Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
The Aristotelian Society
23/05/22: Alexander Mourelatos on 'Parmenides of Elea and Xenophanes of Colophon: the Conceptually Deeper Connections'
1 hour 12 minutes Posted May 29, 2022 at 11:53 pm.
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Show notes

In the interpretation of Parmenides of Elea, there is a certain vulgate, one widely represented in general histories of philosophy and indeed assumed by philosophers broadly. The metaphysical tenor and thrust of the philosophy of Parmenides, according to this vulgate, is holistic monism: "all things are one," in Greek, hen to pan. As it may be recalled, Parmenides reached his metaphysical conclusions by initially reflecting on the language of to mē on or to ouk on (either of which may be translated as "what is not," or "non-being," or "not being"). Famously, or notoriously, he did rule that there is something conceptually and logically unacceptable in speaking or thinking of "not being." Ascribing that initial philosophical move to Parmenides is certainly beyond dispute. The vulgate, however, adds that he must also have reflected on the language of "different" (heteron) and "other" (allo); and then he proceeded to draw powerful metaphysical inferences in the following way: If, with respect to some A and some B, we are to hold that A is "different from" (or "other than") B, or vice versa, then we are committed to holding that "A is not B" and "B is not A." But if grasping "not-being" is inherently impossible, it should likewise count impossible that we should conceive more narrowly of "A's not being B," or of "B's not being A." Once distinctions of any sort are logically disallowed, the metaphysical conclusion seems inevitable: hen to pan, "all things are one." The epistemological corollary of holistic monism is that the world humans experience, fraught as it is with plurality and pervasively splintered by distinctions, is ultimately and fundamentally an illusion.

Alexander P. D. Mourelatos is Professor Emeritus in Philosophy and in Classics at The University of Texas at Austin, where in 1967 he founded and for twenty years directed, the Joint Classics-Philosophy Graduate Program in Ancient Philosophy. He is the author of The Route of Parmenides (1970; 2nd edn., 2008), and editor of The Pre-Socratics: A Collection of Critical Essays 1974; 2nd edn., 1993). Scholarly articles of his have appeared in journals in: philosophy; classics; ; history of science; and linguistics. On more than 170 occasions, he has delivered invited lectures at academic venues in North and South America, Europe, and Australasia. He received all his academic degrees from Yale University (Ph.D., 1964), and has been awarded two honorary doctorates in his native Greece (University of Athens, 1994; University of Crete, 2017). Students of his and colleagues have presanted him with two collections in his honor: in 2002, Presocratic Philosophy—Essays in Honour of Alexander Mourelatos; and in 2019, a special double issue of the periodical Philosophical Inquiry. He has held research appointments at: the University of Wisconsin, Madison; the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ); the Center for Hellenic Studies (Washington, DC, Harvard University); Cambridge University; and the Australian National University.

This podcast is an audio recording of Dr Mourelatos's talk - "Parmenides of Elea and Xenophanes of Colophon: the Conceptually Deeper Connections" - at the Aristotelian Society on 23rd May 2022. This recording was produced by the Backdoor Broadcasting Company.