BMCR 2023.06.02

Plato’s Parmenides: selected papers of the Twelfth Symposium Platonicum

, , , Plato's Parmenides: selected papers of the Twelfth Symposium Platonicum. International Plato studies, 41. Baden-Baden: Academia Verlag, 2022. Pp. 568. ISBN 9783985720200

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]


This book contains proceedings of the Symposium Platonicum held in Paris in 2019. The format follows that of its predecessors, in which a selected dialogue (or two) is covered by scholars from diverse research traditions using various interpretative approaches. The published papers are usually shorter notes on specific passages, sometimes growing into longer articles on larger issues, but rarely into a discussion between themselves. The present collection is the largest of its kind (53 papers: 32 in English, 12 in Italian, 4 in German, 3 in French, 2 in Spanish). It examines a particularly difficult dialogue, the Parmenides, from six angles that make up this book’s six thematic sections: (I) the dramatic framework, (II) the influence of earlier philosophers on the Parmenides, (III) Plato’s conception of dialectics, (IV) the critique of the theory of forms, (V) the hypotheses and deductions, and (VI) the influence of the Parmenides on later authors.

The Parmenides is a minefield of philosophical questions: how are we to take the dramatic presence of the Eleatics Parmenides and Zeno in terms of the dialogue’s aims and methods? Which of the arguments criticizing the theory of forms, if any, are valid? Do the deductions lead to a genuine impasse or is there some qualified sense in which some of them are productive? And what is the overall purpose of this dialogue: to ridicule the Eleatic monism, to expose the problems surrounding the theory of forms, to solve them, or perhaps to introduce the metaphysics of the One? The reader should not approach this volume in order to find a scholarly consensus on any of these questions, but for the clear formulation of a particular problem, or a promising outline of a solution, or an interesting historical connection to other philosophers offered by some of its contributions.

A good case of the first is Amber D. Carpenter’s paper. Plato’s Socrates wants forms to be separated from sensibles and ontologically independent of them. Parmenides attacks this position by noticing that the separation of forms and sensibles implies a symmetrical relation since forms are separated from sensibles as much sensibles are separated from forms. But the paper explores a further problem: if being separated from sensibles means being independent of them, then sensibles are equally independent of forms. Even if one gives up separation in order to salvage independence, the problem persists in a weakness captured by Parmenides’ ‘master-slave’ example, which Carpenter explains as follows: ‘his being a master does depend on someone else’s being a slave – and so the master (as Hegel observed) depends on his slave’ (p. 249). Of course Plato, as another paper by Kezhou Liu claims, wants to maintain an asymmetrical relation, but none of the papers in Section IV provide compelling evidence from the Parmenides to counter Carpenter’s argument.

Other contributions explore how certain mistakes in the Parmenides were solved in other dialogues. For instance, Notomi Noburu examines why the dialogues after the Parmenides abandoned the form of Similarity (homoion) in favor of the form of Sameness (tauton). The answer is that a relation of similarity between forms and sensibles ends up generating a regress. Francisco J. Gonzalez argues that the notion of the third (to triton), which is discussed at 155e–157b (sometimes called the third deduction, usually taken as an appendix to the first two), is pivotal in solving the antinomies of the Parmenides. According to this paper, this notion encompasses any two opposed things and transcends them, thus giving a conceptual basis for various ‘thirds’ in the Philebus, the Sophist, and the Timaeus. Béatrice Lienemann explores the predication of forms. This paper adopts Meinwald’s distinction between two types of predication and argues that predication in relation to the thing itself (pros heauto) expresses the essential property of such a thing (e.g. the form of human being is rationality). However, it should not be confused with the necessary properties, such as identity, that belong to all forms. Lienemann then explores the Phaedo and the Sophist to confirm that Plato indeed employs something close to the distinction between the essential and necessary properties.

