Gunk in the Third Deduction of Plato's Parmenides

In Selected Papers of the Symposium Platonicum XII (forthcoming)

Samuel Meister
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
The third deduction in Plato’s Parmenides is often given a constructive reading on which Plato’s Parmenides, or even Plato himself, presents us with a positive account of the relation between parts and wholes. However, I argue that there is a hitch in the third deduction which threatens to undermine the mereology of the third deduction by the lights of the dialogue. Roughly, even if the Others partake of the One, the account of the third deduction leads to an ontology of gunk, that is, an ontology on which there are no mereological atoms (except for the One). Hence, it is unclear whether the participation relation between the Others and the One is sufficient to impose the sort of structure on the Others which, in the context of this deduction, Parmenides (or Plato) seems to hope for. Instead of the constructive reading of the third deduction, I therefore offer an aporetic reading on which the third deduction raises further difficulties for the participation relation at the heart of young Socrates’ theory of Forms.
Keywords Plato  Mereology  Parmenides
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