Friday, February 6, 2015

Aristotle’s response to Plato’s Parmenides in Metaphysics M

In Plato’s Parmenides young Socrates contemplates a theory of Forms, which exist in themselves, separately from perceptible things ‘in which I and you and the other things we call many get a share’ (129a-130a). I have argued that Plato’s defence of the theory of Forms in the dialogue can be properly understood only if Socrates’ presentation of the theory to Zeno and Parmenides is accepted as substantially true. But doesn’t Aristotle testify against it? He ascribes the authorship of the theory to Plato in Metaphysics M: ‘We must first examine the ideal theory itself … in the form in which it was originally understood (hȏs hupelabon ex archês) by those who first maintained the existence of the Ideas’ (hoi prȏtoi tas ideas phêsantes einai, 1078b9-12, tr. Ross). He does not name Plato in this passage, but does so in a closely related passage in Metaphysics A where he explains how Plato conceived the Forms (987a29-b9). Ross notes on Metaphysics M 1078b11: ‘The “first people who said there are Ideas” are stated here, exactly as Plato was stated in Bk. A, to have been influenced by the Heraclitean doctrines (1078b13, 987a32), to have followed the lead of Socrates in his search for ethical definitions of universals, and to have given the name of Ideas to those universals (cf. 1078b17-19, 30-32, with 987b1-8).’ I shall argue that the historicity of Plato’s depiction of Socrates in the Parmenides is supported by Aristotle’s reflections on Socrates in Metaphysics M.

Ross in his note explains the omission of Plato’s name in the given passage as follows: ‘The vague reference hoi prȏtoi tas ideas phêsantes [‘first people who said’] is thoroughly characteristic of M, which is concerned with doctrines, not with people.’ Ross’ observation is true concerning Plato, Xenocrates, and Speusippus; the more remarkable is therefore the attention Aristotle gives in Bk. M to Socrates. Contrasting him with those ‘who first maintained the existence of the Ideas’ Aristotle says that ‘Socrates did not make the universals or the definitions exist apart, they, however, gave them separate existence, and this was the kind of thing they called Ideas.’ (1078b30-31, tr. Ross) Later on in Metaphysics M Aristotle says: ‘Socrates gave impulse to this theory, as we said in our earlier discussion, by reason of his definitions, but he did not separate universals from individuals; and in this he thought rightly, in not separating them (kai touto orthȏs enoêsen ou chȏrisas). And this is plain from the results (dêloi de ek tȏn ergȏn); for without the universal (aneu gar tou katholou) it is not possible to get knowledge (ouk estin epistêmên labein), but the separation (to de chȏrizein) is the cause of the objections that arise with regard to the Ideas’ (aition tȏn sumbainontȏn duscherȏn peri tas ideas estin, 1086b3-5; tr. Ross). Aristotle’s statement that Socrates ‘thought rightly in not separating the Forms’ implies that Socrates thought about separating them, but did not separate them. The aorist enoêsen, imperfectly rendered by ‘thought’, indicates that Aristotle had in mind a concrete situation, in which Socrates contemplated the separation of universals but decided against it. In making his statement, could Aristotle have failed to consider Plato’s Parmenides? With this question in mind, let us review the relevant passages in the dialogue.

In the Parmenides Socrates surmised that Zeno in his piece argued that if there are many things, they are of necessity self-contradictory, which is impossible. The principle that self-contradictory things cannot be, on the basis of which Zeno argued that ‘many are not’ (hȏs ou polla esti, 127e10), Socrates viewed as valid, for on its basis he raised his challenge to Zeno and to Parmenides, addressing Zeno as follows:

‘Do you not acknowledge (ou nomizeis) that there exists (einai), alone by itself (auto kath’ hauto), a certain character of likeness (eidos ti homoiotêtos), and again, another character opposite it, what it is to be unlike; and that you and I and the other things we call many get a share of these two things? And that things that get a share of likeness become like in the respect and to the degree that they get a share; things that get a share of unlikeness become unlike; and things that get a share of both become both? Even if all things get a share of both, opposite as they are, and by having a share of both they are both like and unlike themselves, what is surprising in that? If someone were to show that things that are just like (ei men gar auta ta homoia tis apephainen) become unlike (anomoia gignomena), or just unlike (ê ta anomoia), like (homoia), no doubt that would be a portent (teras an oimai ên, 128e6-129b3, tr. Allen. All subsequent translations from the Parmenides that I am quoting in this entry are by R. E. Allen, unless I say otherwise).’

