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La notion d'Intelligence (nous-noein) dans la Grèce antique

Noos and Mortal Enquiry in the Poetry of Xenophanes and Parmenides

Nicolò Benzi

Résumés

Cet article examine le rôle joué par la notion d'intelligence (noos) dans la poésie de Xénophane et de Parménide. L'auteur soutient que ces deux philosophes, en modifiant les attributs traditionnels du noos humain et divin, répondent aux problèmes posés par le pessimisme gnoséologique de la tradition poétique archaïque, dans laquelle les mortels sont inéluctablement condamnés à l'ignorance. Comme le montre le cas d'Hésiode, même l'inspiration divine ne garantit pas d'acquérir la connaissance, parce que la divinité peut communiquer, à son gré, le vrai ou le faux et que le poète est dépourvu de moyens pour établir la validité de la révélation. Chez Xénophane en revanche, la régularité de l'ordre naturel fondé sur l'immuable noos du dieu offre aux hommes la possibilité effective d'améliorer leur compréhension du monde, tandis que dans le poème de Parménide, la déduction des attributs de l'Être donne aux mortels l'accès à cette vérité qui était auparavant une prérogative exclusive des dieux.

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Introduction

  • 1 Cf. James Lesher (1999), « Early Interests in Knowledge », in Anthony A. Long (ed.), The Cambridge (...)

1In the traditional pessimistic account of human knowledge offered by Archaic Greek poetry, human enquiry appears to have no place. According to a common poetical motif, human mind (noos) is ephemeral, as its scope cannot extend beyond what men experience each day. Knowledge pertains only to the omniscient gods, who fashion events according to their will and thus leave humans to wander in obscurity. Given such a precarious condition, the possibility that human beings can actually progress towards knowledge is, de facto, excluded. By contrast, with the beginning of philosophical speculation, enquiry acquires a crucial role as an effective means whereby men can improve their understanding of the world1. In this scenario, Xenophanes and Parmenides provide a vivid example of the new importance assigned to enquiry, which assumes even more significance considering that they innovated in the context of poetic production itself. In particular, I argue, they changed the traditional epistemic framework in which humans were conceived to operate by revising the characteristics of both mortal and divine noos.

2In order to evaluate Xenophanes' and Parmenides' modifications to the notion of noos and their role in mortal enquiry, I will start with an overview of the meaning of noos, noein and derivatives in Homer (section 1). Then, I will consider the phrase « to sing the noos of Zeus » in the Works and Days and examine it in the light of the ambiguous status of Hesiodic poetry stemming from Hesiod's dependence on divine inspiration (section 2). After that, I will analyse Xenophanes' appropriation of the traditional motif of human ignorance in the light of his conception of divine noos (section 3), and lastly, the consequences of Parmenides' characterization of the path of enquiry to be followed by human mind as purely deductive (section 4).

1. Noos, noein and derivatives in Homeric epic

  • 2 E.g. in Il.III.21-23; III.30-31; III.396-98. On this point, see Cf. Kurt von Fritz (1942), «  ΝΟΟΣ (...)
  • 3 Cf. Kurt von Fritz (1942), Classical Philology, 38, p. 89-90.
  • 4 E.g. Il.IX.104-105 ; Il.IX.600 ; Od.V.88. On this point, and for further examples, see Kurt von Fri (...)

3In his landmark study of noos, noein and derivatives in the Homeric poems, von Fritz has shown that the basic meaning of noein is « to realize the situation », for example the murderous intentions of an enemy or the real identity of gods disguised as humans2. In this specific sense, the action indicated by noein acquires the characteristic of an insight which penetrates beyond appearances and grasps the real truth about the matter3. Since the realization of a situation might prompt a reaction taking the form of a plan, noein can also signify « to plan » or « to have an intention »4.

  • 5 Cf. J.R. Warden, Journal of the History of Ideas, 32 (1971), p. 5. Von Fritz specifies that, when n (...)
  • 6 Od.I.3

4The compresence of intellectual and volitional aspects characterizes the term noos as well, which can indicate both the organ performing the activity of noein (« mind ») and the results of the activity itself (« thought », « understanding» or « plan », « intention »)5. As the reactions to a situation are idiomatic to the people involved, noos sometimes means also « attitude », whether of an individual or of a nation, as in the famous opening of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus is said to have known the noos of many men during his journey to Ithaca6. Similar considerations hold for noema, derived from noein through the addition of the suffix -ma, indicating the result of the action described by the verb.

  • 7 Cf. James Lesher (1981), Phronesis, 26, p. 12 and passim.
  • 8 On the relationship between noos and sēma, see Gregory Nagy (1983), « Sēma and Noēsis: Some Illustr (...)
  • 9 Cf. h.Merc.213-14.
  • 10 Cf. Il.XXIV.294, 312.

5It is worth stressing that the act of cognition indicated by noein consists in a kind of intuition similar to sense perception, through which the significance of a concrete object or situation is grasped instantly. In fact, noein is closely connected to vision, as the realization of the situation is directly and immediately associated to an act of visual perception7. The verb noein, then, does not indicate realization/recognition through logical inference, but rather the instant apprehension of the meaning of a situation/object. This feature is particularly evident in cases in which the object of noetic cognition is a sēma, i.e. a « sign for recognition », like those involved in divination. Indeed, it is through noos that the meaning of specific signs can be fully realized and recognized8. In the Hymn to Hermes, for example, a bird flying in the sky is the sign that makes Apollo realize that Hermes is the thief of his cattle9, while in the Iliad, Priam recognizes in a bird sent by Zeus the signal to go to the Achaean camp to claim back Hector's body10.

  • 11 Cf. James Lesher (1981), Phronesis, 26, p. 15.
  • 12 Od.XVIII.130-7.

