Classics Parmenides
by
John Palmer
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0156

Introduction

Active in the earlier part of the 5th century BC, Parmenides of Elea is Presocratic philosophy’s most challenging and profound thinker. His reputation rests on the fragmentary remains of a hexameter poem in which he presents a detailed account of his mystical journey to the abode of a goddess who says she will provide him instruction that will come in two major phases (fr. 1). In the first phase she describes how he may direct his understanding along “the path of conviction” to apprehend “true reality” (fr. 2); she explains how she will lead him along this path and how he must avoid the path mortals ordinarily follow in their quest for understanding (frs. 6–7); and she demonstrates in an elaborate metaphysical deduction that “What Is,” or true reality, is “ungenerated and deathless, whole and uniform, and still and perfect” (fr. 8). In the second phase of her revelation, which she describes as “the notions of mortals, in which there is no genuine trustworthiness,” she presents a cosmology broadly in the tradition of early Greek cosmological accounts, though with important innovations such as its positing of two basic principles, light and night; its view of the moon as shining with a reflected light; and its identification of the earth as spherical in shape. Already in antiquity there was fundamental disagreement and a good deal of confusion about the fundamental upshot of Parmenides’s message, occasioned to no small degree by the novelty and obscurity of his own doctrine but also by the fact that Zeno of Elea came to be seen as his pupil and by the deformations of his doctrine by Melissus of Samos, Gorgias of Leontini, and certain other sophists. There continues today to be basic disagreement about whether he was in fact a monist and, if so, what type of monist he was; about whether he was motivated by the perceived inadequacies of the principles of earlier Presocratic cosmologies or by more purely logical concerns; and about whether his metaphysics committed him to regarding the changing world of everyday experience as unreal or merely as unsuitable as an object for understanding of the sort revealed to him by the goddess. As difficult as it may be, achieving a proper understanding of Parmenides’s thought is an important task, since Parmenides is normally regarded, in one way or another, as the pivotal figure in the history of early Greek philosophy, and he is in any case certainly among its most significant figures.

General Overviews

The works listed here discuss Parmenides within their more general treatments of the history of Presocratic philosophy. Each incorporates a different understanding of his philosophy and, to one degree or another, builds its broader narrative around it. Guthrie 1965 represents Parmenides as a strict monist whose critical attitude to the material monism of the early Milesian cosmologies led him to conclude that reality is a unity in the strictest sense, absolutely without variation or change, and thus that the world perceived by the senses is unreal. Guthrie then represents the subsequent pluralist physical theories of Empedocles, Anaxagoras, and the early atomists as variously responding to the challenge to the nascent project of cosmology by Parmenides and the second-generation Eleatics, Zeno and Melissus. The idea that Parmenides posed a fundamental challenge to which the later Presocratic cosmologists sought to respond also features centrally in Barnes 1982 and in Kirk, et al. 1983 (cited under Texts and Commentaries), although both follow Owen 1975 (cited under Principal Interpretive Lines) in regarding Parmenides’s metaphysical stance as motivated by logical concerns rather than by any specifically critical attitude toward his predecessors. Another prominent group of interpreters has taken Parmenides as making a positive and programmatic contribution to the tradition of Presocratic cosmology by specifying at a higher level what it is to be the nature or essence of a thing (rather than simply what is or exists) and thus what the principles of any viable account of the world need to be like. Curd 1998 and Graham 2006 both provide accounts of the development of Presocratic philosophy that presume versions of this view. Problems with the dialectical developments posited in these narratives, as well as the interpretations of Parmenides on which they are based, lead some to regard Parmenides as less a pivotal figure in the history of Presocratic philosophy than one whose significant achievements were ultimately more in line with its broader tradition. The fresh and stimulating introduction to Presocratic philosophy in Osborne 2004 dispenses with this dialectical narrative, while Osborne 2006 questions at a deeper level the idea that Parmenides represented a radical break, suggesting that historians’ construction of the dialectical narrative that casts him in this role neglects important features of the evidence.

  • Barnes, Jonathan. 1982. The Presocratic philosophers. Rev. ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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    A synoptic treatment of the arguments of the Presocratic philosophers. Parmenides is the principal subject of chapters 9–11 (pp. 155–230), with discussion of Melissus, whom Barnes regards as the originator of “real” or strict monism, interspersed along the way.

