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Martin, Stuart B. Parmenides' Vison: A Study of Parmenides' Poem.

MARTIN, Stuart B. Parmenides' Vison: A Study of Parmenides' Poem. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2016. vii + 299 pp. Cloth, $80.00--This study presents Parmenides as a "religious-mystical" teacher rather than the "rationalist" thinker more commonly encountered in modern scholarship, grounding its interpretation in a reading of Parmenides' fragments, particularly the first, using a Homeric lexicon. A brief introduction sets the stage by highlighting the report in Diogenes Laertius of Parmenides' conversion by the Pythagorean Ameinias and by suggesting that a "special affinity between the language of Homer and that of Parmenides" makes it appropriate to apply Homeric standards when reading Parmenides' verses. Martin's book includes a Greek text of the verse fragments, a translation, and commentary on each of the fragments. Additional aids for the reader with limited Greek include a separate presentation of the translation with an interlinear Greek text as well as an extensive word list with individual entries for each Greek form that appears in the text. (There are distinct entries, for example, for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], each directing the reader to the entry for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which provides a summary of all the uses of the word in the fragments.) The number of typographical errors throughout the book is high, especially in the Greek, so such aids are not as reliable as they might be.

The Greek text follows the arrangement of the "B" fragments in DielsKranz ("DK"), with occasional departures from the DK readings. There is no critical apparatus, but variants are occasionally discussed in the commentary. The most notable departure is the decision to keep to the transmitted text in the much emended third verse of the poem. Where on other readings we encounter "the far-famed road of the god [that is, the Sun], which bears the man of knowledge over all cities" (so W. K. C. Guthrie, translating DK's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) or the "route of the goddess, that carries everywhere unscathed the man who knows" (so David Gallop, translating Meineke's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), here the line reads [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], making the route spoken of in the opening verses that "of the demon Ate, she who carries the clever man down through all things."

The coverage of the commentary is uneven, the greater part of it devoted to two fragments. There are nearly ninety pages on the thirty-two lines of DK B1 and more than thirty pages on the single verse of B3. The commentary on the remaining seventeen fragments amounts to only about forty pages. According to the preface, the treatment of B1 originated in the 1986 doctoral dissertation of Maureen Fennessey, written at Boston College under Martin's direction, while the defense of B3 as an assertion of the identity of thinking and being will be familiar to readers of Donna M. Giancola's 2001 article in the Journal of Philosophical Research, "Towards a Radical Reinterpretation of Parmenides' B3."

Several distinctive features of the reading of B1 are present in nuce in the line quoted above. The daimon on whose way the narrator finds himself at the beginning of the poem is not to be identified, as is commonly done, with the goddess whose teaching is imparted in the rest of the poem, but as a (malevolent) "demon," explicitly named as "Ate" (that is, "Folly" or "Ruin"). Moreover, the "clever man" whom Ate carries down that way is not to be identified, as is often supposed, with the narrator (Parmenides). The narrator's journey, though on the same road, is understood to proceed in the opposite direction, that is, upward, and the narrator is claimed, in contrast to the passivity of the "clever man's" being carried by Ate, to be "essentially active." The latter claim would seem to be at odds with the text repeatedly (at 1.1, 1.4, and 1.25) describing the narrator himself, like the "clever man" (and the "mortals knowing nothing" of B6), as being carried. To accommodate that difficulty, Martin upends another common identification by regularly speaking of the narrator as "the charioteer" and presuming that the mares carrying him are under his control. The textual basis for that identification is supposed to come in line 24, where the goddess addresses the narrator with the words [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Typically translated "accompanied by immortal charioteers," with "charioteers" taken as a reference to the Daughters of the Sun (who in line 21 "held the chariot and the horses straight down the highway"), the phrase here is rendered "member of the immortal charioteers" and treated as a proclamation of the youth's own immortality.

With the last-mentioned identification, if not earlier, the needs of the interpretation seem to overtake concerns about fidelity to the Greek. In the discussion of B3, such concerns are center stage and serve the case for the "mystical-religious" reading particularly well, but the treatment of most of the remaining fragments remains fragmentary.--Christopher Kurfess, Gettysburg College
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Author:Kurfess, Christopher
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2017
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