6Significantly, in many instances a sharp contrast is drawn between people who have noos and thus are able to realize a situation or recognize a particular sign, and those who cannot. As noted by Lesher, this opposition is typical of the Odyssey, in which frequently one is said to see, but actually fails to understand what is happening around him11. Such lack of understanding in specific situations is at the roots of the idea that men generally cannot grasp the larger scheme of events in which they are involved. Indeed, in the Odyssey we find the prototype of the image which compares the noos of men to the day which Zeus brings to them, used by Odysseus to stress the suitors' inability to realize the imminent danger hanging over them12.

  • 13 See, for example, Archilochus (130 West) : « Often, when men are lying prostrate on the dark earth (...)

7As mentioned above, the limitedness of human knowledge later became a common poetical motif, which assumed even more pessimistic connotations in the light of the frequent comparisons between mortal ignorance and divine omniscience13. Indeed, even when the epistemic gap between men and gods seems to be bridged, as in the case of inspired poetry, mortals still remain condemned to uncertainty. In this regard, Hesiod's poems offer a striking example of how divine revelation is not sufficient to guarantee the acquisition of reliable information. To illustrate this point, I will now turn to a passage of the Works and Days in which Hesiod claims the ability of singing nothing less than the noos of Zeus.

2. « To sing the noos of Zeus »: Hesiod and divine inspiration

8In the part of the Works and Days devoted to navigation, known as Nautilia, Hesiod states that he will show to Perses the rules (metra) of the sea. However, his announcement is surprisingly followed by a declaration of lack of expertise in navigation. The text runs as follows :

« I shall show you the rules of the much-roaring sea,

  • 14 Op. 648-649 : δείξω δή τοι μέτρα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης,/ οὔτε τι ναυτιλίης σεσοφισμένος οὔτε τι νη (...)

I who have no expertise at all in either seafaring or boats. »14

  • 15 Examples include poets, musicians, carpenters and helmsmen. On this point, cf. West's commentary in (...)
  • 16 Cf. Op. 648-662.
  • 17 About 65 metres long, see West in Hesiod, Works and Days, ed. West 1966, ad loc.

9In Archaic Greek poetry, the term metron indicates the rules known to the expert, i.e. someone who possesses the technical skill (sophia) necessary to correctly perform a specific activity15. Thus, the fact that Hesiod avows his ignorance of nautical matters by saying that he does not possess sophia («having no expertise» translates the Greek οὔτε σεσοφισμένος) further emphasizes his inexperience in navigation. Even more eloquently, in the following lines Hesiod explains that he only travelled by ship once, when he went to Chalcis to take part in the funeral games in honour of Amphidamas16. The voyage, as remarked by West, was indeed a really short one17. How is it possible, then, that Hesiod can expound the rules of navigation with such a little experience? The answer to this question is provided by the following lines, in which Hesiod tells us that he will rely on divine inspiration:

« This is as much experience of many-bolted ships as I have acquired;

yet even so I shall speak forth the mind (noos) of aegis-holding Zeus,

  • 18 Op. 660-662, tr. Most. Greek text : τόσσον τοι νηῶν γε πεπείρημαι πολυγόμφων·/ ἀλλὰ καὶ ὣς ἐρέω Ζην (...)

for the Muses taught me to sing an inconceivable hymn. »18

  • 19 Cf. Op. 694 : μέτρα φυλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος, « Bear in mind measures: proportion i (...)
  • 20 Zeus' dealing with justice is announced in the proem to the Works and Days (cf. Op. 9-10). As impli (...)
  • 21 Cf. Graziano Arrighetti (1987), Poeti, eruditi e biografi: momenti della riflessione dei Greci sull (...)

10Hesiod specifies that the Muses' inspiration has made him able to tell the mind (or plan) of Zeus. Noticeably, lines 660-662 are in ring composition with lines 648-649, as they present a symmetrical repetition of two elements (A-B-B-A), namely (A) a statement of what Hesiod is going to tell Perses, and (B) an acknowledgement of his limited experience of ships. Considering this structure, the phrase « speaking the noos of Zeus » stands as an alternative formulation for « showing the metra of the sea ». As a consequence, the passage as a whole implies that Zeus' noos encompasses the metra of seafaring, which Hesiod starts to expound in the next lines (Op. 663-95). However, such metra do not consist in a list of technical details, as one might expect from the use of terms like metron and sophizō, but rather in injunctions about the appropriate seasons for navigation informed by moral considerations. Indeed, the term metron refers also to the right measure men should not overpass in order to not incur the loss of their possessions or even of their life, as illustrated at the end of the Nautilia, which is closed, and summed up, by a final precept which invites to observe the right measure in all circumstances19. In this light, Hesiod's mention of Zeus' noos acquires a deeper significance, since it is in the mind/plan of the god that the ethical structure of the world has its foundation20. The subsumption of the exposition of the rules of navigation to that of the mind/plan of Zeus thus symbolizes the fact that Hesiod's treatment of navigation is primarily focused on the place which this human activity has in the wider ethical framework of the cosmos, and this holds also for the other occupations described in the poem21. According to Hesiod, then, human work finds its genuine significance only in the cosmic order grounded on the noos of Zeus.

  • 22 Cf. Jean Rudhardt (1996), « Le préambule de la Théogonie. La vocation du poète. Le langage des Muse (...)
  • 23 ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,/ ἴδμεν δεὖτἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι, « We know how (...)
  • 24 Op. 483-484.
  • 25 Op. 663-669. On this point, see further Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Divine, p. 43-45.

