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Troubling Play

Meaning and Entity in Plato's Parmenides

Kelsey Wood

Publication Year: 2005

Troubling Play is a new and illuminating interpretation of Plato’s Parmenides—notoriously the most difficult of the dialogues. Showing that the Parmenides is an inquiry into time and the forms of language, author Kelsey Wood notes that the dialogue’s suggestion of sophistry is intended to provoke the silently observant Socrates. The young Socrates believes that knowing is prior to existence, but Parmenides ultimately shows him that the meaning of intelligible discourse is derived from existence in time. Although we cannot think apart from intelligible forms, nevertheless, any number of modes of intelligibility are possible. This relation of ideals of intelligibility—the forms of logos—to temporal being is a crucial topic of special relevance to philosophers today. Wood’s detailed methodological analysis ties the Parmenides to other later dialogues such as the Sophist, Theatetus, and Philebus, and also to earlier works such as the Republic and the poem of Parmenides.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Front Matter

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pp. ii-v


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p. viii

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pp. 1-18

The Parmenides seems to lend support to Heidegger’s claim that Platonism is the beginning of a tradition of forgetting the question of being and privileging a ‘metaphysics of presence.’1 For the dialogue shows the eidos to be the one in many that that makes experience intelligible. However, Plato’s figure of Parmenides just as decisively undercuts the notion of ideal presence by making...

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Chapter 1. Troubling Play

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pp. 19-39

In studying Plato’s dialogues, especially later dialogues such as the Parmenides, we learn that whatever aspect of being we focus on, we always seem to uncover a dialectical interplay of what flows and what abides. For example, unity in the Parmenides manifests as many senses as “to be” does. Apparently, to exist at all, in whatever manner, is to stand out as a unified individual from a...

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Chapter 2. Logos and Existence in the Parmenides

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pp. 41-66

Aristotle’s discussion of being as energeia is founded on the Platonic insight that being is participatory (e.g., Physics, 202b). But the Parmenides had already shown that the unity of philosophy, its being, may not be understood as a matrix of eidē defined in their mutual interrelation. The being of philosophy is the...

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Chapter 3. The Game Begins

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pp. 67-89

Parmenides’ troublesome game ostensibly unfolds according to the schema he outlines briefly at 136a–c. In response to Socrates’ question as to the proper mode (tropos) of philosophical training, Parmenides indicates that the development of his dialectical demonstration will be determined by the following three pairs of oppositions: (1) what follows if the one exists, and what follows...

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Chapter 4. From Irony to Comedy

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pp. 91-117

Like the Parmenides, the Cratylus raises questions about language and the manner of learning about being. And like Parmenides, a mature Socrates in the Cratylus challenges his young interlocutors with ironic and humorous reductions to absurdity. Socrates throws into question the notion that names (onomata) resemble beings. Cratylus claims there must be some basis for language...

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Chapter 5. If the All Is a Many, Change Is Impossible

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pp. 119-141

In his initial exchanges with Socrates, before beginning his dialectical game, Parmenides warned that Socrates did not yet realize the aporia implied in distinguishing a singular form in itself, apart from beings (133a–b). Suppose someone asserts that, if the forms are as we say they ought to be, they cannot be known? At this point in their introductory exchange, Parmenides...

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Chapter 6. The Fourth and Fifth Beginnings: The Many

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pp. 143-158

The Parmenides is intentionally crafted in a way that resists schematization: this is evident once the distinction between logos toward-itself and toward another is conceived in even a rudimentary way, because the ironic interpenetration or allo-location of these two modes recurs throughout the dialogue. In this way, Parmenides shows Socrates that this distinction may be neither collapsed nor rigorously and completely developed. The absurdity of a simple...

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Chapter 7. Denouement: If the One is Not

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pp. 159-177

The sixth beginning, like the other sections of this dialogue, juxtaposes the two thematic orientations: pros itself, as opposed to pros others. And as in the other beginnings, in the sixth Parmenides’ irony serves a double function. If the suggestion of sophistry perhaps confounds the young Aristotle, at the same time, Parmenides evokes a deeper level of paradox for Socrates...


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pp. 179-192


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pp. 193-198


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pp. 199-205

E-ISBN-13: 9780791482940
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791465196
Print-ISBN-10: 0791465195

Page Count: 214
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 63168541
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Troubling Play

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Subject Headings

  • Ontology.
  • Dialectic.
  • Plato. Parmenides.
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