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    • Curd, Patricia. 1998. The legacy of Parmenides: Eleatic monism and later Presocratic thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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      Reinterprets Parmenides as a “predicational monist,” defined as the view that “each thing can hold only the one predicate that indicates what it is” (p. 66). Argues that Parmenides’s agenda is more programmatic than destructive in proposing in the Way of Conviction criteria that must be satisfied by any viable account of what there is.

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      • Graham, Daniel W. 2006. Explaining the cosmos: The Ionian tradition of scientific philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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        Proposes a paradigm shift in early Greek cosmology from the “generating substance theory” (GST) characteristic of the early Ionians to the “elemental substance theory” (EST) of the later pluralists, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, and the early atomists. Parmenides is represented as critiquing GST in a manner that led to EST.

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        • Guthrie, W. K. C. 1965. A history of Greek philosophy, Vol. 2: The Presocratic tradition from Parmenides to Democritus. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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          The first and best two volumes of Guthrie’s six-volume history provide a comprehensive account of Presocratic philosophy from the Milesians to the atomists. Volume 1 (Cambridge, UK, 1962, reprinted in 1995) covers the Presocratic period down to Parmenides. While the first eighty pages of Volume 2 are devoted specifically to him, Parmenides also features prominently in Guthrie’s treatment of other Presocratics in relation to him.

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          • Osborne, Catherine. 2004. Presocratic philosophy: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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            This engaging introduction asks students to question the first principles story that casts Parmenides as instigating a crisis in early Greek philosophy and cosmology by pointing to some of this narrative’s selective uses and misrepresentations of the evidence. Focuses on Parmenides’s role in developing the distinction between reality and appearance.

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            • Osborne, Catherine. 2006. Was there an Eleatic revolution in philosophy? In Rethinking revolutions through ancient Greece. Edited by Robin Osborne and Simon Goldhill, 218–245. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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              Questions whether Parmenides represents a pivotal and radical break in the tradition of early Greek philosophical cosmology and considers why modern historians have been committed to such a view.

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              • Palmer, John. 2012.Parmenides of Elea. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta.

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                Provides a brief overview of Parmenides’s poem and surveys major types of interpretation. Part of the most authoritative web resource for philosophy.

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                Texts and Commentaries

                Diels and Kranz 1951 is the standard edition of the extant remains or “fragments” of the works of the Presocratics and sophists along with the ancient testimonia, or secondary reports by later ancient authors bearing on their lives, works, and doctrines. It presents untranslated the mostly Greek testimonia as “A-Fragmente” and the texts with German translation of the verbatim remains as “B-Fragmente.” Although Diels-Kranz remains the standard edition of the Presocratics and sophists and its numbering of the fragments is still generally employed, its text of Parmenides is marred by several poor editorial decisions that make it rather outmoded. These are mostly corrected in Tarán 1965, which is still worth consulting on particular points, and in chapter 8 of Kirk, et al. 1983, which provides texts and translations of most of the more important fragments and testimonia, with a running commentary that still provides a useful orientation. Of the single-volume editions that have since appeared, the two best are Cordero 1984 and Coxon 2009 (1st ed. 1986). Unlike most other editions that have appeared since Diels-Kranz, both of these editions are based upon fresh inspection of the manuscripts, resulting in some important discoveries. Coxon 2009 includes a substantially more complete collection of testimonia with English translation. Although each of these editions presents a fuller apparatus criticus than Diels-Kranz (excessively so in the case of Cordero’s edition), the not infrequent divergences in their reports of the manuscripts indicate that additional study is required. O’Brien and Frère 1987 tries to cope with these failings in an edition also well worth consulting, especially since it deals more squarely in its notes and essay with some of the major interpretive issues. The appendix to Palmer 2009 (cited under Monographs) also presents the Greek text of the fragments with English translation and notes on the texts. Students without Greek requiring simply an English translation of the fragments and some major testimonia are well served by Waterfield 2000.

                • Cordero, Nestor-Luis. 1984. Les deux chemins de Parménide: Édition critique, traduction, études et bibliographie. Paris: Vrin.

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                  Presents the text of the fragments with very full apparatus, French translation, commentary in the form of essays and appendices, and a bibliography approaching six hundred items. Argues that the poem introduces only two rather than three paths of inquiry, identifying the paths of mortals with fr. 2’s second path.

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                  • Cordero, Nestor-Luis. 1987. L’histoire du texte de Parménide. In Études sur Parménide. Vol. 2, Problèmes d’interprétation. Edited by Pierre Aubenque, 3–24. Paris: Vrin.