11Hesiod's attention to cosmic ethical issues emerging from the Works and Days reflects the didactic aspirations of his poetry, through which he aims to provide a universal account of the world ultimately related to the stable order of the cosmos established by Zeus. Such order is, actually, the main subject of the Theogony, in which Hesiod narrates the origins of the world and the events which led to Zeus' reign over the cosmos. In the scene of his poetic investiture, Hesiod himself tells us that the Muses inspired him to sing the past, the future and the immortal gods, thus hinting at the permanent arrangement of the universe brought about by Zeus' dominion22. However, Hesiod's dependence on divine inspiration raises a problem concerning the reliability of his poetry. For the Muses themselves, before granting to Hesiod the gift of song, state that they are equally able to inspire both falsehoods similar to genuine things, and, when they wish, truths (Th. 27-28)23. The same consideration holds for Hesiod's ability of actually telling the noos of Zeus, as claimed in the Works and Days, since Zeus' mind is part of the song which the Muses inspired to him. Furthermore, Hesiod explicitly declares that the mind/plan (noos) of Zeus is difficult for mortals to know, as it constantly changes24, and in the Nautilia itself, after indicating the best season for navigation, he specifies that it will not offer risks for ships, unless Zeus or Poseidon should want to destroy them25.

12The reliability of Hesiod's poetry is thus endangered by the very property which should guarantee it, namely its divine origin. For in order to sing about things to which mortals cannot have access without divine intervention, like the origins of the cosmos or Zeus' mind/plan, Hesiod must depend on the Muses' inspiration, which, however, is hardly reliable. As they declare, the goddesses tell the truth only when they wish, but divine will is totally inscrutable to men. Human beings are thus deprived of any criterion whereby they can recognize whether what they apprehend from the divinity is true.

13In what follows, I will examine how Xenophanes and Parmenides addressed the problem posed by the ambiguous status of divine revelation and advanced solutions which entail the modification of the traditional conception of noos.

3. Xenophanes and divine noos

  • 26 Cf. B34.1-2 : « And of course the clear and certain truth no man has seen nor will there be anyone (...)
  • 27 Cf. B34.3-4 : « For even if, in the best case, one happened to speak just of what has been brought (...)
  • 28 For an overview of the possible readings, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 159-167.
  • 29 Cf. James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 166.
  • 30 Cf. fragments B18, discussed below, and B26. Noticeably, the limitedness of human life will be ment (...)

14In the extant fragments devoted to human knowledge, Xenophanes appropriates the traditional pessimism concerning men's epistemic possibilities. In fragment B34, he clearly states that no man will ever know what is clear and certain (saphes) about the gods and natural phenomena26. Actually, even in the case in which someone happened to speak in conformity to what has been brought to completion (tetelesmenon), still he would not have knowledge of that, since human beings are unavoidably confined to opinion (dokos)27. Xenophanes' claim has been the object of various interpretations, which I cannot extensively analyse here28. In the following discussion, I will follow what I consider the most plausible reading of the fragment, the so-called « naturalistic approach »29. According to this interpretation, Xenophanes' position must be understood in the context of the natural restrictions on human knowledge determined by the limited range of human experience. Since men cannot have access to the complete set of experiences relating to the natural world due to the short span of their life and the objective impossibility of experiencing every possible aspect of nature, they cannot have knowledge on the subject. Similarly, since Xenophanes appears to deny any sort of direct interaction between humans and gods, as implied by his criticism on the anthropomorphic belief that gods move around and communicate with mortals, knowledge concerning divine matters is excluded30.

15However, although debarred from knowledge, men can still rely on their opinions, which, as stated in fragment B18, can be improved over time by means of enquiry :

« Indeed not from the beginning (ap'archēs) the gods intimated all things (panta) to mortals,

  • 31 DK21B18, tr. Lesher. Greek text: οὔ τοι ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖσ᾽ ὑπέδειξαν,/ ἀλλὰ χρόνωι ζητοῦ (...)

but as they search in time they discover better. »31

  • 32 Cf. Shaul Tor (2013), « Mortal and Divine in Xenophanes Epistemology », Rhizomata 1/2, p. 250 and p (...)
  • 33 Cf. Shaul Tor, Rhizomata, 1/2 (2013), p. 267. Tor presents also a restricted version of his interpr (...)

16The fragment is famously ambiguous as regards Xenophanes' position on divine disclosure to mortals. The main issues arise from the reading of panta and ap'archēs : for, on the one hand, the fact that the gods did not reveal all things (panta) could mean either that they did not reveal anything at all or that they revealed just some things ; on the other hand, the specification « at the beginning », could be read as implying that, in fact, the gods have disclosed some things to mortal in the course of time. The complete rejection of divine disclosure or its partial admission has important bearing on Xenophanes' conception of mortal enquiry, since, as a consequence, men would then conduct their search, respectively, on their own or aided by divine agency. Numerous arguments have been advanced in support of either reading. In what follows, I will build upon the recent interpretation proposed by Tor, who convincingly argues that in fragment B18 Xenophanes attacks the traditional and authoritative paradigms of divine disclosure, mainly represented by mantic divination and poetic inspiration, to replace them with his own32. According to Xenophanes' model of divine disclosure, which Tor calls «universal disclosure», the divine purposively facilitates mortal opinion-formation by enabling human beings to perceive and consider everything that they encounter in their necessary limited scope of experience33. Thus, instead of the indirect communication reserved to few privileged typical of traditional conceptions of disclosure, mortals' opinion are grounded on the everyday experience which the divine makes accessible to all men.

  • 34 The vexed question concerning Xenophanes' monotheism does not directly affect my argument, but I th (...)
  • 35 On this point, see Kurt von Fritz (1945), « Nous, Noein and Derivatives in Pre-Socratic Philosophy (...)
  • 36 For noēma as here equivalent to noos, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 97.
  • 37 Cf. B24 : « Whole he sees, whole he hears, whole he thinks» (tr. Lesher). Given the complete dissim (...)

