rest and motion, and then show that these in themselves are entangled in exactly the same perplexity (tên autên tautên aporian) as the things which we can see. (129d6-130a2)’]

Parmenides goes on to say: ‘Yet, I admired it when you said to Zeno that you would not allow the discursive wandering to take place among the things we see, and about them, but rather about those things that one would grasp best by reason and consider them to be Forms (kai eidê an hêgêsaito einai) … And it is necessary to examine not only what follows from the hypothesis if each thing that one proposes is, but as well if the very same thing is not … if you are to be completely trained and accurately discern the truth (kuriȏs diopsesthai to alêthes). ’ (135d8-136c5)

To this training is devoted the second part of the dialogue, in which Parmenides discusses his own hypothesis (tês emautou hupotheseȏs) concerning the one itself (peri tou henos autou): what is to follow (ti chrê sumbainein) if one is or if not one is (eite hen estin eite mê hen). His interlocutor becomes Aristotle, the youngest in the company. (137b)


H. Siebeck opens his article on ‘Plato as a critic of Aristotle’s views’ by pointing out ‘that Plato’s and Aristotle’s living together in the Academy for almost twenty years allows us to assume that in the end the latter exercised some influence on his teacher’s views as well’ [dass das fast zwanzigjährige Zusammenleben von Platon und Aristoteles innerhalb der Akademie schliesslich auch einen Einfluss des letzteren auf die Ansichten seines Lehrers anzunehmen gestattet]. Teichmüller in Litterarische Fehden [Literary bickering] interpreted certain passages in Plato’s Laws as critical responses to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Siebeck asks ‘whether it isn’t possible to discern even in some of Plato’s published dialogues influences of his disciple, who became more independent and already began to write, on the development of the fundamental views of Plato’ [ob nicht auch in einigen der noch von Platon selbst veröffentlichten Dialogen Einwirkungen von seiten des selbständiger und auch bereits literarisch produktiv gewordenen Schülers auf die Fortbildung der platonischen Grundansichten] (p. 1). Siebeck says that like Überweg he realised ‘that the Parmenides presents a response to certain Aristotelian objections against the theory of Forms’ [dass der Parmenides eine Entgegnung auf gewisse aristotelische Einwendungen gegen die Ideenlehre darstellt] (p.2).
Siebeck asks: ‘Now, if the Parmenides is indeed directed at the address of Aristotle, what meaning is to have in this connection the second part of the dialogue’ [Wenn nun der Parmenides wirklich an die adresse des Aristoteles gerichtet ist, was hat dann der zweite Teil des Dialogs innerhalb dieser Beziehung zu bedeuten]? He answers: ‘The obvious supposition is that it is to found a vindication of the theory of Forms against the objections raised in the first part’ [Die nächstliegende Vermutung ist die, dass er eine Verteidigung der Ideenlehre gegen die im ersten Teile erhobenen Einwände begründen soll]. (p.8)
Siebeck maintains that ‘the fundamental intention of the 2nd part lies in the clarification of the thesis that the unity (to hen) must be unity of plurality, if it is to be unity at all’ [die wesentliche Absicht des zweiten Teiles liegt in der Erläuterung des Satzes, die Einheit (to hen) müsse, um als solche überaupt zu sein, Einheit einer Vielheit sein]. (p. 16)

A.      He points out that the Aristotelian first objection against the theory of Forms in the first part of the Parmenides (131 a f.) was that ‘the participation of the plurality of things (of the same name) in a certain Form presupposes that either the whole Form or a part of it is contained in each of those things’ [die Teilnahme einer Vielheit von (gleichnamigen) Dingen an einer bestimmten Idee setzt voraus, dass die Idee entweder ganz oder teilweise in jedem dieser Dinge enthalten sei]. ‘But neither is possible, for in the first case the Form would have to be seen as separated from itself (chȏris hautês), in the second as divided; both of which are incompatible with the being of Forms’ [Aber weder das eine noch das andre sei möglich, weil im ersteren Falle die Idee als von sich selbst getrennt (chȏris hautês), im andern als zerteilt angesehen werden müsste, welches beides ihrem Wesen widerstreite].
‘Against this, on the basis of the fundamental insight into the relation of the unity to plurality that dominates the second part, Plato maintains the following’ [Demgegenüber behauptet Platon zufolge der im zweiten Teile waltenden Grundanschauung über das Verhältnis der Einheit zur Vielheit dieses]: ‘The Form as a whole is of course in each individual thing, but this does not mean that it is chȏris hautês (separated from itself)’ [Allerdings ist die Idee ganz in jedem Einzelnen, aber damit doch keineswegs chȏris hautês]. ‘Rather, the unity is real, is what it is only because of it; it is the Form as existing unity’ [Sie ist dadurch vielmehr erst wirklich, was sie ist, nämlich Idee als seiende Einheit]. ‘Unity cannot be the Form in this sense in any other way, than through presenting itself as a unity of things that exist’ [Sie kann Idee in diesem Sinne überhaupt nicht anders sein, als dadurch, dass sie sich als eine Einheit seiender Dinge darstellt]. (pp. 17-18)

