Parmenides, Plato, and Μίμησις.

In Heather Reid & Jeremy DeLong (eds.), The Many Faces of Mimesis: Selected Essays from the 2017 Symposium on the Hellenic Heritage of Western Greece (Heritage of Western Greece Series, Book 3). Sioux City, Iowa: Parnassos Press. pp. 61-74 (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Evidence for a Parmenidean influence on Plato’s Republic typically focuses on content from Bks. V-VI, and the development of Plato’s Theory of Forms. This essay aims to suggest that Plato’s censorship of poetic content in Bks. II-III—particularly the rules for portraying divine nature (376e-383c)—also draw heavily upon the Eleatic tradition, particularly Parmenides’s. Identifying this further Eleatic influence will be enhanced by my own reading of Parmenides. This reading advocates understanding Parmenides in a more Xenophanean-vein—i.e. by taking What-Is to be an explication of the essential qualities of divine nature, and the overall poem as rejecting traditional, mythopoetic accounts of divinity. Recognizing this Eleatic influence on the censorship of poetic content, a tension arises. For Plato infamously censors poetic styles next, concluding that mimetic dialogue may only be rarely employed, and only then in imitation of virtuous persons and actions (392c-398b). This would entail banning all poetic works relying exclusively on mimetic dialogue. Yet, not only do Plato’s own dialogues entirely consist of mimetic dialogue, so does Parmenides’s proto-dialogue. Furthermore, by so closely imitating Parmenides’s thought and language in Republic, has not Plato himself engaged in a type of intellectual and compositional mίμησις? Just as it would be strange to ban the very dialogue (Republic) which outlines and justifies Kallipolis in the first place, it would also be troubling to ban a philosophical work (i.e. Parmenides’s poem) which Republic is so heavily indebted to. Such a ban would also seem strongly at odds with Plato’s general reverence for Parmenides. In an attempt to address these tensions, I suggest that in Republic II-III, Plato’s lack of concern for banning philosophical works along with mimetic poetry should further suggest that he intends the ban to be far narrower than it first appears: as a rejection of performative, rather than compositional, mίμησις.
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First archival date: 2018-04-22
Latest version: 2 (2018-07-13)
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