17In this scenario, Xenophanes' conception of the greatest god represents an important innovation on the traditional view on divine disclosure34. In particular, I argue, through his characterization of the god's noos, Xenophanes advances a solution to the ambiguous status of the contents of divine disclosure. Noticeably, all the occurrences of the term noos and cognates in Xenophanes' extant fragments appear in relation to the greatest god35. In fragment B23, the god is said to be completely different from mortals as to mind (noēma)36, while in B24, his exceptional cognitive capacities are vividly represented by the fact that he sees, hears and thinks/understands (noein) with his whole body37. Significantly, through his noos, god is said to actively intervene in the world :

  • 38 DK21B25, tr. Lesher. Greek text : ἀλλ᾽ ἀπάνευθε πόνοιο νόου φρενὶ πάντα κραδαίνει. On the relations (...)

« But completely without toil he shakes all things by the thought of his mind. »38

  • 39 Cf. Shaul Tor (2013), Rhizomata, 1/2, p. 268.
  • 40 Hom. Il. 1.523-527. On this passage and its relationship with Xenophanes' fragment, see Hemese Mogy (...)
  • 41 Cf. supra, n. 14. Mourelatos, in his reconstruction of Xenophanes' physics, argues that kradainein (...)
  • 42 Cf. B26 : « Always he abides in the same state, not moving at all, nor it is fitting for him to mov (...)

18Xenophanes' description of the god's «shaking» of all things with his mind conveys the idea of purposeful intervention, whereby the divine makes mortal opinion-formation possible. As illustrated above, the term noos has both cognitive and volitional connotations. Similarly, phrēn generally indicates the location or instrument of deliberation and planning. In particular, in traditional poetic accounts, Zeus' noos and phrēn signify the god's will or plan, by which he sometimes also determines the course of events39. Furthermore, the god's shaking hints at a parallel passage in the first book of the Iliad: when Zeus assents to Thetis' request to honour Achilles, his nod, expressing the adoption of a determined plan which will inevitably be realized, makes Olympus shake40. As stressed by panta, god exercises his purposeful intervention on all things and thus on natural phenomena as well41. Therefore, what men encounter in their enquiries on nature and use to form their opinion on the world is ultimately grounded on the greatest god's mind/plan. In a way similar to the role which Hesiod assigns to Zeus' mind/plan in his poems, then, the greatest god's noos provides the foundation for the cosmic order of phenomena. But differently from Hesiod's poem, god's attributes leave no room for uncertainty. For, as described in fragment B26, the greatest god is unchangeable, as it always remains in the same state and does not move at all42. It is reasonable to infer that the same characteristic pertains to the god's noos as well, since a modification of his noos would signify an alteration of its state. Indeed, since Xenophanes proposes his conception of the divine in stark contrast with the traditional view found in other poets, especially Homer and Hesiod, the idea that his god does not change his mind/plan out of capriciousness as in previous representations represents a further criticism of such accounts. Moreover, immutability would be an additional mark of distinction between divine and mortal noos, since, as I have shown above, human noos was traditionally depicted as extremely mutable and wandering. But if god's noos does not change, one might expect regularity and fixity also in the order of things which is determined by divine mind. Such a stability, on its part, guarantees the actual possibility that human beings improve their set of opinions over time, since they can confidently build on the results of previous enquiries.

  • 43 Tr. Lesher.
  • 44 Cf. Tor's reading of the fragment in support of his «universal disclosure» hypothesis (see Shaul To (...)

19As illustrated above, however, despite this optimistic view, humans cannot attain knowledge due to their limited spatio-temporal condition. Knowledge is still a prerogative of gods, while mortals are confined to opinion, which possesses only a limited validity. Consider the case of the honey of fragment B38 : « If god had not made yellow honey, they would think that figs were much sweeter »43. Honey is an instance of a common object of experience made by god and used by mortals to form an opinion about sweetness44. The fact that honey is sweeter than figs (or, at least, of certain types of figs) is something grasped once and for all, but men cannot, for example, state that honey is the sweetest thing of all, since it is always possible that in the future they might experience something sweeter. Thus, mortal statements about the world have a limited soundness, depending on what men have experienced. God's immutability guarantees the permanent soundness of some opinions, like the relative sweetness of honey and figs, but men's limitedness precludes them from the acquisition of knowledge and the formulation of universal statements, for example about sweetness or the properties of figs.

20According to Xenophanes, then, the epistemic possibilities of men are not limited by divine will, as in Hesiod, but only by their inherent condition as mortals. Indeed, god's characteristics provide human beings with a stable basis upon which they can build a reliable system of opinions, which, of course, can be improved over time through enquiry and the exercise of their critical faculties. However, humans are still debarred from knowledge and only with Parmenides they will actually cross the epistemic abyss which separate them from the divine.

4. Parmenides and the deduction of truth

21Parmenides' poem opens with the narration of his encounter, as a young man (kouros), with a goddess who thus announces to him the content of her revelation:

« You must be informed of everything,

  • 45 « Unmoved » translates the Greek ἀτρεμὲς. The variant ἀτρεκές (« strict »,« sure »,« certain ») cou (...)
  • 46 Besides εὐπειθέος (« persuasive »), there are two other variants in the text, namely εὐκυκλέος («we (...)

both of the unmoved45 heart of persuasive46 truth

and of the beliefs/opinions of mortals which comprise

  • 47 DK28B1.28-30, tr. Coxon, with modification. Greek text : χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι/ ἠμὲν Ἀληθείης ε (...)

no genuine trustworthiness. »47

  • 48 As will emerge later in the poem, the « heart of truth» is not distinguished by truth itself. On th (...)
  • 49 On this point, see also Maja E. Pellikaan-Engels (1974), Hesiod and Parmenides: a New View on Their (...)
  • 50 DK B8.50-51 : « Therewith I put a stop for you to my reliable discourse and thought about truth » ( (...)