As for the historical part, two papers stand out. Mathilde Brémond gives good textual evidence to show that the second part of the Parmenides examines pairs of contradictory claims leading to impossibilities in the way the sophist Gorgias does. In addition, this paper argues that having Gorgias in mind can explain why the second part is neither constructive in its outcomes, nor openly called ‘dialectics’. The reason is that the argumentation here resembles antilogic. Lloyd P. Gerson’s paper is about the elephant in the room: the Neoplatonic reading of the Parmenides that is mostly ignored throughout the volume. Gerson shows that Plotinus’ interpretation of the first three hypotheses was not arbitrary, but rather based on a defendable understanding of the One and the need to find a philosophically sound answer to Aristotle’s question ‘what is ousia?’.

The broader value of this volume is that it gives a good representation of the current status quaestionis and provides a number of useful discussions of shorter passages. However, most of its pieces do not formulate a self-standing argument and should be read in conjunction with Cornford’s Plato and Parmenides (1935), Allen’s Plato’s Parmenides (1983), Meinwald’s Plato’s Parmenides (1991), Sayre’s Parmenides’ Lesson (1996), Scolnicov’s Plato’s Parmenides (2003), Rickless’ Plato’s Forms in Transition (2006), and Gill’s Philosophos (2012): the papers assume close familiarity with them. Finally, this volume needed more careful editing: it contains different treatments of Greek (e.g. pp. 183-191 use transliterations, while pp. 193-200 do not); there are typos and missing characters in the text and titles (e.g. ‘Plato’ Parmenides’ on p. 10) and missing references in the bibliography (e.g. Helmig 2007 and Migliori 2000 from p. 63).


Authors and Titles

Introduction, Luc Brisson, Arnaud Macé, Olivier Renaut


I. On the threshold of the Parmenides

Poésie et poétique dialogique dans le prologue du Parménide, François Renaud

Road to Academy. The implicit protreptics of Plato’s Parmenides, Nikos G. Charalabopoulos

Il prologo come chiave di interpretazione del dialogo intero, Lidia Palumbo


II. The Parmenides in context

Parmenide e il cavallo di Ibico: l’immagine dell’eros senile per la dialettica (Prm. 136e-137c), Mario Regali

Parmenides auf dem Prüfstand: Unendliche Schwierigkeiten und eine Aufgabe, Julia Pfefferkorn

The “Ideas as thoughts” hypothesis of Parmenides 132b-c: a historical approach, André Luiz Braga da Silva

Plato’s Account of Eleaticism: A New Interpretation of Parmenides, D. Gregory MacIsaac

La dottrina eleatica dell’Uno-tutto nel primo λόγος di Zenone, Francesco Ferro

Socrates Objects to Zeno at 128e-129a in Plato’s Parmenides, Sandra Peterson

Anaxagoras in Plato’s Parmenides, Filippo Forcignanò

Gorgias and Antilogic in Plato’s Parmenides, Mathilde Brémond

Il Parmenide di Platone fra il Περὶ τοῦ μὴ ὄντος di Gorgia e il Περὶ τοῦ ὄντος di Protagora: l’ombra dei sofisti nella γυμνασία, Michele Corradi

Las huellas de Gorgias y el robo del λόγος de Zenón, Ivana Costa

Intra-Socratic polemics. The Parmenides as an element of an anti-Megaric program, Claudia Mársico


III. Dialogue, dialectics and exercises

Exercise on Being: The ἀγών of Heraclitus and Parmenides, Mary-Louise Gill

Socrate en devenir. Le développement du jeune Socrate dans le Phédon comme clé herméneutique du Parménide, Annie Larivée

Parmenides’ hypothesis behind Plato’s Parmenides: ‘all the things are collectively called ἓν ὄν’ (Sph. 242d6), Sergio Di Girolamo

On common forms and dialectical inquiry in Plato’ Parmenides, Jens Kristian Larsen

