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Being on the way: Parmenides and the poetics of proof

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The poem of Parmenides, a Presocratic thinker active in the early 5th century, contains the first known attempt to use a sequence of deductive arguments to establish a set of indisputable conclusions from a starting point that must also be accepted. Despite recent attempts to better locate Parmenides in his intellectual context, scholars have not yet provided an account that links Parmenides’ revolutionary deductive argumentation to discursive strategies already in use. Furthermore, most studies of Parmenides are troubled by the fact that he composed his treatise in verse (dactylic hexameter, the metre of Homer) and frequently deployed what is deemed to be poetic language and imagery in the course of his arguments. By contrast, my PhD thesis begins from the premise that in order to understand how Parmenides develops his new, path-breaking way of presenting and defending his ideas we must be prepared to read Parmenides’ poem as a poem: with careful attention to the richness of its language, to the role its imagery plays in shaping its structure, and to its intertextual reworking of from earlier poetry (notably Book 12 of the Odyssey). In this talk I will provide an overview of my thesis and a summary of some of its conclusions.

This talk is part of the Caius MCR/SCR research talks series.

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