The Exercise on Logic
These, Socrates are a few, and only a few of the difficulties if we view ideas as having an an absolute unity.
Anyone against this will deny the very existence of this unity. Even if they do exist, he will say that they must of necessity be unknown to man. He will seem to have reason on his side, and will be very difficult to convince.
A man must be gifted with very considerable ability before he can learn that everything has a class and an absolute essence. Still more remarkable will he be who discovers all these things for himself, and having thoroughly investigated them is able to teach them to others.
if we do away with ideas of things and will not admit that every individual thing has its own determinate idea which is always one and the same, we will have nothing on which our mind can rest.
So we will utterly destroy the power of reasoning. Then what is to become of philosophy if the ideas are unknown?
Yes, this arises out of your attempting to define the beautiful, the just, the good, and the ideas generally, without sufficient previous training. I noticed your deficiency, when I heard you talking here with your friend Aristoteles, the day before yesterday.
The impulse that carries you towards philosophy is assuredly noble and divine. But shallow people have an an art called idle talking which is often useless. You must train and exercise yourself in that or truth will elude your grasp.
These exercises are practiced by Zeno. I give you credit for saying to him that you did not care to examine the perplexity in reference to visible things, or to consider the question that way; but only in reference to objects of thought, and to what may be called ideas.
Yes but I think that you should go a step further, and consider not only the consequences which flow from a given hypothesis, but also the consequences which flow from denying the hypothesis.
For example, that in the case of this very hypothesis of Zeno’s about the many, you should inquire not only what will be the consequences to the many in relation to themselves and to the one, and to the one in relation to itself and the many, on the hypothesis of the being of the many, but also what will be the consequences to the one and the many in their relation to themselves and to each other, on the opposite hypothesis.
Or, again, if likeness is or is not, what will be the consequences in either of these cases to the subjects of the hypothesis, and to other things, in relation both to themselves and to one another, and so of unlikeness;
The same holds good of motion and rest, of generation and destruction, and even of being and not-being.
When you suppose anything to be or not to be, or to be in any way affected, you must look at the consequences in relation to the thing itself, and to any other things which you choose,—to each of them singly, to more than one, and to all; and so of other things, you must look at them in relation to themselves and to anything else which you suppose either to be or not to be, if you would train yourself perfectly and see the real truth.
Zeno smiling: Let us make our petition to Parmenides himself, who is quite right in saying that you are hardly aware of the extent of the task which you are imposing on him.
If there were more of us I should not ask him, for these are not subjects which any one, especially at his age, can well speak of before a large audience; most people are not aware that this roundabout progress through all things is the only way in which the mind can attain truth and wisdom. And therefore, Parmenides, I join in the request of Socrates, that I may hear the process again which I have not heard for a long time.
When Zeno had thus spoken, Pythodorus, according to Antiphon’s report of him, said, that he himself and Aristoteles and the whole company entreated Parmenides to give an example of the process.