The ontological import of Parmenides' metaphor: a reading of the proemium

Abstract

The aim of this essay is to consider the nature of the philosophical task and of the conditions of its possibility according to Parmenides and Plato. With these thinkers, the task of the philosopher necessitates a propaedeutic activity that makes the doing of philosophy possible; that is, both Parmenides and Plato identify the need for a philosophical education that would alleviate the obstacles that would make philosophy impossible to practise, ensuring and accounting for the possibility of philosophical practice. The impossibility of philosophical practice concerns the philosopher’s claim and obligation to occupy a place (τόπος) from which to contemplate being. The problem becomes conspicuous, for the first time, in the first lines of the first fragment of the first text of pure ontology: in the proemium of Parmenides’ poem. I will argue that the proemium has a crucial philosophical function that binds it integrally to the argument of the poem. This function consists in the implementation of a philosophical propaedeutic that makes possible the articulation of the goddess’s critique. The need for a propaedeutic stems from the nature of the project that lies ahead, that is, the project of the youth’s education. Such education takes the form of the delimitation of the realm of the beings that νοῦς can concern itself with.

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Yannis Chatzantonis
Dundee University (PhD)

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