Teras means ‘wonder’, ‘marvel’, and as Allen takes it, ‘portent’, but it does not mean impossibility. That Socrates takes it in the sense of ‘wonder’ or ‘marvel’ is indicated by his use of thaumazesthai ‘to wonder’, ‘to marvel’, thaumaston ‘marvellous’, agaimên ‘I would admire’ and thaumastȏs ‘remarkably’, agastheiên ‘I would be full of admiration’, as he further develops the point: ‘I find nothing strange (ouden emoige atopon dokei)… if someone shows that all things are one by reason of having a share of the one, and that those very same things are also many by reason of having a share of multitude. But if he shows that what it is to be one is many, and the many actually one, that will surprise me (touto êdê thaumasaimi). The same is true of all other things in like manner. If someone should show that the kinds and characters in themselves (ta genê te kai eidê en hautois) undergo these opposite qualifications, there is reason for surprise (axion thaumazein) … Now, if someone should undertake to show that sticks and stones and things like that are many, and the same things one, we’ll grant he has proved that something is many and one, but not that the one is many or the many one; he has said nothing out of the ordinary (oude ti thaumaston legein) … But I should be filled with admiration (agaimên an thaumastȏs) if someone were first to distinguish separately (prȏton men diairêtai chȏris), alone by themselves (auta kath’ hauta), the characters (ta eidê) just mentioned – likeness and unlikeness, for example, multitude and the one, rest and motion, and all such similar things – and then show that these things among themselves can be combined and distinguished … I would admire it much more (polu mallon agastheiên) if someone could show that this same perplexity is interwoven in all kinds of ways among the characters themselves (en autois tois eidesi) – that just you and Parmenides have explained in the things we see (en tois horȏmenois), so it proves too in what we apprehend by reflection (houtȏs kai en tois logismȏi lambanomenois epideixai).’ (129b4-130a2)

Parmenides asks Socrates: ‘Do you yourself thus distinguish (autos su houtȏ diêirêsai), as you say, certain characters themselves separately by themselves (chȏris men eidê auta atta), and separately again the things that have a share of them (chȏris de ta toutȏn au metechonta)? And do you think that likeness itself is something (kai ti soi dokei einai autê homoiotês) separate from the likeness which we have (chȏris hês hêmeis homoiotêtos echomen), and again one and many (kai hen dê kai polla) and all the others you just heard Zeno mention?’ – Socrates answers: ‘Yes, I do’. (130b1-6)

Socrates appears to have been well acquainted with Parmenides’ poem; he told Parmenides: ‘In your poems, you say that All is one, and you provide fine and excellent proofs of this (128a8-b1).’ When he proposes the Forms as entities free of self-contradiction he is well aware that he thus presents a challenge to Parmenides’ All is one, but his proposal is tentative; he does not view Parmenides’ poem as refuted, he is eager to know what Parmenides will have to say.

Aristotle notes in in Metaphysics M 1086b6-7 that the separation of the Forms ‘is the cause of the objections that arise with regard to the Ideas’ (aition tȏn sumbainontȏn duscherȏn peri tas ideas estin). Ross’ ‘the cause of the objections that arise’ stands for Aristotle’s aition tȏn sumbainontȏn duscherȏn. Liddell & Scott render the original meaning of duscherês as ‘hard to take in hand or manage’; but the preposition dus may simply mean a negation: ‘impossible to take in hand or manage’. Duscherês has connotations of being ‘vexatious’, ‘annoying’, ‘disagreeable’, ’difficult’. To get a flavour of ta duscherê with which Socrates is confronted in the dialogue, let us follow the difficulties as they unfold step by step.

