A Fourth Alternative in Interpreting Parmenides

in Phronesis
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According to current interpretations of Parmenides, he either embraces a token-monism of things, or a type-monism of the nature of each kind of thing, or a generous monism, accepting a token-monism of things of a specific type, necessary being. These interpretations share a common flaw: they fail to secure commensurability between Parmenides’ alētheia and doxa. We effect this by arguing that Parmenides champions a metaphysically refined form of material monism, a type-monism of things; that light and night are allomorphs of what-is (to eon); and that the key features of what-is are entailed by the theory of material monism.

A Fourth Alternative in Interpreting Parmenides

in Phronesis



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Curd 2004. Also while Graham holds that Parmenides is likely to be a numerical monism he thinks that it is not implausible to take Parmenides to be a predicational monist (or in Graham’s preferred idiom an ‘Eleatic substantialist’) (Graham 2006 165-8).


Palmer 2009.


See Graham 2006179-82.


See Cordero 2010234 and Diels 1897 26. Palmer suggests that the doxa originally made up about four-fifths of Parmenides’ poem (Palmer 2009 160) and Gallop claims that the doxa made up about two-thirds of the poem (Gallop 1984 21).


See for example Sedley 199917. Some scholars argue that the monad is infinitely extended and thus not spherical (see for example Gallop 1984 19-21). Others interpret Parmenides’ spatial terminology as metaphorical (see for example McKirahan 2011 163).


See Curd 200464-97.


See Palmer 200930.


See Palmer 200930-1 and Nehamas 2002 61. In an attempt to address this problem Curd (2004 107-10) posits that Parmenides intentionally violates the principles of predicational monism by defining light and night as incongruent counterparts: enantiomorphic opposites. On this approach Parmenides defines both light and night in terms of what the other is not and purposively scuttling the doxa on the reef of the alētheia he challenges his contemporaries to construct cosmologies that rely on truly independent substances. We however do not see this as a solution to the problem. Curd’s proposal flies in the face of the goddess’s claim that her own account is unsurpassable for under the proposal any mere mortal might develop a cosmology that is superior to the goddess’s. The most significant problem facing predicational monism is that it generates inconsistency whenever more than one material type is posited. Even if some two material types are not enantiomorphic opposites any token of one type will not be a token of the other type: if tokens of type A are purely A internally and tokens of type B are purely B internally it remains that each token of A will not be B (and each token of B will not be A). This ‘external negation’ violates the goddess’s account of what-is not in the alētheia as the account is understood by defenders of predicational monism (see Nehamas 2002 61 and Sisko 2012 410). Predicational monism collapses in on itself and insofar as the theory ultimately limits what-is to only one type of stuff it entails either numerical monism or material monism. Thus predicational monism is untenable. Curd acknowledges the problem of external negation but replies with hand-waving. She states that Parmenides ‘did not recognize the difficulty in his theory’ (2004 p. xxii). As we see it Curd’s hand-waving like that of Guthrie and Nehamas (see n. 17 above) might be permissible but only if no alternative interpretation establishing alētheia-doxa commensurability were otherwise available.


Palmer 200951-105.


Following SimpliciusOn the Physics vii. 557.26 Heiberg. Palmer’s argument for favoring this textual variant over others is decisive (see Palmer 2009 378-80).


See Mourelatos 197080-5; Curd 2004 109-10; Graham 2006 172-3; and Palmer 2009 167-75.


Following Graham 2006172.


See Mourelatos 1970117-19.

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