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                    Provides a valuable overview of the history of the poem’s survival and a survey of the modern era’s efforts at reconstruction from Henri Estienne’s Poesis philosophica of 1573 down to Diels.

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                    • Coxon, A. H. 2009. The fragments of Parmenides: A critical text with introduction, translation, the ancient testimonia and a commentary. Rev. ed. with new translations by Richard McKirahan. Las Vegas, NV: Parmenides.

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                      An indispensable edition, incorporating the author’s corrections, changes, and additions to the 1986 first edition (Phronesis, Suppl. 3; Assen and Maastricht, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum). Makes the case that Parmenides’s poetic idiom is deeply rooted in the epic tradition. Less good on the philosophical dimensions of Parmenides’s poem.

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                      • Diels, Hermann, and Walter Kranz. 1951. Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. 6th ed. 3 vols. Berlin: Weidmann.

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                        Chapter 28 (pp. 217–246) of this standard edition of the Presocratics and sophists presents a collection of untranslated ancient testimonia and the fragments of Parmenides’s poem with German translation.

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                        • Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven, and Malcolm Schofield. 1983. The Presocratic philosophers: A critical history with a selection of texts. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                          This work, designed for serious students of early Greek thought, presents texts and English translations of select fragments and testimonia for all the major Presocratic thinkers. Chapter 8 (pp. 239–262) is devoted to Parmenides. Originally published in 1957.

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                          • O’Brien, Denis, and Jean Frère. 1987. Études sur Parménide. Vol. 1, Le poème de Parménide: Texte, traduction, essai critique. Edited by Pierre Aubenque. Paris: Vrin.

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                            A text of the fragments with both French and English translations and full, useful notes on textual and interpretive issues. The accompanying critical essay, while often polemical, addresses most of the major questions that had dominated Anglo-American treatments of Parmenides in the previous three decades.

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                            • Tarán, Leonardo. 1965. Parmenides: A text with translation, commentary, and critical essays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                              Despite its too often polemical and dogmatic tone, this edition remains worth consulting for its clear discussion of particular points pertaining to the establishment of the text and its interpretation.

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                              • Waterfield, Robin. 2000. The first philosophers: The Presocratics and the sophists. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                Presents in its chapter on Parmenides an English translation without the Greek text of the fragments interlaced with major testimonia, accompanied by some pages of introduction and brief bibliography.

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                                Monographs

                                The book-length studies of Parmenides listed here all deal with many of the major interpretive issues raised by his poem. They should be consulted by those desiring comprehensive treatments more detailed than those in the works listed under General Overviews as well as by those concerned with particular points of interpretation. Reinhardt 1916 and Calogero 1977 (originally published in 1932) are both pioneering studies of Parmenides himself and his relation to other Presocratic thinkers. Mansfeld 1964 tackles with philological acumen and subtlety the major problem of the relation between the revelation regarding Being imparted to Parmenides and the cosmology with which it is apparently incompatible. Mourelatos 2008 (1st ed. 1970) even more successfully integrates philological and philosophical analysis in making the case for approaching Parmenides against the background of epic while also developing a novel and influential account of Parmenides’s ways of inquiry. While Mansfeld and Mourelatos approach Parmenides in large part against the background of the earlier tradition, Palmer 1999 views Parmenides through the lens of the uses made of him among the sophists and then by Plato, who found in him the major precedent for his own distinction between the realms of being and becoming. Palmer 2009 develops a modal interpretation of Parmenides’s philosophy, according to which the first phase of the goddess’s revelation concerns the nature of what is and cannot not be, while the cosmology concerns the world’s mutable entities. This interpretation takes into account the full specifications of the ways of inquiry in fr. 2—“that it is and that it cannot not be” and “that it is not and that it must not be”—rather than reducing them, as many others do, to the bare dichotomy “it is” versus “it is not.” Marcinkowska-Rosół 2010, finally, approaches the poem’s major interpretive problems by focusing on Parmenides’s conception of thought and knowledge, appreciating that questions concerning his ontology cannot be divorced from his epistemology.

                                • Calogero, Guido. 1977. Studi sull’Eleatismo. New ed. Florence, Italy: La nuova Italia.

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                                  Pioneering study of the Eleatic tradition that begins with a study of Parmenides emphasizing the logical aspects of his thought and focusing on his usage of the verb einai (“to be”) and devotes subsequent chapters to Melissus, Zeno, Gorgias, and Plato. Originally published in 1932 (Rome: Tipografia del senato).