Since no translation can fully mediate what’s going on in Plato’s text, I include the text in the original Greek in full, yet syntactically broken so as to follow the English translation as closely as possible; it thus becomes a sort of Plato’s commentary on Allen’s translation. I hope it will be welcome by all those who want to learn Ancient Greek and those who are learning it. And I hope that those, who are interested in Plato, will consult the Greek original, its syntax, for only thus they can fully appreciate the way in which Plato’s thought develops.

If I could teach Ancient Philosophy, I would encourage students to choose a dialogue of Plato in the Loeb Classical Library edition of parallel Greek-English texts, choose a paragraph, and subject it to a similar treatment, to which I have subjected the following passages from the Parmenides. And if they were studying French or German apart from Ancient Greek, I would encourage them to do the same with German and French translations.
Parmenides: ‘Do you think (dokei soi), as you say (hȏs phêis), that there are (einai) certain characters (eidê atta), of which (hȏn) these others here (tade ta alla) have a share (metalambanonta) and get (ischein) their (autȏn) names (tas epȏnumias)? As for example (hoion), things that get a share (metalambanonta) of likeness (homoiotêtos men) become (gignesthai) like (homoia), of largeness (megethous de) large (megala), of beauty (kallous de) and (kai) justice (dikaiosunês) beautiful (kala) and (te kai) just (dikaia)?’ – Socrates: ‘Yes, certainly’ (Panu ge). – Parmenides: ‘Then does (Oukoun êtoi) each thing (hekaston) that gets a share (to metalambanon) get a share (metalambanei) of the whole character (holou tou eidous), or (ê) of a part (merous)? Or (ê) would there be (genoito) any kind of sharing (allê tis an metalêpsis) separate from these (chȏris toutȏn)?’ – Socrates: ‘Surely not’ (Kai pȏs an). – Parmenides: ‘Then does it seem to you (Poteron oun dokei soi) that the whole character (holon to eidos), being (on) one (hen), is (einai) in (en) each (hekastȏi) of the many (tȏn pollȏn)?’ – Socrates: ‘What prevents it?’ (Ti gar kȏluei)– Parmenides: ‘So (ara) being (on) one (hen) and (kai) the same (t’auton), it will be present (enestai) at once (hama) and as a whole (holon) in things that are many (en pollois ousin) and (kai) separate (chȏris), and (kai) thus (houtȏs) it (auto) would be (an eiê) separate (chȏris) from itself (hautou).’ – Socrates: ‘No, it would not (Ouk an), at least if (ei ge) it were like one and the same day (hoion hêmera mia kai hê autê ousa), which is (esti) in many different places (pollachou) at once (hama) and nonetheless not (kai ouden ti mallon) separate (chȏris) from itself (autê hautês estin). If it were in fact in that way (ei houtȏ), each (kai hekaston) of the characters (tȏn eidȏn) could be (eiê) in everything (en pasin) at once (hama) as one (hen) and the same (t’auton).’ – Parmenides: ‘Very neat (Hêdeȏs ge). You make (poieis) one (hen) and the same thing (t’auton) be in many different places (pollachou) at once (hama), as if (hoion ei) you’d spread a sail over (histiȏi katapetasas) a number (pollous) of men (anthrȏpous) and then claimed (phaiês) that one thing (hen) as a whole (holon) was (einai) over (epi) many (pollois). Or (ê) isn’t (ou) that the sort of thing (to toiouton) you mean (hêgêi) to say (legein)? – Socrates: ‘Perhaps’ (Isȏs). – Parmenides: ‘Now (Ê oun), would the whole sail be (holon to histion eiê an) over (eph’) each man (hekastȏi), or (ê) part (meros) of it (autou) over one and part over another (allo ep’ allȏi)?’ – Socrates: ‘Part’ (Meros). – Parmenides: ‘So (ara) the characters (ta eidê) themselves (auta) are (estin) divisible (merista), and (kai) things that have a share (ta metechonta) of them (autȏn) would have a share (an metechoi) of parts of them (merous); whole (kai holon) would no longer be (ouketi an eiê) in (en) each (hekastȏi), but (alla) part (meros) of each (hekastou) in each.’ – Socrates: ‘Yes, so it appears (Phainetai houtȏ ge). – Parmenides: ‘Then (Ê oun) are you willing (ethelêseis) to say (phanai) that the one (to hen) character (eidos) is in truth divided (têi alêtheiai merizesthai) for us (hêmin), and (kai) will still be (eti estai) one (hen)?’ – Socrates: ‘Not at all’ (Oudamȏs). – Parmenides: ‘For consider (Hora gar), if (ei) you divide (merieis) largeness (to megethos) itself (auto), and (kai) each (hekaston) of the many (tȏn pollȏn) large things (megalȏn) is to be (estai) large (mega) by a part (merei) of largeness (megethous) smaller (smikroterȏi) than largeness (tou megethous) itself (autou), won’t that appear (ara ouk phaneitai) unreasonable (alogon)?’ – Socrates: ‘Of course’ (Panu ge). – Parmenides: ‘Well then (Ti de), suppose something is to have a given (hekaston apolabon ti) small part (meros smikron) of the equal (tou isou). (hexei hȏi) Will the possessor be (to echon estai) equal (ison) to anything (tȏi) by what is smaller (elattoni onti) than the equal itself (autou tou isou)? – Socrates: ‘Impossible’ (Adunaton). – Parmenides: ‘But (Alla) suppose one of us (tis hêmȏn) is to have (hexei) a part (meros) of the small (tou smikrou). The small (to smikron) will be (estai) larger (meizon) than this part of it (toutou de autou), because (hate) it is (ontos) part (merous) of itself (heautou), and (kai) thus (houtȏ dê) the small (to smikron) itself (auto) will be (estai) larger (meizon). But that to which (hȏi d’ an) the part subtracted (touto to aphairethen) is added (prostethêi) will be (estai) smaller (smikroteron) but (all’) not (ou) larger (meizon) than (ê) before (prin).’ – Socrates: ‘Surely (ge) that (touto) couldn’t happen’ (ouk an genoito). – Parmenides: ‘Then (oun) in what (tina) way (tropon) will the others get a share (ta alla metalêpsetai) of the characters (tȏn eidȏn) for you (soi), since they cannot get a share part by part (mête kata merê metalambanein dunamena) nor (mête) whole by whole (kata hola)?’ – Socrates: ‘Such a thing, it seems to me, is difficult, emphatically difficult (Ou ma ton Dia, ou moi dokei eukolon einai to toiouton oudamȏs), to determine (diorisasthai).’ (130e5-131e7).

