Parmenides’ Epistemology and the Two Parts of his Poem

In: Phronesis

This paper pursues a new approach to the problem of the relation between Alētheia and Doxa. It investigates as interrelated matters Parmenides’ impetus for developing and including Doxa, his conception of the mortal epistemic agent in relation both to Doxa’s investigations and to those in Alētheia, and the relation between mortal and divine in his poem. Parmenides, it is argued, maintained that Doxastic cognition is an ineluctable and even appropriate aspect of mortal life. The mortal agent, however, is nonetheless capable of sustaining the cognition of Alētheia by momentarily coming to think with—or as—his divine (fiery, aethereal) soul.

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  • 2

    Owen 196089followed most recently by Cosgrove 2014 esp. 15-18 25-6. (Cosgrove though does not think that Parmenides considers Doxastic things non-existent: 13 17 n. 62 24. Throughout however he nonetheless ascribes to Parmenides the view that no true accounts of Doxastic things and processes are possible; on Cosgrove see further discussion in this section also n. 57 below.) Cf. also Tarán 1965 227-8 267; Furth 1974 249.

  • 3

    Long 197583.

  • 4

    Mourelatos 2008260expressing the views of Mourelatos 1970 (retracted at 2008 pp. xxxvii-xlii).

  • 5

    E.g. Long 19758396-7; de Rijk 1983 46-7; Gallop 1984 23; Barnes 1982 157; Inwood 2001 25; Warren 2007 100-1; Miller 2011 56; Bryan 2012 110-13.

  • 9

    Contra Cosgrove 201417-1821.

  • 10

    Cosgrove 201420-1; again: Doxa’s theories are ‘worth their pragmatic value or utility to mortals but... that is all’ (25-6).

  • 11

    Contrast Cosgrove 201420-1; again 24: Doxa is not a cognitive enterprise. I return to B10 below.

  • 13

    See Palmer 2009162; Bredlow 2011 221-2 (with n. 9 for further references; we may add e.g. Nehamas 2002 56-60; Coxon 1986 218; Cornford 1933 97-8 110-11). Nearly every contribution in Cordero 2011a adopts this position. See further Kraus 2013 481-2 for a survey of the historical development of modern attitudes towards Doxa.

  • 14

    Palmer 2009378-80 convincingly defends the reading εὐκυκλέος.

  • 27

    Bredlow 2011235-6 indirectly supports the historical plausibility of Theophrastus’ ascription of a like-by-like position to Parmenides by noting various earlier and near-contemporary parallels (e.g. Empedocles 31 B109 dk).

  • 29

    Following Laks 19907. This sufficiently explains the motivation for Theophrastus’ remark that ‘there are two elements and our knowledge depends on that which exceeds’ (de sens. 3.2-3). This will be true of the cognitive life of living humans who comprise both elements. A preponderance of Hot leads to better memory and in general mental acuity (βελτίω δὲ καὶ καθαρωτέραν de sens. 3.4; διὸ καί... κράσεως de sens. 4.1-2; also A46a-b) whereas a preponderance of Cold has the opposite effects. Given the interpretation of συμμετρία defended in the previous note κατὰ τὸ ὑπερβάλλον (de sens. 3.2-3) is not a gloss of B16.4 implying that Theophrastus read πλέον as ‘more’ (following Laks 1990 6; contra e.g. Coxon 1986 250; Kraus 2013 494).

  • 30

    Reinhardt 1974307.

  • 31

    Pace Bredlow 2011244then καὶ πᾶσιν καὶ παντί is not redundant when taken with ἀνθρώποισιν (see n. 21 above): it serves to underscore this universalising force of B16.

  • 32

    On these echoes see Fränkel 197515; cf. e.g. Heitsch 1974 194-5; Coxon 1986 91 248-9; Kraus 2013 494.

  • 38

    Cf. Clark 196926.

  • 39

    See similarly e.g. Long 197590; Verdenius 1964 62; Kraus 2013 487-8.

  • 43

    Cf. e.g. Curd 1998107-8; Nehamas 2002 55 n. 43.

  • 45

    E.g. Vlastos 194674; Kahn 2009 216-17; favouring Night: Popper 1992 12-16; Sedley 1999a 124.