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                                  • Mansfeld, Jaap. 1964. Die Offenbarung des Parmenides und die menschliche Welt. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum.

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                                    Penetrating discussions of the criticism of mortal inapprehension in fr. 6, of the proem as a literal description of a revelation rather than an allegory of enlightenment, and of the status of the cosmology presented in the latter part of the poem.

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                                    • Marcinkowska-Rosół, Maria. 2010. Die Konzeption des “noein” bei Parmenides von Elea. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter.

                                      DOI: 10.1515/9783110217605Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Approaches the poem’s major interpretative problems, including the relation between thought and being in the Way of Conviction and its relation to the “Doxa,” by focusing on Parmenides’s conception of thought and knowledge.

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                                      • Mourelatos, Alexander P. D. 2008. The route of Parmenides: A study of word, image, and argument in the fragments. Rev. ed. Las Vegas, NV: Parmenides.

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                                        Analyzes the language and imagery of Parmenides’s poem against the background of Homeric epic. Interprets the ways of inquiry in fr. 2 and the poem’s two major phases based on understanding Parmenides as employing “the ‘is’ of speculative predication.” Originally published in 1970 (New Haven, CT).

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                                        • Palmer, John. 1999. Plato’s reception of Parmenides. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                          Discusses the Eleatic underpinnings of Plato’s epistemology and metaphysics before exploring how Plato’s later dialogues confront various sophistic appropriations to which Parmenides was subjected. Develops a reading of Parmenides’s poem in accordance with the positive features of the Platonic reception. Also discusses Parmenides’s relation to Xenophanes, Zeno, and Gorgias.

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                                          • Palmer, John. 2009. Parmenides and Presocratic philosophy. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567904.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Argues that Parmenides distinguishes the fundamental modalities of necessary being, necessary nonbeing or impossibility, and non-necessary or contingent being. Reassesses the relations of Zeno, Melissus, Anaxagoras, and Empedocles to Parmenides in light of this reading. An appendix presents the fragments and discusses the major textual issues.

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                                            • Reinhardt, Karl. 1916. Parmenides und die Geschichte der griechischen Philosophie. Bonn, Germany: Cohen.

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                                              Offers the most subtle analysis of Parmenides of its era, though its treatment of Parmenides’s relation to the Pythagoreans, Xenophanes, and Heraclitus (both of whom are here regarded as coming after Parmenides) is largely obsolete. A portion of pp. 18–88 appears in English translation as “The relation between the two parts of Parmenides’ poem” in The pre-Socratics: A collection of critical essays, 2d ed., edited by A. P. D. Mourelatos (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1993), pp. 293–311.

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                                              Bibliography

                                              References in this article to items before 1980 are much more selective than those to more recent items. The relevant pages of Paquet, et al. 1989 provide a nearly exhaustive listing of scholarship on Parmenides for the years prior to 1980. The annotated listings in L’Année Philologique may be consulted for full bibliography for the years since.

                                              Principal Interpretive Lines

                                              As the interpretation of Parmenides as a strict monist critical of his predecessors was being ensconced in Guthrie 1965 (cited under General Overviews), Owen 1975 was opening up new avenues for understanding by forcefully arguing that Parmenides was driven by purely logical considerations regarding the possibility of speaking or thinking about what does not exist. Owen’s study proved deeply influential among analytically inclined historians of ancient philosophy. Furth 1968 is a good representative of the ahistorical mode of interpretation to which this approach would lead. As Owen’s study drew attention to the issue of Parmenides’s apparently unexpressed subject in fr. 2, Charles Kahn’s intensive work on the semantics of the Greek verb einai (“to be”) focused attention on the issue of the verb’s sense in Parmenides. Kahn 1969 proposes understanding Parmenides as using the verb in the “veridical” sense employed in certain Greek idioms, a proposal criticized in Mourelatos 1969. Mourelatos 2008 (originally published in 1970, cited under Monographs) develops an influential line of interpretation based on understanding Parmenides as employing a special predicative sense of “to be” used in statements of the form “X is Y” where the predicate gives X’s reality, nature, or true constitution. Both Nehamas 1981 and Curd 1998 (cited under General Overviews) develop this line of interpretation, with Nehamas also proposing that only two ways of inquiry are presented in the poem, in a manner paralleling but largely independent of the similar proposal in Cordero 1984 (cited under Texts and Commentaries). Curd couples Mourelatos’s idea with the heterodox proposal of Barnes 1979 that Parmenides is something other than a strict or “real” monist to present Parmenides as a “predicational monist.” Wedin 2012 reacts against such recent developments and endeavors to reinstate a more logically driven version of the strict monist interpretation. Some interpreters have favored what was in fact the majority view of Parmenides in antiquity, namely that the goddess’s account of Being does not rule the objects of the “Doxa” out of existence. See Finkelberg 1999 and the studies according positive status to Parmenides’s cosmology cited under Cosmology or “Doxa”. See likewise Palmer 1999 and Palmer 2009 (both cited under Monographs). The latter work provides detailed analysis of Parmenides’s argumentation in the way of conviction in fr. 8, for which see also McKirahan 2008.