B.      ‘The tritos anthrȏpos argument (the Third Man) says in substance’ [Das Argument vom tritos anthrȏpos (131 e f.) sagt im wesentlichen]: ‘When the Form (e.g. of man) is posited apart from a kind of things of the same name (e. g. individual men) as that which is common to them, then on the same principle must be posited yet a third, namely a higher characteristic which is common to the Form and to the kind of things corresponding to it, and then again a forth, an even higher character common to the third Form and to the instances marked before and taken together, etc.’ [Wenn neben die vielen gleichnamigen Dinge einer Gattung (z. B. die einzelnen Menschen) als ihr Gemeinsames die Idee (des Menschen) gesetzt wird, so muss nach demselben Prinzip, wonach dies geschehen ist, auch für die Idee und die ihr entsprechende Gattung sinnlicher Dinge selbst noch ein Drittes, nämlich ein höheres Gemeinsames gesetzt werden, sodann für dieses und die vorbezeichneten Instanzen zusammen wieder ein Viertes als noch höheres u. s. f.].
‘Against this, from the second part of the Dialog, and according to what was ascertained under A., ensues the following consideration’ [Aus dem zweiten Teile des Dialogs ergiebt sich hiergegen, zugleich im Sinne des unter A. Festgestellten, die Erwägung]: ‘The man we perceive by our senses, or the plurality of such men, does not exist aside from the Form of man as something second, but he is (respectively: they are) the existence of the Form itself, in so far as this Form as a unity, and precisely because of its being a unity, cannot otherwise than be here as a unity of plurality’ [Der sinnenfällige Mensch oder die Vielheit sinnlicher Menschen ist nicht ein Zweites neben der Idee des Menschen, sondern er ist (bezw. sie sind) das Sein der Idee selbst, sofern diese als Einheit und eben wegen dieses ihres Einheitsein nicht umhin kann, als die Einheit einer Vielheit da zu sein]. ‘The being of the Form “man” and the existence of individual men are identical; they are not two, they are one’ [Das Sein der Idee “Mensch” und das Dasein der Einzelmenschen sind identisch; sie sind nicht Zwei sondern Eins]. (p. 18)

C.      ‘The third objection relies on the assumption that the Forms’ are in themselves or for themselves, and follows from that, that relations exist only between Forms and Forms on the one hand, things and things on the other hand, but not between Forms and things, or that such relations cannot be proved to exist’ [Der dritte Einwand (133 b f.) heftet sich an das Beisichsein oder Fürsichbestehen der Ideen und folgert daraus, dass das Bestehen von Beziehungen nur einerseits zwischen Ideen und Ideen, andererseits zwischen Dingen und Dingen, nicht aber zwischen Ideen und Dingen stattfinden oder bewiesen werden könne].
‘Against this Plato by virtue of the second part of our dialogue explains [Dem gegenüber erklärt Platon durch den zweiten Teil unseres Dialogs]: ‘the being of the Form in itself is as such its being among us’ [das Beisichsein der Idee ist als solches ihr Bei-uns-Sein]. ‘The Form cannot have its being in itself or for itself in any other way than as plurality’ [Sie kann ihr Bei- oder Für-sich-Sein gar nicht haben ausser als Einheit in der Vielheit]. ‘The unity is its being in itself, the plurality its existence in our world’ [Die Einheit ist ihr Beisichsein, die Vielheit ihr Bei-uns-Sein]; ‘but these two Moments are not separated, they constitute one essence, namely the essence of the Form’ [diese beiden Momente sind aber nicht getrennt, sondern sie bilden ein Wesen, nämlich eben das Wesen der Idee]. (pp. 18-19)

‘When this is so, one must not fail to realise in the end one thing’ [Wenn es sich nun so verhält, so ist es schliesslich Eines nicht zu verkennen]: ‘Plato indeed achieved the protection of his fundamental principles against the arguments of his greatest disciple only through modification of their original version by making a long step towards the position of his opponent’ [Platon hat allerdings die Deckung seiner Grundlage gegen die Anfechtungen von Seiten seines grössten Schülers nur dadurch erreicht, dass er ihre ursprüngliche Fassung selbst in einer Weise modifizierte, die dem gegnerischen Standpunkt einen erheblichen Schritt entgegenkommt]. … ‘ Aristotle’s criticism was thus already for Plato apparently the most important occasion for the transformation of the theory of Forms from its earlier to its later version’ [Die Kritik von Seiten des Aristoteles ist somit allem Anschein nach schon für Platon selbst die wesentlichste Veranlassung gewesen zu der Umbildung der Ideenlehre von der früheren zu der späteren Fassung]. ‘There still remained of course in the end a profound difference between the two standpoints; Aristotle posits the substance (ousia) in the first place in the individual, whereas Plato places it in the common character’ [Am letzten Ende blieb freilich zwischen den beiden Standpunkten immer noch der durchgreifende Unterschied, dass das eigentliche Wesen der Substance (ousia) von Aristoteles in erster Linie in das Individuum, von Platon dagegen in das Allgemeine gesetzt wird]. (pp. 20-21)

In the previous entry in my blog (‘A note on the 3rd book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics’, Oct. 16) I argued that Plato wrote the Parmenides prior to his 3rd travel to Sicily: ‘Before leaving Athens, Plato had to protect his disciples from objections against the existence of the Forms; although he directed this defence of the Forms at every one of his disciples, he appears to have aimed it especially at Aristotle, who was the most gifted among them and who had urged arguments against the Forms.’
In this connection I argued that ‘The unceremonious manner with which Aristotle in the 1st book of the Metaphysics rejected the Forms on the basis of arguments marked in the Parmenides as irrelevant – while speaking about himself as one of Plato’s disciples, using the first person plural in the sense of “we Platonists” – indicates that he wrote it after Plato left Athens.’

The question then is what influence of the Parmenides can be detected in Aristotle’s 1st book of the Metaphysics. This line of enquiry I intend to follow, but first I must do some reading and recording; I want to record my reading of the 4th book of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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