‘Ta polla hêssô nou: A puzzle in Xenophanes’

Ancient Philosophy 42:1-6 (2022)
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Abstract

Diogenes Laertius reports (in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers ix 19) that Xenophanes of Colophon stated that ta polla hêssô nou (in some sense, ‘that the many give way to mind’). After reviewing four alternative but unsatisfactory ways of understanding the remark I argue that it is best understood as ‘the multitude of things (i.e. the cosmos) gives way to—is mastered by—the (divine) mind.’ When understood in this way the remark establishes Xenophanes as one of the earliest Greek thinkers to hold that events throughout the cosmos take place under the control of a supremely powerful divine intelligence.

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