                                              • Barnes, Jonathan. 1979. Parmenides and the Eleatic one. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 61.1: 1–21.

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                                                Argues that the fragments are compatible with the existence of a plurality of Parmenidean Beings and that Melissus, consequently, should be regarded as the originator of “real” or strict monism.

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                                                • Finkelberg, Aryeh. 1999. Being, truth and opinion in Parmenides. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 81.3: 233–248.

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                                                  Argues that the account of Being articulated in the Way of Conviction is consistent with the heterogeneity of the physical world and that the two phases of the goddess’s revelation do not contradict but complement one another in providing an exhaustive account of reality.

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                                                  • Furth, Montgomery. 1968. Elements of Eleatic ontology. Journal of the History of Philosophy 6.2: 111–132.

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                                                    A logically driven reconstruction based on the principles, to which Parmenides is supposed to have subscribed, that it cannot be said or thought that anything is not and that all that can be said of what is is: it is.

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                                                    • Kahn, Charles H. 1969. The thesis of Parmenides. Review of Metaphysics 22.4: 700–724.

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                                                      Argues for greater emphasis on the cognitive dimension of Parmenides’s metaphysical inquiry and for a “veridical” construal of his major uses of the verb “to be.”

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                                                      • McKirahan, Richard. 2008. Signs and arguments in Parmenides B8. In The Oxford handbook of Presocratic philosophy. Edited by Patricia Curn and Daniel W. Graham, 189–229. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                        Provides a translation of Parmenides fr. 8.1–52 together with an analysis and assessment of its arguments.

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                                                        • Mourelatos, Alexander P. D. 1969. Comments on “the thesis of Parmenides.” Review of Metaphysics 22.4: 735–744.

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                                                          Criticizes the “veridical” construal of the verb “to be” in the interpretation of Kahn 1969.

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                                                          • Nehamas, Alexander. 1981. On Parmenides’ three ways of inquiry. Deucalion 33.4: 97–111.

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                                                            Argues that fr. 6 does not reject a third way of inquiry but indicates that the ensuing cosmology will proceed along fr. 2’s second way. Concludes with discussion of the relation between reality and appearance based on this two-path reading.

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                                                            • Owen, G. E. L. 1975. Eleatic questions. In Studies in Presocratic philosophy, Vol. 2: Eleatics and pluralists. Edited by Reginald E. Allen and David J. Furley, 48–81. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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                                                              Profoundly influential article arguing that Parmenides’s subject is “whatever can be thought and talked about,” that his target is perfectly general rather than any particular previous theories, and that his own cosmology is no more than a dialectical device. Reprinted with additions. First published in 1960.

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                                                              • Wedin, Michael V. 2012. Parmenides’ three ways and the failure of the Ionian interpretation. In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Volume XLI. Edited by Brad Inwood, 1–65. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                A reactionary effort at “logical reconstruction” of Parmenides’s argumentation for real monism. Largely ignores the literary, philosophical, and cultural-historical context of his poem.

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                                                                The Proem (fr. 1)