Aristotle reflects on this difficulty in Metaphysics M: ‘Above all (Pantȏn de malista) one might discuss the question (diaporêseie an tis) what in the world (ti pote) the Forms (ta eidê) contribute (sumballontai) to sensible things (… tȏn aisthêtȏn)… if they are not in the individuals which share in them (mê enuparchonta tois metechousin).’ (1079b12-18, tr. Ross) He could be brief, for ta duscherê, which arise (sumbainonta, 1086b7) when one considers the Forms as separate entities, were amply displayed in Plato’s Parmenides.
Introducing the next duscheres, Parmenides delved into the fundamental reasons that made Socrates think of the Forms: ‘I suppose (oimai) you (se) think (oiesthai) that each (hekaston) character (eidos) is (einai) one (hen) for some such reason (ek tou) as this (toioude): when (hotan) some plurality of things (poll’ atta) seems (doxêi) to you (soi) to be (einai) large (megala), there perhaps (isȏs) seems (dokei) to be (einai) one (mia tis) characteristic (idea) that is the same (hê autê) when you look (idonti) over (epi) them all (panta), whence (hothen) you believe (hêgêi) that the large (to mega) is (einai) one (hen). – Socrates: ‘True’ (Alêthê legeis). – Parmenides: What about (Ti d’) the large (to mega) itself (auto) and (kai) the other (t’alla) larges (ta megala)? If (ean) with your mind (têi psuchêi) you should look (idêis) over (epi) them all (panta) in like manner (hȏsautȏs), will not (ouchi) some (ti) one (hen) large (mega) again (au) appear (phaneitai), by which (hȏi) they (tauta) all (panta) appear to be (phainesthai) large (megala)?’ – Socrates: ‘It seems so’ (Eoiken). – Parmenides: ‘So (ara) another (allo) character (eidos) of largeness (megethous) will have made its appearance (anaphanêsetai), alongside (par’) largeness itself (auto te to megethos gegonos) and (kai) the things which have a share (ta metechonta) of it (autou); and (kai) over and above (epi) all (pasin) those (toutois), again (au), a different one (heteron), by which (hȏi) they (tauta) all (panta) will be (estai) large (megala). And then (kai dê) each (hen hekaston) of the characters (tȏn eidȏn) will no longer be (ouketi estai) one (hen) for you (soi), but (alla) unlimited (apeira) in multitude (to plêthos).’ (132a1-b2)
Aristotle notes that ‘Of the most accurate arguments (hoi akribestatoi tȏn logȏn), some … introduce the third man (hoi de ton triton anthrȏpon legousin) … if the Ideas and the things that share in them have the same form (ei men t’auto eidos tȏn ideȏn kai tȏn metechontȏn), there will be something common (estai ti koinon) … But if they have not the same form (ei de mê to auto eidos), they will have only the name in common (homȏnuma an eiê), and it is as if one were to call both Callias and a piece of wood a ‘man’ (kai homoion hȏsper an ei tis kaloi anthrȏpon ton te Kallian kai to xulon), without observing any community between them (mêdemian koinȏnian epiblepsas autȏn) (1079a11-b3, tr. Ross).’
Socrates: ‘But (Alla) may it not be (mê) that each (hekaston) of the characters (tȏn eidȏn) is (êi) a thought (noêma) of these things (toutȏn), and (kai) it pertains (prosêkêi) to it (autȏi) to come to be (engignesthai) nowhere (oudamou) else (allothi) except (ê) in souls or minds (en psuchais)? For (gar) in that way (houtȏ), each (hekaston) would be (an eiê) one (hen ge), and (kai) no longer still (ouk an eti) undergo (paschoi) what (ha) was now just said (nundê elegeto).’ – Parmenides: ‘Well (Ti oun), is (esti) each (hekaston) of the thoughts (tȏn noêmatȏn) one (hen), but a thought (noêma de) of nothing (oudenos)?’ – Socrates: ‘No, that’s impossible (All’ adunaton). – Parmenides: ‘A thought of something, then (Alla tinos)? – Socrates: ‘Yes’ (Nai). – Parmenides: ‘Of something that is (Ontos), or (ê) is not (ouk ontos)?’ – Socrates: ‘Of something that is’ (Ontos). – Parmenides: ‘Is it not (Ouch) of some one thing (henos tinos) which (ho) that (ekeino) thought (to noêma) thinks (noei) as being (epon) over all (epi pasin), as some (tina) one (mian ousan) characteristic (idean)?’ – Socrates: ‘Yes’ (Nai). – Parmenides: ‘Then (Eita) that (touto) which is thought (to nooumenon) to be (einai) one (hen) will be (estai) a character (eidos), ever (aei on) the same (to auto) over (epi) all (pasin)?’ – Socrates: ‘Again, it appears it must’ (Anangkê au phainetai). (132b3-c8)