22As long recognized by scholars, the goddess' address to Parmenides contains an allusion to that of the Muses in the proem of the Theogony. However, Parmenides' lines present an important difference which marks his distance from Hesiod. The goddess is clear about what she will reveal to Parmenides and does not leave room for ambiguity: the kouros will apprehend both truth48 and mortal opinions, in the Greek text emphatically kept distinct by the particles ēmen...ēde49. The same clarity will be maintained later in the poem, when the goddess will announce the exact point where her account of truth ceases and that of opinion begins50. Differently from Hesiod, then, Parmenides is constantly aware of the truth-value of what he is learning from the divinity. However, as shown by the precedent of the Theogony, without a further guarantee of the truth of revelation, there still remains the possibility of divine deception. As I will now turn to show, Parmenides' solution to the problem lies in his characterization of intellectual enquiry and the role which noos plays in it.

  • 51 DK28B2.2 : ὁδοὶ μοῦναι διζήσιός εἰσι νοῆσαι.
  • 52 Cf. Alexander P. D. Mourelatos (2008), Route, p. 55-56, n. 26.
  • 53 The translation of B2.3 and B2.5 is after Coxon's.
  • 54 Cf. B2.7-8 : « For you can neither know what is not (for it is impossible) nor tell of it » (tr. Co (...)

23At the beginning of her revelation, the goddess presents to Parmenides the only ways of enquiry which are there for thinking/understanding (eisi noēsai)51. As argued by Mourelatos, eisi noēsai is a final construction which implies the identification of thinking/understanding with the routes themselves52. In other words, the routes of enquiry are conceived as mental paths which are there to be followed by the noos. The two paths are, respectively, that of being, according to which «it is and it is not for not being» (B2.3) and that of not being, according to which «it is not and must needs not be» (B2.5)53. But the road of not being must be immediately discarded as it is impossible to know or to talk of what is not54. It is beyond the scope of my discussion to adequately address all the issues raised by these cryptic lines, but, for the sake of my argument, there is, in fact, no need to adopt a specific reading of the passage. For what I want to focus on is the way in which Parmenides characterizes the road of being, especially as regards his employment of logical deduction.

  • 55 Cf. B8.1-4 : « Only one story of the way is still left: that is. On this way there are very many si (...)
  • 56 Cf. Richard D. McKirahan (2008), « Signs and Arguments in Parmenides B8 », in Patricia Curd & Danie (...)
  • 57 The correlation of asserting with thinking and knowing is stated in fragments B2.7-8; B3; B6.1-2; B (...)
  • 58 B8.50-51 : λόγον ἠδὲ νόημα ἀμφὶς ἀληθείης.
  • 59 On this point, see also John Palmer (2009), Parmenides, p. 90.

24In fragment B8, the goddess introduces her account of the way of being by stating that on that path there are many signs (sēmata) that What-Is is ungenerated, unperishable, whole, unique, immobile, and complete55. As argued by McKirahan, the term sēmata should be taken as indicating the arguments which prove that What-Is possesses such attributes, instead of the attributes themselves56. These arguments provide a justification of the properties through a deduction based upon the Principle of Non-Contradiction, since their negation would entail speaking or thinking of What-Is-Not, which is impossible, as already stated in B257. It is worth noticing that, since the road of being is a route travelled by the noos, Parmenides' use of the term sēma recalls the traditional connection between noos and sēma illustrated above. However, while traditionally sēmata were signs whose meaning was realized by noetic intuition, in Parmenides a sēma is a logical argument through which the noos can demonstrate the properties of What-Is. Significantly, as implied by the fact that the goddess speaks of her argumentation as a « speech and thought about truth »58, the attributes of What-Is constitute truth (alētheia) itself59. Truth thus results ultimately grounded on logical deduction and, because of that, it is attainable by a noos which makes use of deductive argumentation.

  • 60 This holds even if we interpret helenchos as referring to the decision about the right path of enqu (...)
  • 61 Cf. B8.14, 16, 30, 32, 37.

25Since the truth expounded by the goddess consists in the conclusions of a deduction, the kouros can actually put to the test and verify the correctness of divine revelation, as the goddess herself encourages him to do at B7.5-6 : « judge by discourse/reason the much-contested test (helenchos) which has been said by me »60. Thus, the recourse to deduction provides the poet, and consequently the audience, with that criterion to judge the content of divine revelation whose absence condemned Hesiod's poetry to unsolvable ambiguity. For, if truth rests on internal consistency only, there remains no room for ambiguity. In addition, being deduced a priori, such a truth is universal, absolute and eternal. Parmenides' poetry has then the same claim to universality as Hesiod's, but with the fundamental difference that its content is unequivocal and thus humans can place confidence in it. The inalterable and everlasting character of the truth about What-Is is emphatically stressed by Parmenides' use of the vocabulary of necessity (anankē, moira) and justice (dikē, themis) in B861. In particular, since traditionally even the gods cannot subvert the decrees of Necessity/Fate, the recourse to such terms marks again the distance from Hesiod's poems, in which the unpredictable divine will condemned men to uncertainty.

  • 62 Cf. B8.60-1 : « This arrangement [i.e. mortals' doxastic account of the world] I declare to you to (...)
  • 63 Cf. B6.4-9.
  • 64 B6.7. On the importance of krisis for Parmenides' epistemology, see Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Di (...)
  • 65 Cf. B7 : « For this principle shall never be vanquished, so as to allow things to be that are not. (...)
  • 66 Cf. B8.15-17 : « And the decision regarding these things depends on that of the issue, is or is not(...)

