By James T. Liu, Michael J. Duff, Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics Inaugural Conference
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Extra info for 2001: A spacetime odyssey. Proceedings of the inaugural conference of the Michigan center for theoretical physics
Consider in the Phaedo where Plato describes Simmias being both large and small because of the Largeness and Smallness 'in him' (en tiii Simmiai, 102b5-6). gethos, 102d6-7). Some philosophers have suggested that both refer to the same thing: the Form of Largeness,82 but there are several reasons to rtject this proposal. First, Plato concedes that when the Largeness in us is approached by its opposite - the Smallness in us - it 'either withdraws or ceases to exist' (etoi aperchetai e apoUutai, 103al).
But what reason is there to think that Plato was unable to find the 'right' words to describe the Forms? It is easy enough for someone to say that if Plato had access to a modem philosopher's vocabulary, then he could have more effectively conveyed the abstract nature of the Forms. Nevertheless, it is perfectly reasonable to think that Plato describes the Forms as if they were particulars for the simple reason that particulars are actually what he conceives them to be. Another problem that needs to be taken into account is how the Forms, if they are universals, can serve a paradigmatic function.
In the light of these considerations, the case for the standard interpretation is clearly beginning to unravel. If Plato conceives of the Forms as universals, one would expect him to acknowledge their existence, but not to describe them as having 'more existence' than their sensible counterparts. Some philosophers argue that his The Standard Interpretation 33 talk about 'degrees of being' is what ultimately contributed to the problems that he would later acknowledge in the Parmenides. Vlastos sees Plato as being someone who, because of his susceptibility to think of reality as coming in grades or degrees, was 'tempted to misconstrue universals as a higher grade of particulars'.