Parmenides: ‘Then what about this (Ti de dê]: is it not (ouk) in virtue of necessity (anagkêi) by which (hêi) you say (phêis) that the others (t’alla) have a share (metechein) of characters (tȏn eidȏn), or (ê) do you think (dokei soi) that each (hekaston) is composed (einai) of thoughts (ek noêmatȏn) and (kai) all (panta) think (noein), or (ê) that being (onta) thoughts (noêmata) they are (einai) without thought (anoêta)?’ (132c9-11) [I have adapted Allen’s translation of this passage, for his translation does not correspond to the original: ‘Really, Then what about this: in virtue of the necessity by which you say that the others have a share of characters, doesn’t it seem to you that either each is composed of thoughts and all think, or that being thoughts they are unthought?’]
Socrates: ‘But that is hardly reasonable (All’ oude touto echei logon). Still, this much is clear to me (malista emoige kataphainetai hȏde echein): these characters (ta men eidê tauta) stand (hestanai), as it were, as paradigms (hȏsper paradeigmata) fixed in the nature of things (en têi phusei), but the others (ta de alla) resemble (eoikenai) them (toutois) and (kai) are (einai) likenesses of them (homoiȏmata), and (kai) this (hautê) sharing (hê methexis) that the others come to have (tois allois gignesthai) of characters (tȏn eidȏn) is nothing other (ouk allê tis) than (ê) being a resemblance (eikasthênai) of them (autois).’ – Parmenides: ‘Then (oun) if (ei) something (ti) resembles (eoiken) the character (tȏi eidei), is it possible (hoion te) for that (ekeino) character (to eidos) not (mê) to be (einai) like (homoion) what has come to resemble it (tȏi eikasthenti), just insofar (kath’ hoson) as it has been made like (aphȏmoiȏthêi) it (autȏi)? Is there (ê esti) any (tis) device (mêchanê) by which what is like (to homoion) is not (mê einai) like (homion) to what is like (homoiȏi)?’ – Socrates: ‘There is not’ (Ouk esti). – Parmenides: ‘But what is like (To de homoion) necessarily (megalê anangkê) has a share (metechein) of one (henos) and the same (tou autou) character (eidous) as what it is like (tȏi homoiȏi)? – Socrates: ‘Yes’ (Anangkê). – Parmenides: ‘But will not (ouk) that (ekeino) of which (hou d’ an) like things (ta homoia) have a share (metechonta) so as to be (êi ) like (homoia) be (estai) the character (to eidos) itself (auto)?’ – Socrates: ‘Certainly’ (Pantapasi men oun). – Parmenides: ‘So it is not (Ouk ara) possible (hoion te) for anything (ti) to be (einai) like (homoion) the character (tȏi eidei), nor (oude) the character (to eidos) like anything else (allȏi). Otherwise (ei de mê), another (allo) character (eidos) will always make its appearance (aei anaphanêsetai) alongside (para) the character (to eidos), and (kai) should that be (an ekeino êi) like (homoion) something (tȏi), a different one (heteron) again (au), and (kai) continual generation (aei gignomenon) of a new (kainon) character (eidos) will never (oudepote) stop (pausetai), if (ean) the character (to eidos) becomes (gignêtai) like (homoion) what has a share (tȏi metechonti) of itself (heautou).’ – Socrates: ‘You’re quite right’ (Alêthestata legeis). – Parmenides: ‘So (ara) the others (t’alla) do not (ouk) get a share (metalambanei) of characters (tȏn eidȏn) by likeness (homoiotêti). Rather (Alla), one must (dei) look for (zêtein) something (ti) else (allo) by which (hȏi) they get a share (metalambanei).’ – Socrates: ‘So it seems’ (Eoiken). – Parmenides: ‘Do you see (Horais), then (oun), how great (hosê) the perplexity is (hê aporia), if (ean) someone (tis) distinguishes (diorizêtai) as characters (hȏs eidê) things that are (onta) alone by themselves (auta kath’ hauta)? – Socrates: ‘Yes indeed’ (Kai mala). (132c12-133a10)