26The fact that human beings can have access to truth represents a differentiation from Xenophanes as well, who considered men as naturally confined to opinion. Actually, the rigid distinction between truth (alētheia) and opinion (doxa) throughout Parmenides' poem contributes to characterize doxa as an error which must be avoided, as the goddess herself stresses by warning the kouros of the perils posed by mortals' opinions62. Resorting to the gloomy depiction typical of tradition, in fragment B6, Parmenides describes human mind as wandering in error : mortals are said to know nothing (eidotes ouden) since their helplessness (amēchaniē) leads their mind (noos) astray, with the result that they oscillate, as if deaf and blind, between considering What-Is and What-Is-Not as identical and different63. Error appears to stem from the incapacity of properly distinguishing being from not being, as implied by fact that mortals are called « race without judgement/decision » (akrita phyla)64. For, as described in B7, mortals trust sense perception and thus believe that things that are not actually are65. Consequently, they deem as real generation, destruction and change, and accordingly build a view on reality which, in the light of the properties of What-Is, is totally misconceived. However, error and opinion do not represent an inescapable condition. For, by resorting to logical argumentation, humans can make the right decision/judgement (krisis) concerning being and not being, and thus exclude What-Is-Not from their enquiry66.

  • 67 Cf. B3, B6.1-2, B8.34-38.
  • 68 For an overview of the issues posed by the fragments, see Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Divine, p. 1 (...)

27The idea that noos is not inevitably destined to error is further conveyed by the relation between thinking/understanding and What-Is, which Parmenides describes in various fragments67. Despite the difficulty in determining the exact nature of such relation, there can be little doubt that Parmenides thinks that there exists a special connection between thinking and being68. Indeed, it is through logical argumentation that this connection is fulfilled, since by resorting to deduction, thinking can demonstrate the properties of What-Is and become actual understanding by securely holding possession of the truth. According to Parmenides, then, truth is not an exclusive possession of divine noos, since, by means of deduction, even mortal noos can attain and grasp it in its entirety. It is true that also in Parmenides' poem, mortals must rely on divine intervention to have access to truth, but the crucial difference from the past is that divine agents make accessible to men not only specific contents, but more significantly, the criteria through which they can recognize truth and avoid error.

Conclusion

28In this article, I have analysed Xenophanes' and Parmenides' characterization of human enquiry within the broader context of traditional poetic depictions of the epistemic limitations of mortals. In particular, I have argued that, although they appropriated the motif of human ignorance, they actually invested it with new significance by modifying some of its tenets, especially as regards the notion of noos. Actually, by changing the traditional properties of both divine and human noos, they proposed a solution to the problems deriving from the unbridgeable epistemic gap between gods and men as traditionally portrayed in poetry.

29As eloquently illustrated in the Hesiodic poems, in order to convey knowledge about matters which go beyond human everyday life, mortals must rely on divine revelation. In this respect, the phrase « to sing the noos of Zeus », which Hesiod employs in the Works and Days to declare his ability of expounding universal contents to which mortals cannot normally access, vividly represents humans' complete dependence on the divine in similar cases. However, the reliability of what the divine makes available to human is actually contingent on the gods' will, which traditionally is depicted as highly unpredictable. Indeed, Hesiod's characterizes the noos of Zeus as constantly changing, while the Muses themselves state that they can tell both falsehoods and truths according to their wishes. Given their ignorance, mortals are then deprived of any assurance concerning what they apprehend form the gods. Paradoxically enough, then, their dependence on the divine, which should grant them knowledge, actually leave them in ambiguity.

30Differently from the traditional model of divine disclosure found in Hesiod, according to Xenophanes god facilitates mortal opinion-formation by making accessible to men objects of experience through which they can form opinions about the world. However, such dependence does not condemn men to complete uncertainty. For, although human beings cannot aspire to knowledge, they can nonetheless build a stable system of opinions, ultimately grounded on the immutable noos of god which guarantees regularity in the order of things. Thus, by replacing the traditional notion of divine noos as extremely mutable and unpredictable with that of a changeless noos, Xenophanes avoids the ambiguity which characterized the content of divine revelation. In such a scenario, enquiry comes to acquire a crucial role, since every object which men encounter in their experience can be critically evaluated and employed to improve their set of opinions about the world in which they live.

31Instead of modifying the properties of divine noos like Xenophanes, Parmenides advances a solution to the problem of ambiguity of divine revelation by changing the characteristics of noos itself. For, since the correct path of enquiry which the noos must follow consists in the logical deduction of the attributes of What-Is, Parmenides replaces the traditional notion of an intuitive noos with that of a deducing noos. As a consequence, human beings can be assured of the reliability of what they learn from the divine because they can actually test its validity through independent logical criteria. Indeed, in this way the epistemic gap between mortals and the divine is eventually eliminated, since by means of deduction men can have access to that universal truth which traditionally was an exclusive possession of the gods.

32To conclude, by modifying the traditional notion of noos, Xenophanes and Parmenides built an epistemic framework in which humans are not condemned to helpless wandering, but rather can effectively improve their condition. Thanks to their innovations in theorizing the relationship between enquiry and argumentation, Early Greek epistemological conceptualization developed beyond the state of helpless confusion implied by earlier poetic accounts.

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Notes

1 Cf. James Lesher (1999), « Early Interests in Knowledge », in Anthony A. Long (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 227-228. As shown by Montiglio, the prominent role assigned to enquiry by early philosophers can be seen as a legacy of the correlation between wandering and acquisition of knowledge already present in the Odyssey, cf. Silvia Montiglio (2000), « Wandering Philosophers in Classical Greece », Journal of Hellenic Studies 120, p. 87-90. Pythagoras seems to have been particularly involved in the practice of historiē, at least according to Heraclitus (see DK22B129 and B40), but the nature and extent of his activity is, in fact, subject to debate. For a discussion of Heraclitus' testimony, including an analysis of the early usages of historiē, see Carl A. Huffman (2008), « Heraclitus' Critique of Pythagoras' Enquiry », Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 35, p. 19-47.

