Plato's Reception of Parmenides

Plato's Reception of Parmenides

Plato's Reception of Parmenides

Plato's Reception of Parmenides

Synopsis

John Palmer presents a new and original account of Plato's uses and understanding of his most important Presocratic predecessor, Parmenides. Adopting an innovative approach to the appraisal of intellectual influence, Palmer first explores the Eleatic underpinnings of central elements in Plato's middle-period epistemology and metaphysics. He then shows how in the later dialogues Plato confronts various sophistic appropriations of Parmenides while simultaneously developing his own deepened understanding. Along the way Palmer gives fresh readings of Parmenides' poem in the light of the Platonic reception, and discusses Plato's view of Parmenides' relation to such key figures as Xenophanes, Zeno, and Gorgias. By tracing connections among the uses of Parmenides over the course of several dialogues, Palmer both demonstrates his fundamental importance to the development of Plato's thought and furthers understanding of central problems in Plato's own philosophy.

Excerpt

The origin of the present work can be traced back to the dissatisfaction I felt with what I was taught about Parmenides when I began studying the Presocratics at Cambridge. This dissatisfaction subsequently expressed itself in a paper on the relation between Xenophanes and Parmenides which I wrote for David Furley's seminar on the Presocratics at Princeton in the spring of 1990. I want to thank him for encouraging what were in fact some rather hazy thoughts -- and for his continued kindness, good sense, and open-mindedness as those thoughts subsequently developed in different directions. This process began during André Laks's Princeton seminar on Parmenides and Anaxagoras in the Spring of 1992. He was a sympathetic critic at the time and continued to offer acute comment and advice as my ideas developed into my 1996 doctoral dissertation, 'Aspects of Plato's Reception of Parmenides'. I owe him particular thanks for helping me clarify the problems and potential advantages of my somewhat unorthodox approach to the history of ancient philosophy.

Much of the central argument of Part I took shape during the Fall of 1993, when I returned to Cambridge under the auspices of a Donald and Mary Hyde Fellowship. It was during this time that I decided to focus exclusively on Plato's encounter with Parmenides. A Mellon Dissertation Year Fellowship provided a period of uninterrupted work following my return to Princeton. In the Spring of 1995 I was fortunate to attend Alexander Nehamas's seminar on Parmenides and Plato, which helped to solidify certain ideas as I was moulding them into a coherent form. I want to thank him for his sensitive and searching criticisms both at that time and since. I also want to express my debt to Myles Burnyeat and Michael Frede for their invaluable comments and insights at various stages of the project. Discussions with Charles Brittain, Verity Harte, Rachel Barney, and Andrew Ford were invariably stimulating and helped me work out certain key ideas. I want to thank the President and Fellows of Clare Hall, Cambridge, for electing me to the Research Fellowship that has given me the opportunity to revise the dissertation in a friendly and stimulating intellectual environment. My greatest debt is to Malcolm Schofield, under whose guidance I began seriously studying ancient philosophy. What I owe to his example and encouragement is impossible to express. Perhaps I can just say that I look forward to continuing to learn from him well into the future.

I have seen fit to drop the first two words of my earlier title because I have now taken into account how Plato represents Parmenides' consideration of his own hypothesis in the second part of the Parmenides. This has led me to rethink, revise, and substantially reorganize my earlier account of . . .

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