Parmenides Publishing

Titles By Patricia Curd

Image and Paradigm in
Plato’s Sophist

298 pages · Hardcover
Edward C. Halper
is Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Kurt F. Leidecker Chair of Asian Studies at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, VA. He specializes in Ancient Greek and Indian & Asian Philosophy. He is the co-editor of Philosophy, Religion and the Question of Intolerance (1997).

The Sophist sets out to explain what the sophist does by defining his art. But the sophist has no art. Plato lays out a challenging puzzle in metaphysics, the nature of philosophy, and the limitation of philosophy that is unraveled in this new and unconventional interpretation.

Here is a new translation of this important late Platonic dialogue, with a comprehensive commentary that reverses the dominant trends in the scholarship of the last fifty years. The Sophist is shown to be not a dry exposition of doctrine, but a rich exercise in dialectic, which reveals both the Eleatic roots of Platonic metaphysics and Plato’s criticism of unrevised Eleaticism as a theoretical underpinning for sophistry.

The Sophist is presented now not as an artefact of the intellectual past or precursor of late 20th century philosophical theories, but as living philosophy. In a new translation and interpretation, this late dialogue is shown to be a defense of and not a departure from Plato’s metaphysics.

The book is intended to provide a complete interpretation of Plato’s Sophist as a whole. Central to the methodology adopted is the assumption that all elements of the dialogue to be understood must be understood in the context of the dialogue as a whole and in its relation to other works in the Platonic corpus.

Three main points are argued: (1) the dialogue does not present a definitive or positive doctrine of the late Plato, but has the structure of a reductio ad absurdum; (2) the figure of the sophist is employed to critically examine the metaphysics of Parmenides. While acknowledging a core of metaphysical insight in Parmenides, the argument implies that, by failing to account for resemblance, Eleaticism implies an inadequate theory of relations, which makes impossible an adequate understanding of essence.

Consequently, Eleaticism unrevised can be taken as the philosophical underpinning for the antithesis of philosophy, lending legitimacy to sophistry; (3) the criticism constitutes an indirect argument for Platonic metaphysics, which has roots in Eleaticism, that is, for the Theory of Forms.
"...there are things to be grateful for in this book; above all, it is well argued and clearly written. And, just because of its difficulties, Sophist is studied less than many Platonic dialogues: it is good to have a new translation and a thought-provoking book-length commentary."
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—Robin Waterfield
The Heythrop Journal

Reviewed in Dec 2007

This book consists of a new translation and commentary on Plato's Sophist. Ambuel (Univ. of Mary Washington) argues in his commentary that the method of dialectic (collection and division) used in the dialogue, along with its shortcomings, must be seen as integral to the goal of the dialogue, viz., the definition of the Sophist himself, whose alleged "art" lays bare the fact that he deals only with images and not with the forms of Truth and Reality. What distinguishes Ambuel's interpretation of the dialogue from the traditional interpretations (e.g., that of G. E. L. Owen) is his claim that the dialogue is not just an exercise in logic or philosophy of language, but is an illustration of the common theme in Platonic metaphysics of the distinction between "image" and "paradigm"--and that the methods of the Sophist clearly place him in the camp of protagonists who deal exclusively with images. This latter point also explains the mistakes in methods used to define the Sophist himself. The book is effectively argued, well written, and scholarly, with a plethora of Greek phrases that, unfortunately for the uninitiated, go mostly untranslated. Adequate bibliography and index.

Summing Up
: Recommended. Graduate students and faculty/researchers.

Reprinted with permission from CHOICE, copyright by the American Library Association.
—P. A. Streveler
emeritus, West Chester
University of Pennsylvania

"Image And Paradigm In Plato's Sophist" by David Ambuel (Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Kurt F. Leidecker Chair of Asian Studies at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia) provides contemporary students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the writings of Plato with a new translation of Plato's dialogue, the 'Sophist', along with a comprehensive and articulate commentary that quite reverse dominant trends in mainstream philosophical theories. Professor Ambuel demonstrates and documents that this late dialogue presented with his own unconventional, yet thoughtful and thought-provoking interpretation is a defense of Plato's metaphysics and not a radical departure from them. Lucid, insightful, reasoned, and iconoclastic, "Image And Paradigm In Plato's Sophist" is a welcome and enthusiastically recommended addition to academic library Philosophy reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
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"It is generally supposed that the Sophist contains the core of Plato’s later metaphysics, which must then have identified not-being and difference. David Ambuel undertakes to show that this identification implies that determination is negation, a doctrine which destroys the distinction between accidental and essential determination, and thereby the theory of forms. As doctrine, the Sophist points toward Speussippus, not Plato. By analyzing its treatment of resemblance and participation, Ambuel concludes that its structure is aporetic. This account is highly original. It is also very likely true."
—R. E. Allen
Northwestern University

"Ambuel has given us an accurate and enduring Plato’s Sophist—a translation based on the newly revised OCT text, accompanied by a scholarly commentary rich in philosophical detail. The translation is lucid, untainted by jargon, and unaffected by the implicit assumptions of any of the dominant “schools” of Platonic inter- pretation. Its helpful commentary, focusing on the text instead of the secondary literature, makes it perfect for the classroom."
—Debra Nails
Michigan State University

"The Sophist bears witness to a great turn-about on many points. Ambuel’s reading strikes me as eminently plausible. If philosophy were music, reading him would be like Haendel."
—David Marshall
Villanova University

"David Ambuel has provided scholars with an intriguing new commentary and translation of the Sophist that breaks rather dramatically with more contemporary interpretations, and presents an important set of challenges to the astute reader of Plato.Those who consider the Sophist to reveal developments in Platos conception of reality and language will be surprised to see the direction Ambuel takes: Plato is not doing what many scholars have argued he was doing. Ambuels interpretation is unique and erudite, and scholars will find much to discuss in this text, and they should."
—Blake E. Hirst

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award 2007
- Bronze in "Philosophy"

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PubWest Book Design Awards 2008
Silver "Academic Book Non-Trade"
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