2 E.g. in Il.III.21-23; III.30-31; III.396-98. On this point, see Cf. Kurt von Fritz (1942), «  ΝΟΟΣ and Noein in the Homeric Poems », Classical Philology 38, p. 89-90. Von Fritz's analysis of noein remains the most influential work on the topic and its main results, even after later reappraisal, are still accepted: see, for example, J. R. Warden (1971), « The Mind of Zeus », Journal of the History of Ideas 32, p. 3-6 ; James Lesher (1981), « Perceiving and Knowing in the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” », Phronesis 26, p. 8-16 ; John Palmer (2009), Parmenides and Presocratic Philosophy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 72.

3 Cf. Kurt von Fritz (1942), Classical Philology, 38, p. 89-90.

4 E.g. Il.IX.104-105 ; Il.IX.600 ; Od.V.88. On this point, and for further examples, see Kurt von Fritz (1942), Classical Philology, 38, p. 85 and 90.

5 Cf. J.R. Warden, Journal of the History of Ideas, 32 (1971), p. 5. Von Fritz specifies that, when noos means « plan », it does not indicate a ready-made plan, but rather a plan in the process of its elaboration, cf. Kurt von Fritz (1942), Classical Philology, 38, p. 83.

6 Od.I.3

7 Cf. James Lesher (1981), Phronesis, 26, p. 12 and passim.

8 On the relationship between noos and sēma, see Gregory Nagy (1983), « Sēma and Noēsis: Some Illustrations », Arethusa 16, p. 36-39.

9 Cf. h.Merc.213-14.

10 Cf. Il.XXIV.294, 312.

11 Cf. James Lesher (1981), Phronesis, 26, p. 15.

12 Od.XVIII.130-7.

13 See, for example, Archilochus (130 West) : « Often, when men are lying prostrate on the dark earth they raise them upright from their misery, and often they overturn on their backs even those whose stance was very firm. Then much misery is theirs and a man wanders about in need of livelihood and distraught in mind. » (tr. Gerber); Semonides (1.1-5 West) : «Boy, loud-thundering Zeus controls the outcome of everything there is and disposes it as he wishes. There is no intelligence among men, but we live like grazing animals, subject to what the day brings, with no knowledge of how the god will bring each thing to pass. » (tr. Gerber) ; Stesichorus (222b.207-208 PMGF) : « but the gods establish within one day a different mind. » (tr. Campbell) ; Pindar (N. 6.4-7) : « Even so, we resemble the immortals in some respects, in greatness of mind or of stature, though we do not know by day or night what finishing line destiny has marked out for us to run towards. » (tr. Verity). It is beyond the scope of this article to analyse the notion of intelligence in lyric poetry; this is, however, a topic that I intend to address in the future.

14 Op. 648-649 : δείξω δή τοι μέτρα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης,/ οὔτε τι ναυτιλίης σεσοφισμένος οὔτε τι νηῶν. I follow, with modifications, Most's translation in Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days, edited and translated by Glenn W. Most, Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press 2006.

15 Examples include poets, musicians, carpenters and helmsmen. On this point, cf. West's commentary in Hesiod, Works and Days, edited with a commentary by Martin L. West, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1978, ad loc. ; Ralph M. Rosen (1990), « Poetry and Sailing in Hesiod's Works and Days », Classical Antiquity 9/1, p. 101.

16 Cf. Op. 648-662.

17 About 65 metres long, see West in Hesiod, Works and Days, ed. West 1966, ad loc.

18 Op. 660-662, tr. Most. Greek text : τόσσον τοι νηῶν γε πεπείρημαι πολυγόμφων·/ ἀλλὰ καὶ ὣς ἐρέω Ζηνὸς νόον αἰγιόχοιο·/ Μοῦσαι γάρ μ᾽ἐδίδαξαν ἀθέσφατον ὕμνον ἀείδειν. The term ἀθέσφατος (here translated as « inconceivable ») has been variously interpreted as meaning « beyond even a god's power to express » ; « boundless » ; or « announced by the gods ». For a survey of the different readings, see Pietro Pucci (1977), Hesiod and the Language of Poetry, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 34 n. 4.

19 Cf. Op. 694 : μέτρα φυλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος, « Bear in mind measures: proportion is the best in all things » (tr. Most, with modifications).

20 Zeus' dealing with justice is announced in the proem to the Works and Days (cf. Op. 9-10). As implied at Op. 267-269, through his noos Zeus observes human conduct and thereby establishes the appropriate punishment or reward for men's behaviour.

21 Cf. Graziano Arrighetti (1987), Poeti, eruditi e biografi: momenti della riflessione dei Greci sulla letteratura, Pisa, Giardini, p. 49-50.

22 Cf. Jean Rudhardt (1996), « Le préambule de la Théogonie. La vocation du poète. Le langage des Muses », in Fabienne Blaise, Pierre Judet de la Combe & Philippe Rousseau (éds.), Le métier du mythe : lectures d'Hésiode, Lille, Presses Universitaires du septentrion, p. 35-39 ; Pietro Pucci (2007), Inno alle Muse (Esiodo, Teogonia, 1-115). Testo, introduzione, traduzione e commento, Pisa, Serra, p. 74. On the universal character of Hesiod's poetry, see also Simonetta Nannini (2010), Omero: l'Autore necessario, Napoli, Liguori, p. 44-46.