  • 48

    Mansfeld 1999331-3; followed by Robbiano 2006 97-8; Bredlow 2011 232-3. Mansfeld’s positive contention that Parmenides (I would say also) refers more broadly to the assumptions and categories which structure the mortal world-view and language (γλῶσσαν) is persuasive.

  • 49

    Cf. similarly Frère 2011140 and 144-5.

  • 50

    Something Mansfeld 1999342-4 rightly questions.

  • 52

    For this last point cf. von Fritz 197450-1.

  • 54

    See similarly Nehamas 200259 (see also 58 n. 49 on B1.31-2).

  • 56

    See similarly Vlastos 2008376-8.

  • 59

    Long 1996147.

  • 60

    E.g. Woodbury 19868 ff.: ‘a deliberate though mistaken policy’; Curd 1998 114: ‘a bad habit’; Curd 2011 121 131.

  • 67

    Burkert 1985300; cf. Bremmer 1983 71-2. Metempsychosis and the soul’s divinity are intimately connected e.g. at Plato Meno 81b3-6 (ψυχήν... ἀθάνατον). That the early Pythagoreans of South Italy advanced notions of metempsychosis and concomitantly the divinity of the soul is perhaps the only doctrinal statement that can be made about them without reservation see esp. Xenophanes 21 B7 dk; Ion 36 B4 dk; Herodotus 2.123; Aristotle da 407b20-3; Theophrastus ap. Porphyry de abstinentia 3.26.1-4; with Burkert 1972 121-36; Schofield 1991 25-7 (convincingly arguing that ψυχή was the operative term); Kahn 2001 18.

  • 68

    Ε.g. EuripidesHelen 1014-16; TrGF v.2. F839 (= Anaxagoras 59 A112 dk); also igii/iii2.12599; on these and such passages see Rohde 1925 435-8; Dodds 1951 174 n. 112; Burkert 1972 361.

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  • 71

    Burkert 196914; Pellikaan-Engel 1978 60-1; Coxon 1986 10 16 167; Kingsley 1999 61; Mourelatos 2008 15. See Iliad 13.602; cf. 3.101; 6.488-9; Odyssey 11.560. Note also the image of passing Hades’ gates Iliad 5.646; 23.71 with Robbiano 2006 154 n. 405.

  • 74

    Burkert 196914 n.32.

  • 76

    For the pun see Torgerson 200641-2; cf. Kahn 2009 215. Torgerson 2006 28-9 observes further that this solitary occurrence of φώς in Parmenides is also his only reference to a mortal as knowledgeable and that elsewhere the term typically refers especially to men of high rank and—most interestingly for our purposes—frequently occurs in the common Homeric epithet ἰσόθεος φώς (e.g. Iliad 2.565; Odyssey 1.324).

  • 77

    Esp. Burkert 19695 with n. 11; cf. Diels 2003 49; Jaeger 1947 98; Bowra 1953 50-1; Coxon 1986 159; Kingsley 1999 62; Palmer 2009 58; Kraus 2013 455. See e.g. [Euripides] Rhes. 971-3 (τοῖσιν εἰδόσιν); Euripides Bacchae 72-4 (εἰδώς); Aristophanes Nubes 1241 (τοῖς εἰδόσιν); Andocides de myst. 30.10 (τοῖς εἰδόσιν); cf. Euripides TrGF v.2. F781.11-13; Pindar Ol. 2.85 (note the eschatological theme) and perhaps more playfully Plato Symp. 199a1-2. For the kouros motif as initiatory see Burkert 1969 14 n. 32; Kingsley 1999 71-4.

  • 78

    Cf. also Aristides 22.2 Keil; AeschylusTrGF iii. F387; Apuleius Metamorphoses 11.21.26-7 (ad instar uoluntariae mortis); 11.23.28-31 (accessi confinium mortis).

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  • 79

    Burkert 1983294-5; 1985 289.

  • 89

    Vlastos 194673-4 with n. 45 (my emphasis).

  • 91

    Vlastos 194672followed by Kahn 2009 217 with n. 10. Vlastos simply explains away the prima facie paradoxical implications of B16 concerning mortal thinking by untenably dismissing it as a doctrine only of non-cognitive sense-perception cf. n. 35 above.

  • 92

    Lesher 2008473-6then is on my view precisely wrong to claim that Parmenides championed the reasoning of ‘the human mind’ and sought to ‘humanize knowledge’ (my emphases). Specifically human cognition is analysed in B16. It is Doxastic cognition.

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