Aristotle in Metaphysics M remarks: ‘To say (to de legein) that the Forms are patterns (paradeigmata einai) and the other things share in them (kai metechein autȏn ta alla) is to use empty words (kenologein esti) and poetical metaphors (kai metaphoras legein poiêtikas)’ (1079b24-26, tr. Ross).
The next and the last difficulty actually raised – many others are merely hinted at (polla men kai alla, 133b4) – was concerned with the knowability of the Forms: ‘If someone (ei tis) should say (phaiê) that it doesn’t even pertain (mêde prosêkein) to the characters (ta eidê) to be known (gignȏskesthai) if they are (onta) such (toiauta) as (hoia) we say (phamen) they (auta) must (dein) be (einai), one (tis) could not (ouk an echoi) show (endeixasthai) him (tȏi tauta legonti) he was wrong (hoti pseudetai) unless (ei mê) the disputant (ho amphisbêtȏn) happened to be (tuchoi) a man of wide experience (pollȏn men empeiros ȏn) and natural ability (kai mê aphuês)’ (133b4-8).  This difficulty I have discussed in the entry of November 14, 2014 ‘Plato as a critic of Aristotle’.
At the end of his critical inquiry into the Forms Parmenides left Socrates in a state of philosophic ignorance. He asked him: ‘What then (Ti oun) will you do (poiêseis) about (peri) philosophy (philosophias)? Which way (pêi) will you turn (trepsêi) while these things (toutȏn) are unknown (agnooumenȏn)?’ Socrates answered: ‘For the moment (en tȏi paronti), at least (ge), I am not really sure (ou moi dokȏ) I see (kathoran).’ (135c5-7)
From then on Socrates pursued philosophy within the framework of his philosophic ignorance. (See my entry of December 9, 2014 ‘The Phaedo and the Parmenides’.)
Let me now return to Aristotle’s statement in Metaphysics M that Socrates gave impulse to the theory of Forms by reason of his definitions, but that he did not separate universals from individuals: ‘and in this (kai touto) he thought (enoêsen) rightly (orthȏs), in not separating them (ou chȏrisas). And this is plain (dêloi de) from the results (ek tȏn ergȏn); for without (aneu gar) the universal (tou katholou) it is not possible (ouk estin) to get knowledge (epistêmên labein), but the separation (to de chȏrizein) is the cause (aition estin) of the objections (tȏn duscherȏn) that arise (sumbainontȏn) with regard to the Ideas’ (peri tas ideas, 1086b3-5; tr. Ross). I have noted earlier that Aristotle’s statement that Socrates ‘thought rightly in not separating the forms’ implies that Socrates thought about separating the Forms but decided against it, and that the aorist enoêsen indicates that Aristotle had in mind a concrete situation, in which Socrates’ ‘thinking rightly’ took place. But the aorist may have here its complexive function as well: ‘The complexive aorist is used to survey at a glance the course of a past action from beginning to end’ (H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, Harvard University Press, 1984, p. 430) Aristotle’s dêloi de ek tȏn ergȏn, which Ross translates ‘and this is plain from the results’, appears to point at another dialogue of Plato to which Aristotle explicitly refers in Metaphysics M, the Phaedo (1080a2). Ergon means ‘work’, ‘deed’, ‘action’. Socrates’ lifelong works, his erga, were his philosophical activities. In the Phaedo he says that throughout his life he often had a dream that was always saying the same thing, ‘make mousikê (mousikên poiei) and work at it’ (kai ergazou). Socrates interpreted it as a command ‘make philosophy’, ‘for philosophy is the greatest mousikê’ (hȏs philosophias men ousês megistês mousikês, 61a3-4). Plato’s Parmenides presents us with Socrates at the beginning of his philosophic erga, the Phaedo narrates his last erga. In Metaphysics M, speaking of Socrates, Aristotle reflected Socrates’ philosophic activities in their totality, from his philosophic beginnings to his final hours.

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