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One, Two, Three… a Discussion on the Generation of Numbers in Plato's Parmenides (2013-2014)

Author: CĂLIAN, George Florin
Field of study: Philosophy

One of the questions regarding the Parmenides is whether Plato was committed to any of the arguments developed in the second part of the dialogue. This paper argues for considering at least one of the arguments from the second part of the Parmenides, namely the argument of the generation of numbers, as being platonically genuine. I argue that the argument at 142b-144b, which discusses the generation of numbers, is not deployed for the sake of dialectical argumentation alone, but it rather demonstrates key platonic features, such as the use of the greatest kinds and the generation principle. The connection between the argument for the generation of numbers and Plato’s philosophy of mathematics is strengthened by the exploration of a possible reference in Aristotle’s Metaphysics A6. Taken as a genuine platonic theory, the argument could have significant impact on how we understand Plato’s philosophy of mathematics in particular, and the ontology of the late dialogues in general – that numbers can be reduced to more basic entities, i.e the greatest kinds,
in a way similar to the role the greatest kinds are assigned in the Sophist.

Keywords: Plato, the Parmenides, Aristotle, mathematics, generation of numbers, one, two, three, multiplication, one, being, difference, the greatest kinds, even, odd

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