The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Eleatic Questions

G. E. L. Owena1

a1 Corpus Christi College, Oxford

The following suggestions for the interpretation of Parmenides and Melissus can be grouped for convenience about one problem. This is the problem whether, as Aristotle thought and as most commentators still assume, Parmenides wrote his poem in the broad tradition of Ionian and Italian cosmology. The details of Aristotle's interpretation have been challenged over and again, but those who agree with his general assumptions take comfort from some or all of the following major arguments. First, the cosmogony which formed the last part of Parmenides' poem is expressly claimed by the goddess who expounds it to have some measure of truth or reliability in its own right, and indeed the very greatest measure possible for such an attempt. Second, the earlier arguments of the goddess prepare the ground for such a cosmogony in two ways. For in the first place these arguments themselves start from assumptions derived from earlier cosmologists, and are concerned merely to work out the implications of this traditional material. And, in the second place, they end by establishing the existence of a spherical universe: the framework of the physical world can be secured by logic even if the subsequent introduction of sensible qualities or ‘powers’ into this world marks some decline in logical rigour.