Being In Late Plato

In A Companion to Ancient Philosophy. pp. 147-159 (2018)

Eric Sanday
University of Kentucky
This chapter [of the edited volume, A Companion to Ancient Philosophy] examines the shift in Plato’s account of the eidē or ‘forms’ from the Republic to the Parmenides. Forms in the Republic are characterized in terms of perfection, purity, and changelessness, with the form being an ultimate explanatory principle for being-X. Participants, while being-X, are also capable of not-being-X, either through qualitative change and coming-to-be, or through external changes in perspective or opinion, by which they “appear [φανήσεται]” not-X (R. V.479a7). The form is treated as prior to participant and as prior to mixture with what would deny what it is. It is intrinsically changeless and not subject to changes in appearance. In the Parmenides, the account of form shifts to accommodate the types of admixture demanded for combination with and division from other forms. In the Fifth Hypothesis, forms are subject to determinate “bonds of being and not-being,” which permits the form to present itself as an object of discursive knowing, being-X, -Y, and -Z, and not-being not-X, not-Y, and not-Z. Forms are still treated as pure and perfect, but now with the power of gathering together intelligible bonds of being and not-being. Thus, in the Parmenides, forms are the gathering source and the gathered terms subject to the admixture; they are that by which true speech is explained. In this chapter, I argue that the “turning of the soul from becoming to truth and being” (R. VII.525c) announced in the Republic is partially fulfilled through the account of veridical speech in the Parmenides.
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