                                                                Bowra 1937 is one of the most important earlier interpretations of the proem’s description of Parmenides’s journey to the goddess’s abode as an epistemological allegory of enlightenment, expanding and altering the type of reading already offered in antiquity by Sextus Empiricus (Adversus mathematicos 7.112–113). Mansfeld 1964 (cited under Monographs) and Burkert 1969 were instrumental in dispelling some of the misunderstandings on which such allegorical interpretations were based, including the basic mistake of supposing that Parmenides describes himself as traveling from darkness to light. Burkert and Mansfeld make a strong case that the maidens of the Sun who previously left the House of Night to come into the light now escort Parmenides back to the House of Night. Regarding the impulse toward allegorical readings as arising from interpreters’ lack of understanding of the proem’s cultural background, Burkert himself fills in a good deal of that background, signaling connections to Hesiod and Orphic-Pythagorean material. Pellikaan-Engel 1978 is a short monograph on the connections to Hesiod. Feyerabend 1984 delves further into the connections to Orphism and the famous gold plates with instructions for the dead in the afterlife. Although scholars have proposed numerous different identifications of the goddess who imparts to Parmenides his revelation, the most credible view, given that Parmenides travels to the House of Night and is welcomed by the goddess to her abode, is that she is Night. This view, represented here in Gómez-Lobo 1981, is also found in Mansfeld 1964 and in Morrison 1955 (cited under Cosmology or “Doxa”). The similarly much-discussed question of the identity of the “knowing man” referenced in verse 3 is given a novel answer in Cosgrove 2011. It has in recent years also become clear that the motif of the House of Night, where Day/Helios and Night intermittently rest while the other traverses the sky above the earth, has older roots in the ancient Near East. On this connection, see Steele 2002. Some studies, including Mansfeld 1995, have also sought to emphasize the performative dimension of the proem, whereby its meaning unfolds in time and becomes clearer in retrospect. Good overall treatments of the proem are also to be found in Mansfeld 1964, Mourelatos 2008 (originally published in 1970), and Palmer 2009 (all cited under Monographs).

                                                                • Bowra, C. M. 1937. The proem of Parmenides. Classical Philology 32.2: 97–112.

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                                                                  Interprets Parmenides’s proem as an allegory of enlightenment, with the sun maidens identified as the powers within him straining toward light, the horses his impulse toward truth, and so on.

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                                                                  • Burkert, Walter. 1969. Das Proömium des Parmenides und die Katabasis des Pythagoras. Phronesis 14:1–30.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1163/156852869X00019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    This singularly important study seeks to situate Parmenides’s account of his journey to the House of Night within its cultural context by drawing connections to the poetic tradition, particularly Hesiod, as well as to mystical elements associated with Orphism and Pythagoreanism.

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                                                                    • Cosgrove, Matthew. 2011. The unknown “knowing man”: Parmenides, B1.3. Classical Quarterly, new ser., 61.1: 28–47.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0009838810000376Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      Resists identification of the eidōs phōs (“knowing man”) of fr. 1.3 as mystery-cult initiate, arguing instead that the phrase refers to a mortal engaging in an everyday brand of inquiry totally distinct from the type of inquiry Parmenides is about to have revealed to him.

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                                                                      • Feyerabend, Barbara. 1984. Zur Wegmetaphorik beim Goldblättchen aus Hipponion und dem Proömium des Parmenides. Rheinisches Museum 127.1: 1–22.

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                                                                        Explores connections between the gold plates discovered at Hipponium, Orphic and Pythagorean teachings regarding the soul and its fate, and Parmenides’s proem.

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                                                                        • Gómez-Lobo, Alfonso. 1981. Retractación sobre el proemio de Parmenides. Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofía 7:253–260.

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                                                                          Suggests that the goddess who imparts her revelation to Parmenides is Night herself.

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                                                                          • Mansfeld, Jaap. 1995. Insight by hindsight: Intentional unclarity in Presocratic proems. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 40.1: 225–232.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-5370.1995.tb00473.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Compares the intentionally enigmatic elements in the proems of Parmenides, Empedocles, and Heraclitus.

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                                                                            • Pellikaan-Engel, Maja E. 1978. Hesiod and Parmenides: A new view on their cosmologies and on Parmenides’ proem. Amsterdam: Hakkert.

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                                                                              Undertakes to clarify the topography of Parmenides’s proem via comparison with Hesiod’s description of the House of Night at Theogony (pp. 736–766). Less good on the connections between Parmenides’s and Hesiod’s cosmologies. First published in 1974.

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                                                                              • Steele, Laura D. 2002. Mesopotamian elements in the proem of Parmenides? Correspondences between the sun-gods Helios and Shamash. Classical Quarterly, new ser., 52.2: 583–588.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/cq/52.2.583Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Identifies Babylonian parallels with numerous elements in Parmenides’s proem.

