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Chapter 2 - Parmenides

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2021

Tom Mackenzie
Affiliation:
University College London
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Summary

The arguments put forth by Parmenides’ goddess have some marked implications for language: mortal terms are deceptive and what truly ‘is’ seems hard to capture in ordinary language. This chapter argues that Parmenides uses poetry in a variety of ways to bypass these difficulties. Verse could be a notoriously deceptive form of discourse in causing its recipients to forget their immediate surroundings and enter into an imagined and potentially illusory mimetic world. In the Doxa section of the poem, Parmenides highlights this quality of his verse to illustrate the wider deceptiveness of mortal sensory experience. On the other hand, the transportive qualities of verse render it a means by which to provide a taster of the ineffable and sublime emotional-cum-cognitive experience of contemplating that which truly is. Moreover, through alluding to meta-literary episodes such as Hesiod’s Theogony proem and the Sirens episode of the Odyssey, Parmenides engages in an ongoing discussion concerning the nature and function of song. His contribution can be regarded as an important moment in the emergence of the Classical conception of poetry: in presenting the Doxa as a poetic world deriving from mortal opinion, Parmenides comes close to Platonic conceptions of literary mimesis.

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Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
Reading Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles as Literature
, pp. 65 - 101
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Parmenides
  • Tom Mackenzie, University College London
  • Book: Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
  • Online publication: 05 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108921084.003
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  • Parmenides
  • Tom Mackenzie, University College London
  • Book: Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
  • Online publication: 05 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108921084.003
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Parmenides
  • Tom Mackenzie, University College London
  • Book: Poetry and Poetics in the Presocratic Philosophers
  • Online publication: 05 April 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108921084.003
Available formats
×