Towards a Genealogy of the Metaphysics of Sight: Seeing, Hearing, and Thinking in Heraclitus and Parmenides

In Antonio Cimino & Pavlos Kontos (eds.), Phenomenology and the Metaphysics of Sight. Brill. pp. 11-34 (2015)
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Abstract
The paper outlines a tentative genealogy of the Platonic metaphysics of sight by thematizing pre-Platonic thought, particularly Heraclitus and Parmenides. By “metaphysics of sight” it understands the features of Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysics expressed with the help of visual metaphors. It is argued that the Platonic metaphysics of sight can be regarded as the result of a synthesis of the Heraclitean and Parmenidean approaches. In pre-Platonic thought, the visual paradigm is still marginal. For Heraclitus, the basic structure of being is its discursive articulation (logos) into conceptual pairs of binary opposites, an articulation that at the same time binds differences together into a tensional unity. The fundamental grasping of this ultimate unity-in-difference is conceived primarily through acoustic terms as a non-sensory “hearing.” For Parmenides, the ultimate unity of contraries is based on the capacity of thinking (noos) to intend anything as present; in fragment B 4, the exclusive relationship of thinking to intelligible presence is finally visualized in terms of a seeing or looking (leusso).
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