You are on page 1of 10


(Seoond Ed11ion)


Copyright ® 1973 by Gregory Vlastos
Library of Congress Catalogue Card no.: 77-90964
ISBN: 0-691-07162-4 (hardcover edn.)
ISBN: 0-691-10021-7 (limited paperback edn.)
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be re-
produced in any form or by any electronic or me-
chanical means including information storage and
retrieval systems without permission in writing from
the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote
brief passages in a review.
Printed in the United Scates of America
To the Memory of


(May 27, 1909- October 17, 1970)

c:t>1A.T<hr) avvepycms

MosT OF THESE essays are efforts to crack puzzles in Plato. The puzzles
are personal ones. They do not seem to have perplexed the great scholars,
from Zeller to Shorey, on whose books I was brought up. Their magisterial
works betray no sense of the strangeness of these things in Plato. Take
the one about the "real" bed in the Republic, which turns out to be nol the
one we sleep on: that one is a mere "shadowy thing compared with the
reality." This passage is an old ground of scholarly contention, but over
what? Over whether or not Plato believed in Forms of artifacts, Aristotle's
explicit testimony to the contrary notwithstanding. I must confess that
for me this question is not half as intriguing as another one, which has
nothing to do with Forms of artifacts as such, and everything to do with
Plato's notion of realiry: How could a man who had so little patience
with loose talk want to say in all seriousness an abstract Form is "more
real" than wood and glue? I venture an answer in two of the essays in
this book: "Degrees of Reality in Plato," and "A. Metaphysical Paradox."
It is avowedly a partial answer. I hope to have more to say before long to
round it out. One reason for putting it between hard covers now is the
hope that greater visibiliry will enhance the chance of eliciting criticism
that may point the way to needed correctives. The same goes for every
one of the other pieces reprinted in this book, not least for that specimen
of youthful dogmatism-written more than thirty years ago-" Slavery in
Plato's Thought."
Of criticism I have had more than my fair share in the past. Is it greedy

of me to want more? I do so only because I have come to realize how

much of the progress in my thinking has come from this source. A piece
of mine, published in 1954, 1 quickly provoked replies in journals and in
private correspondence, some of them from more acute philosophers or
more erudite scholars than I could ever hope to be. I learned much from
those first critiques, and would have learned more if my initial reaction
had been less defensive. More criticism kept rolling in throughout the
sixties, enlarging my perception of the topic. If I were to rewrite that
paper now it would be different not only from the original, but also from the
one I would have produced in, say, 1960, by which time I had had back-
talk from Wilfrid Sellars, Peter Geach, Harold Cherniss and others, but
not from later critics, including graduate students of mine. One of these,
Sandra Peterson (now Mrs. John Wallace), made me aware of something 2
which changed my outlook on "self-predication" in Plato. This was in
1965, the very year in which the 1954 piece was being reprinted 3 with a
note stating that "I still found all of its main contentions sound." How
it is with others, I cannot say. But for me progress has been two-phased:
first, figuring out an answer to a problem; then working that answer over
in the light of valid criticism. The second phase may post-date the first
by a decade or more. It used to take me that long to get over my fixa-
tion on the initial answer, so that I could be free to rethink the problem
without blinkered ego-involvement.
I have included in this volume three new studies and a selection from
previously published work. The selection is an extensive one. Everything
of any consequence I have published on Plato's philosophy 4 is here with
the exception of what is conveniently accessible elsewhere. & For the things
I am reprinting the best that I can say is that each of them records progress
1 "The Third Man Argument in the Parmenides," Philosophical Revieu•, vol. 63,
2 "Pauline predications." See the essays "The Unity of the Virtues in the

Protagoras" and "Ambiguity in the Sophist."

3 R. E. Allen, editor, Studies in Plato's Metaphysics (London and New York,

1965), 231 ff.

•Which I distinguish from that of Socrates. I have accordingly declined to
reprint in this book previously published studies of Plato's works which deal
more specifically with the philosophy of Socrates. The essay on "The Unity of
the Virtues in the Protagoras" gets into the book only because its interest is
not in the substantive Socratic doctrine but in the puzzling formulae employed
in its expression and in their implications for "self-predication" in Plato.
6 R. E. Allen (196'.5) reprints my "Third Man Argument in the Parmenides"

