Parmenides' Theistic Metaphysics

Dissertation, University of Kansas (2016)
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Abstract
The primary interpretative challenge for understanding Parmenides’ poem revolves around explaining both the meaning of, and the relationship between, its two primary sections: a) the positively endorsed metaphysical arguments which describe some unified, unchanging, motionless, and eternal “reality”, and b) the ensuing cosmology, which incorporates the very principles explicitly denied in Aletheia. I will refer to this problem as the “A-D Paradox.” I advocate resolving this paradoxical relationship by reading Parmenides’ poem as a ring-composition, and incorporating a modified version of Palmer’s modal interpretation of Aletheia. On my interpretation, Parmenides’ thesis in Aletheia is not a counter-intuitive description of how all the world must truly be, but rather a radical rethinking of divine nature. Understanding Aletheia in this way, the ensuing “cosmology” can be straightforwardly rejected as an exposition of how traditional, mythopoetic accounts have misled mortals in their understanding of divinity. Not only does this interpretative view provide a resolution to the A-D Paradox, it offers a more holistic account of the poem by making the opening lines of introduction integral to understanding Parmenides’ message. By setting forth its own unacceptable fiction, paralleling the elements of the Doxa in a ring-composition, the Proem simultaneously establishes the scope of the ensuing inquiry, and its target. Maintaining Parmenides’ historical position as the “father of metaphysics,” the narrative that he advanced a strictly secular account of all reality is challenged. Instead, Parmenides is best understood as further advancing Xenophanes’ criticisms of traditional religion, an intellectual relationship which the ancient testimonia strongly supports.
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