How to Say Goodbye to the Third Man


Francis Jeffry Pelletier and Edward N. Zalta


Nous, 34/2 (2000): 165-202


In this paper, we examine the recent developments in our understanding of Plato's Third man Argument in the *Parmenides*. In particular, we examine the issues surrounding Constance Meinwald's approach to this argument, which proposes that Plato solves the problem by employing two modes of predication. One mode of predication is "x is F (in relation to others)". This is the mode by which Plato predicates properties of ordinary objects. The other mode of predication is "x is F (in relation to itself)". This is the mode by which Plato predicate properties of the Forms, and in particular, those properties which are part of the nature of the Forms they are predicated of. In our analysis, Meinwald does not go far enough in working out the implications of this view. We regiment this distinction between two modes of predication and define the notion of "Form" and define two notions of "participation" that correspond to the two modes of predication. We then derive the basic principles of Plato's theory of Forms and show how these principles avoid the Third Man problem. We also examine objections that have been raised to Meinwald's view, to see whether they apply to our more formal reconstruction.

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