I asked yesterday about the appropriateness of the strategy announced in the following paragraph:
It will not be necessary further to summarize Rickless's understanding of Parmenides' criticisms of Socrates' theory and of the response to them indicated in the dialectical exercise, for he has himself done so at length in his article on the Parmenides for the web-based Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Instead, since how one understands what Plato has to say about forms in previous dialogues will obviously determine to a large degree how one is inclined to respond to Parmenides' criticisms of young Socrates' theory, it will be worth concentrating first on some of the presuppositions that guide Rickless's reconstruction of the "high" and "higher theory of forms" before turning to some of the problems in his account of how the Parmenides indicates this theory needs to be revised.
Note that when Palmer writes, "It will not be necessary ... for ...", he is implicitly admitting that if an adequate summary were not available, then it would be necessary for him to say more -- and that's why the review is, as it were, condemned by the very words of the reviewer.
Note, furthermore, that Palmer did not write--waiving any reference to the SEP article--"It will not be necessary further to summarize Rickless' understanding of Parmenides' criticisms of Socrates's theory and of the response to them, because it's enough to examine the premises on which that interpretation depends". This is what he should have said, if he really did have criticisms of the presuppositions of Rickless' interpretation so thoroughgoing and devastating, that it made further direct examination of Rickless' interpretation unnecessary.
Of course criticisms of that sort are hard to come by (compare as an instance of that sort of thing G.E. Moore's painstaking explanations in "The Refutation of Idealism" of how he aims to remove a principle on which all arguments for idealism seem to depend); and the review does no such thing.(Nor could it. The dialogues of Plato are separate works, and even if Rickless were markedly wrong about the Phaedo, he could be right about the Parmenides nonetheless; indeed, the inference might even go in the other direction, and the correctness of his interpretation of the Parmenides would, so far, count as evidence in favor of his interpretation of other dialogues.)
But I find that Palmer's review in several places puts something forward and then takes it back.
We saw already that "summarize at length" does not make a great deal of sense.
And then there are:
- "determine to a large degree" (a fudge-- do the presuppositions determine or fail to determine?)
- "the existence of certain imperceptible forms in which sensible particulars participate is typically presented as no more than Socrates' favored hypothesis" -- (if it's only 'typically' so presented, then sometimes it's not so presented )
- and, perhaps most strikingly, in the last paragraph of the review Rickless is criticized for not following Meinwald, and yet the reviewer admits that, for all we know, Meinwald may not be right ("Even if one does not agree with her development of this distinction .... some distinction along the lines..." ).
Let me be perfectly clear that I fault the reviewer far less than the editors of NDPR. They should have sent the review back to Palmer with the instruction, "instead of an essay on your disagreement with Rickless over the middle-period dialogues, please give us a review of the argument of the book", and along the way they might have dealt besides with the review's various misspellings ('supercedes'); solecisms ('unargued hypothesis'); colloquialisms ('In actual fact'); and clichés ('cashes out') .