in close proximity to two important criticisms of it: it is followed by Peter

Geach's "The Third Man Again" with my own reply to Geach: and the volume
. m own underscanding of Plato. But mosc of them now strike me as
in · yg misseJ the mar k at some pomt · or oc h er-m1sse
· d 1t· m
· ways wh"1ch
be put right by changing a sentence or two here and there, but
cann O[
call for rewriting good-sized chunks of the text. The same goes for the
new things in the book, not least for the one in which, I feel, I learned
che most about Plato in the course of writing and rewriting-the one on
Platonic love. I read a first draft of it co the Philosophy Club of New
York some ten years ago and lacer drafts, incorporating responses to
criticisms of earlier ones, to other groups. le comes closer to the truth now
than ic did eight or even two years ago. But I don't feel I have touched
botcom. If I had all the time in the world and greater facility in writing
I would scrap the piece as it now stands and rewrite it from start to finish.
Bue chat would raise new questions in the course of answering old ones.
This is, in pare, what persuades me co publish now the latest draft. Another
reason is the promise to the department of philosophy at the University
of Montana that the lecture I gave there in honor of the retirement of
Professor Edwin L. Marvin would soon appear in print. A third is the
conviction chat, in spite of its failings, there are things in this essay that
make better sense of this part of Plato's vision than anything I have seen
in print.
The three studies at the head of Part Two pursue a line of inquiry
which I have found exciting. To do this work more adequately I would
have had co be a strong logician, while the fact is that my logical skills
are minimal. Those who know even less logic than I do should not be mis-
led by the spatter of symbols on some pages of this book to overestimate
my competence in this department. The best I can manage is homespun,
amaceurish logic. I have resorted co it only under pressure of necessity-
only where I felt chat by using elementary logical formulae I could trace
the paccern of Plato's thought more exactly and economically. If my
incerpretation is faulty, its error will be clearer in symbols than it would
be in words.
The essay on "The Two-Level Paradoxes in Aristotle" is a critique of
G. E. L. Owen's treatment of this theme. Cricicisms of Harold Cherniss
cum up in various spots in this volume. No one schooled in the ethos of

includes "The Relation of the Timaeus co Plato's Later Dialogues" by Harold

Cherniss which inter a/ia controverts my interprerarion of rhe Third Man
argument. Ir also includes two essays of mine on the Timaetu: "The Disorderly
Morion in the Timaeus" and "Creation in the Timaera: Is it a Fiction?" My
"Third Man Argument in the Parmmides" is also available separately in the
Bobbs-Merrill Philosophical Reprints; so is my '"Anamnesis in the Meno."

scholarly controversy will fail co sense, behind these strictures, my esteem

for these master-craftsmen. To them and to other scholars whom I have
ventured co criticize I wane to express gratitude for what I have learned
from them. I have directed criticism only to colleagues whose work I
have found rewarding.
Though the findings communicated in this volume are modest, they are
the produce of much Iabor extending over many years. The work could not
have been done without grants which have supported in whole or in pare
release from other duties. I record the sources of these grants with deepest
gratitude: the Leopold Schepp Foundation (1937); the Social Science
Research Council of Canada (1945); the John Simon Guggenheim Founda-
tion (1952, 1959); the Institute for Advanced Study ac Princecon (1954);
the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford
(1967). And, of course, I owe as much and more co the universities I have
been privileged to serve: Queen's in Canada; Cornell; Princecon. Graceful
as I am to all three for councless benefits, I muse acknowledge the excep-
tional opportunities I have enjoyed at Princecon. My best scholarly work
(not all of it on Plato) has been done here during the lase decade. This is
no accident. It is due entirely to two things I have had here since the early
sixties: more leisure than is generally allowed the teacher-scholar in this
country; magnificent graduate students from whom I have learned more
than from my peers. Since I enjoyed these benefits through the good
fortune of my department which has prospered through the generosity
of Laurance Rockefeller, alumnus of the department, chairman of its
Advisory Council (1961-67), and now Charter Trustee of the university,
and through the encouragement of Robert Goheen, president of the
university from 1957 to 1972, I cannot forgo this opportunity to express
my warmest thanks co each.
While much of this book was being written, American military inter-
vention was devastating Vietnam. I spoke out against it upon occasion.
But I could not free myself thereby from involuntary complicity in its
crimes: for example, I paid taxes. The least I can do now is to offer a tiny
token of personal restitution. Net proceeds from the present edition of this
book will go to agencies of renewal in areas of Vietnam which have been
ravaged by the American war machine.

Lincoln's Birthday, 1973 GREGORY VLASTOS

Prince/on, New jersey

I am grateful
To the Philosophical Review for permission to reprint:
"Slavery in Plato's Thought," 50 (1941), 289-304.
"Self-Predication In Plato's Later Period," 78 (1969), 74-78.
''Reasons and Causes in the Phaedo," 78 (1969), 291-325.
The review ofJohn Gould, The Development ofPlato's Ethics, 66 (1957),
The review of I. M. Crombie, .An 'Examination of Plato's Philosophical
Doctrines, Vol. II, 75 (1966), 526-30.
To the journal of Philosophy for permission to reprint material contained in:
"The Argument in the Republic that Justice Pays," 65 (1968), 665-74.
'Justice and Psychic Harmony in the Republic," 66 (1969), 505-21.
To Isi1 for permission to reprint:
"Plato's Supposed Theory of Irregular Atomic Figures," 57 (1967),
To Classical Philology for permission to reprint:
"Does Slavery Exist in the Republic?" 63 (1968), 291-95.
To Gnomon for permission to reprint:
The review of). H. Kramer, .Arete bei Platon und .Aristotele1, 41 (1963),