A Diagnosis of Dialectic in Parmenides 142b1-144e7, Georgia Mouroutsou

Eleatic training. The aim and uses of dialectic in Plato’s Parmenides and Aristotle’s Topics, Alessio Santoro


IV. The Theory of Forms

Homonymy and Similarity in Plato’s Parmenides, Noburu Notomi

Sind die Ideen wirklich unteilbar? Zur zweifachen Natur der platonischen Formen (Prm. 131a-e), Antonino Spinelli

The Parmenides and the Typology of eide (according to Plato’s Hippias Major, Protagoras, Republic, and Sophist), Irina Protopopova

Sul cosiddetto “argomento del terzo uomo” (TMA) nel Parmenide, Vittorio Ricci

Separation Anxieties. Parmenides 133a-135c, Amber D. Carpenter

Why is the ‘greatest’ difficulty neither great nor consistent? (Prm. 133b-134e), Beatriz Bossi

La “mayor dificultad” y el poder del conocimiento en Parménides 133b-134e, José Antonio Giménez

Der ferne Gott – Ideen auf Distanz? Die siebte Aporie im Kontext (Prm. 133b4–135b4), Irmgard Männlein-Robert

Ousia and dunamis in the greatest aporia (Prm. 133b4-135b4), Carolina Araújo

The Problem of Separation in Plato’s Parmenides, Kezhou Liu


V. Hypothesis and deductions

The many meanings of the One in Plato’s Parmenides, Maurizio Migliori

The Subject and Number of Hypotheses in Plato’s Parmenides, Eric Sanday

Prädikationen pros heauto im Parmenides als Aussagen über die Struktur von Ideen, Béatrice Lienemann

La deuxième partie du Parménide : identité et altérité de l’intelligible ?, Luca Pitteloud

Dialectic and Forms in Prm. 137c-144e, Dougal Blyth

“Οὐκ ἔστιν” (141e8): The Performative Contradiction of the First Hypothesis, Mateo Duque

Il numero come prototipo di pluralità unificata (Prm.147a3-6), Carmen Di Lorenzo

The One and Time: Parmenides 151e-153a, Richard Parry

Eternity for Plato: The Dialogue between Parmenides and Timaeus, Aleksei A. Pleshkov

“Let us say the third”: The Meaning of τὸ τρίτον in the Deductions of Plato’s Parmenides, Francisco J. Gonzalez

Gunk in the Third Deduction of Plato’s Parmenides, Samuel Meister

La Noesi nascosta. Sulla presenza della teoria platonica dellʼAnima nella γυμνασία del Parmenide (142a-144e, 155e-157b, 157b-159b), Claudia Luchetti

Riferimento, essere e partecipazione. Prm. 160b4-163b5 e il Sofista, Roberto Granieri

La duplice accezione dell’espressione me esti nella V e nella VI ipotesi del Parmenide, Francesco Aronadio

Structure and sense of the seventh deduction in Prm. 164b5-165e1, Lorenzo Giovannetti

Pseudo-Objects in a World of Seeming (Prm. 164b–165e), Jan Szaif

Nonbeing and the Final Four Deductions in Plato’s Parmenides, I-Kai Jeng


VI. The Reception of the Parmenides

Una lettura stoica della “più grande difficoltà” del Parmenide, Federico M. Petrucci

Apuleian Evidence regarding Pre-Plotinian Interpretation of the Parmenides, Harold Tarrant

Plotinus and Parmenides, Lloyd P. Gerson

Forms as paradigms in Plato’s Parmenides 132c-d. Proclus’ response to Aristotle and Alexander of Aphrodisias’ attacks on the Forms considered as patterns, Melina G. Mouzala

La peculiare solennità dell’isagoge procliana al Parmenide di Platone, Anna Motta

Simplicio, in Cael. 556, 3-560, 10, a margine di Platone, Prm. 135b8-c1. Prolegomeni a una genealogia del parallelismo onto-epistemologico, Ivan Adriano Licciardi