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                                                                                Being and Time

                                                                                Parmenides’s words at fr. 8.5–6—“but not ever was it, nor yet will it be, since it is now together entire, | single, continuous”—have often, though not universally, been regarded as an assertion that Being is somehow timeless. There is a substantial literature on the issue. The essential Owen 1966 understands Parmenides as arguing that what is changeless is also timeless and thus as meaning to “maintain its existence in the present while admitting no use for the statement that it existed in the past or will do so in the future.” Others have tried to get around the evident sense of the statement “it is now” to attribute a more extreme form of timelessness to Parmenidean Being. An extreme representative of this line is Hoy 1994, which unstintingly pursues the implications of the strict monist interpretation to its logical conclusion and along the way provides a useful review of the philosophical issues at stake. Others, such as Schofield 1970, have recognized that, when viewed in its context, what has been taken as Parmenides’s assertion of timelessness is in fact a programmatic introduction of two possibilities to be ruled out in fr. 8’s ensuing arguments against Being’s generation and destruction.

                                                                                Being and Thought

                                                                                Cognitive vocabulary pervades Parmenides’s poem. The goddess is particularly concerned that he achieve a type of thought or understanding (noos) superior to the “wandering” thought or understanding she attributes in fr. 6 to mortals. Von Fritz 1945 is the classic study of the sense of this term in early philosophical contexts. Lesher 1994 builds upon critical reassessment of von Fritz’s study a nondevelopmental account that finds less of a contrast between Heraclitus’s and Parmenides’s uses. Parmenides has been thought to highlight his novel tool of logical reasoning in the goddess’s portentous direction to judge by reason her poludēris elenchos or “strife-filled critique”; Lesher 1984 argues that this phrase does not signal any “refutation” but rather the “orderly examination of each of the available ways of thinking.” Some interpreters have tried to understand Parmenides fr. 3 as asserting the identity of being and thinking. Long 1996 is the sensible representative of this usually nonsensical view, which is strongly opposed in the posthumously published Coxon 2003. Aristotle and Theophrastus both quote Parmenides’s baffling description of the physiological mechanism of thought (fr. 16), which is well treated in the context of its quotation in Laks 1990. See also chapter 4, pp. 159–192, of Marcinkowska-Rosół 2010 (cited under Monographs). Mansfeld 1999 questions whether Parmenides can in fact be credited with a distinct theory of perception.

                                                                                • Coxon, A. H. 2003. Parmenides on thinking and being. Mnemosyne 56.2: 210–212.

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                                                                                  Makes a succinct case against reading fr. 3 as asserting the identity of thinking and being.

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                                                                                  • Laks, André. 1990. “The more” and “the full”: On the reconstruction of Parmenides’ theory of sensation in Theophrastus, De sensibus, 3–4. In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Volume VIII, 1990. Edited by Julia Annas, 1–18. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                    Illuminates Parmenides fr. 16 by examining the details of Theophrastus’s discussion to show how he depicted it as anticipating Empedocles’s theory of sensation.

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                                                                                    • Lesher, James H. 1984. Parmenides’ critique of thinking: The poludēris elenchos of Fragment 7. In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Volume II, 1984. Edited by Julia Annas, 1–30. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                      Analyzes contemporary uses of elenchos and elenchō before undertaking explanation of the goddess’s portentous direction in fr. 7.5–6.

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                                                                                      • Lesher, James H. 1994. The emergence of philosophical interest in cognition. In Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Volume XII, 1994. Edited by C. C. W. Taylor, 1–34. Oxford: Clarendon.

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                                                                                        Provides good discussion of Parmenides’s interest in knowledge gained via reflection in the course of arguing for the general prominence of interest in cognition among the Presocratics.

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                                                                                        • Long, A. A. 1996. Parmenides on thinking being. Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 12:125–151.

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                                                                                          Considers the prospects for a coherent reading of fr. 3 as an assertion of the identity of being and thinking as a preface to proposing that Parmenidean Being is itself a thinking entity.

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                                                                                          • Mansfeld, Jaap. 1999. Parménide et Héraclite avaient-ils une théorie de la perception? Phronesis 44.4: 326–346.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1163/15685289960464629Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Pursues Aristotle’s claim, repeated by Theophrastus, that Parmenides did not distinguish between thought and perception.

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                                                                                            • von Fritz, Kurt. 1945. Nous, noein, and their derivatives in pre-Socratic philosophy (excluding Anaxagoras): Part I, From the beginnings to Parmenides. Classical Philology 40.4: 223–242.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1086/362903Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Continued in Part II, The Post-Parmenidean Period, Classical Philology 41.1 (1946): 12–34. Argues that in both Homeric and earlier philosophical contexts noos (“thought” or “understanding”) and its cognates signify a form of mental perception that penetrates below the surface of things, and proposes that Parmenides extends this sense to include logical reasoning.

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                                                                                              The Cosmology or “Doxa”

                                                                                              The most important advance in Parmenidean textual criticism in recent years is the thorough defense in Ebert 1989 of Guido Calogero’s 1936 suggestion that fr. 8.34–41 suffered transposition from their original position following verse 53. Restoration of the transposed text makes for a smooth transition from the Way of Conviction to the cosmology the goddess reveals to Parmenides in the remainder of the poem. Discussions of Parmenides’s cosmology have tended to focus more on the question of its status in light of the doctrine of the first part of the poem and less on its actual content. Long 1963 is a classic development of the view that the goddess’s cosmology gives a totally false picture of reality and has a merely dialectical status, which is the best way to explain its presence in the poem on the strict monist interpretation. For contrasting explanations of its function by those who regard the Way of Conviction as programmatic, see Curd 1998 and Graham 2006 (both cited under General Overviews). Some interpreters, however, have resisted the idea that Parmenides went so far as to deny the existence of the everyday world of our experience and have accorded a more robust status to the cosmological phase of the goddess’s revelation. See, for example, Schwabl 1953, Chalmers 1960, and Owens 1974, as well as Finkelberg 1999 (cited under Principal Interpretive Lines) and Palmer 2009 (cited under Monographs). When it comes to actual reconstruction of the Parmenides’s cosmological system and assessment of its place in the history of early Greek cosmology, the verbatim fragments are relatively sparse, and one must consequently rely on the testimonia. Particularly important here is the doxographical report at Aëtius 2.7 (“On the order of the cosmos”), which gives a synoptic yet comprehensive view of the Parmenidean cosmos and connects to Parmenides fr. 12. Finkelberg 1986 undertakes to show the compatibility of these two key texts for the reconstruction of Parmenides’s cosmology. Tarán 1965 (cited under Texts and Commentaries) likewise provides a good treatment of the topic. Morrison 1955 provides a comparative treatment extending from Homer to Plato, with good discussion of the interweaving bands central to Parmenides’s system.

                                                                                              • Chalmers, W. R. 1960. Parmenides and the beliefs of mortals. Phronesis 5.1: 5–22.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1163/156852860X00090Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Argues that the two parts of Parmenides’s poem provide accounts of the same world, though from, respectively, the perspective of eternity and the perspective of time.

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                                                                                                • Ebert, Theodor. 1989. Wo beginnt der Weg der Doxa? Eine Textumstellung im Fragment 8 des Parmenides. Phronesis 34.2: 121–138.

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                                                                                                  Demonstrates that the recognized difficulties attending the transition in fr. 8 from the Way of Conviction to the Way of Doxa are removed, and the former’s argument for the completeness or perfection of What Is left uninterrupted, once verses 34–41 are restored to their original position following verse 52.

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                                                                                                  • Finkelberg, Aryeh. 1986. The cosmology of Parmenides. American Journal of Philology 107.3: 303–317.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/294688Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    A reconstruction of Parmenides’s cosmology based upon reconciliation of fr. 12 and Aëtius 2.7.1.

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                                                                                                    • Long, A. A. 1963. The principles of Parmenides’ cosmogony. Phronesis 8.2: 90–107.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1163/156852863X00060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Develops in greater detail the proposal in Owen 1975 (cited under Principal Interpretive Lines), arguing that the poem’s cosmology has a function “entirely ancillary to the Way of Truth, in the sense of offering the exemplar, par excellence, of all erroneous systems, as a criterion for future measurement” (p. 91).

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                                                                                                      • Morrison, J. S. 1955. Parmenides and Er. Journal of Hellenic Studies 75:59–68.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/629170Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        While focused on the possible Parmenidean background to the Republic’s Myth of Er, provides a wide-ranging comparative discussion of many details of Parmenides’s cosmology.

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                                                                                                        • Owens, Joseph. 1974. The physical world of Parmenides. In Essays in honour of Anton Charles Pegis. Edited by J. R. O’Donnell, 378–395. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

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                                                                                                          Taking his cue from Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.5.986b28–33, develops an interpretation according to which the Way of Conviction and the Doxa are describing the same thing, as known respectively through reasoning and through sensation.

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                                                                                                          • Schwabl, Hans. 1953. Sein und doxa bei Parmenides. Wiener Studien 66:50–75.

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                                                                                                            Argues that the cosmology of the second part of the poem has positive status insofar as its principles, Light and Night, have a higher unity in Being.

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