23 ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,/ ἴδμεν δεὖτἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι, « We know how to say false things similar to genuine ones, and we know, when we wish, how to proclaim true things » (tr. Most). These lines are famously difficult to interpret as regards the truth-status of Hesiodic poetry and the reference to Od.XIX.203 contained in line 27. Following Pucci's classification, the main interpretations can be thus divided (cf. Pietro Pucci (2007), Inno, p. 60-63) : 1) line 27 contains a criticism of Homeric poetry as false, in contrast to the truth of Hesiod's poems expressed at line 28 : e.g. in Willem J. Verdenius (1972), « Notes on the Proem of Hesiod's “Theogony” », Mnemosyne 25, p. 234-235 ; Graziano Arrighetti (2006), Poesia, poetiche e storia nella riflessione dei Greci: Studi, Pisa, Giardini, p. 4 and passim. 2) lines 27-28 qualify all the poetic production before Hesiod as a mixture of truth and falsehood, without specifically targeting Homer : e.g in Giuliana Lanata (1963), Poetica pre-platonica: Testimonianze e frammenti, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, p. 25 ; West (1966) in Hesiod, Theogony, edited with a commentary by Martin L. West, Oxford, Oxford University Press, ad loc. 3) in these lines Hesiod recognizes that all poetry, including his own, is essentially a mixture of truth and falsity : e.g. in Pietro Pucci (1997), Hesiod, p. 8-34 ; William G. Thalmann (1984), Conventions of Form and Thought in Early Greek Epic Poetry, Baltimore and London, The Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 143-149 ; Grace M. Ledbetter (2003), Poetics before Plato: Interpretation and Authority in Early Greek Theories of Poetry, Princeton-Oxford, Princeton University Press, p. 40-61. As emerges from my argumentation, I tend to think that, although in Hesiod's intention, the scene of his investiture should serve to demonstrate his authority and thereby the reliability of his song, the Muses' words inevitably leave the poet and his audience in a state of unsolvable uncertainty concerning the truth-status of the poem. On the Muses' ambiguity, see further Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Divine in Early Greek Epistemology, PhD dissertation, Cambridge University, p. 38-40.

24 Op. 483-484.

25 Op. 663-669. On this point, see further Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Divine, p. 43-45.

26 Cf. B34.1-2 : « And of course the clear and certain truth no man has seen nor will there be anyone who knows about the gods and what I say about all things ». I follow here Lesher's translation in James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments, a Text and Translation with a Commentary, Toronto, University of Toronto Press. On the interpretation of «all things» as referring to natural phenomena, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 167-168.

27 Cf. B34.3-4 : « For even if, in the best case, one happened to speak just of what has been brought to pass, still he would not know. But opinion is wrought over all » (tr. Lesher, with modifications).

28 For an overview of the possible readings, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 159-167.

29 Cf. James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 166.

30 Cf. fragments B18, discussed below, and B26. Noticeably, the limitedness of human life will be mentioned by Protagoras as one of the reasons of his ignorance about divine nature (cf. DK80B4).

31 DK21B18, tr. Lesher. Greek text: οὔ τοι ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖσ᾽ ὑπέδειξαν,/ ἀλλὰ χρόνωι ζητοῦντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον.

32 Cf. Shaul Tor (2013), « Mortal and Divine in Xenophanes Epistemology », Rhizomata 1/2, p. 250 and passim.

33 Cf. Shaul Tor, Rhizomata, 1/2 (2013), p. 267. Tor presents also a restricted version of his interpretation, according to which the divine brings particular things to the consideration of mortals and only in some circumstances, but deems the universal alternative more probable (cf. Shaul Tor, Rhizomata, 1/2 (2013), p. 270-271).

34 The vexed question concerning Xenophanes' monotheism does not directly affect my argument, but I think that Xenophanes admitted the existence of a plurality of divine beings, as implied by the references to « gods » (in the plural) in his fragments. For a good survey of the possible interpretations, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 96-100. Barnes provides the reconstruction of an argument for monotheism, see Jonathan Barnes (2005), The Presocratic Philosophers, London, Routledge, p. 69-71. For a polytheistic reading, see also Herbert Granger (2013), « Xenophanes’ Positive Theology and his Criticism of Greek Popular Religion », Ancient Philosophy 33, p. 237-238.

35 On this point, see Kurt von Fritz (1945), « Nous, Noein and Derivatives in Pre-Socratic Philosophy (Excluding Anaxagoras): Part I », Classical Philology 40/4, p. 230.

36 For noēma as here equivalent to noos, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 97.

37 Cf. B24 : « Whole he sees, whole he hears, whole he thinks» (tr. Lesher). Given the complete dissimilarity of god's body from that of human beings, the fragment seems to imply that the greatest god does not possess human-like sensory organs which could limit his cognitive capacities (cf. James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 105 ; Herbert Granger, Ancient Philosophy, 33 (2013), p. 247-248). On the question of god's alleged incorporeality, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 100.

38 DK21B25, tr. Lesher. Greek text : ἀλλ᾽ ἀπάνευθε πόνοιο νόου φρενὶ πάντα κραδαίνει. On the relationship between divine noos and phrēn, see Shirley M. Darcus (1978), « The phrēn of the noos in Xenophanes' god », Symbolae Osloenses: Norwegian Journal of Greek and Latin Studies 53, p. 26.

39 Cf. Shaul Tor (2013), Rhizomata, 1/2, p. 268.

40 Hom. Il. 1.523-527. On this passage and its relationship with Xenophanes' fragment, see Hemese Mogyoródi (2002), « Xenophanes as a Philosopher: Theology and Theodicy », in André Laks & Claire Louguet (éds.), Qu’est-ce que la philosophie présocratique ?, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, p. 283, n. 140. On the idea that kradainein includes the notion of purposeful intervention, see Shaul Tor (2013), Rhizomata, 1/2, p. 268 ; John Palmer (2009), Parmenides, p. 329 ; James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 107-109 ; Kurt von Fritz (1945), Classical Philology, 40/4, p. 229-230. For a criticism, see Herbert Grainger (2013), Ancient Philosophy, 33, p. 256-257 ; Francis M. Cornford (1952), Principium Sapientiae: The Origins of Greek Philosophical Thought, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 147.

41 Cf. supra, n. 14. Mourelatos, in his reconstruction of Xenophanes' physics, argues that kradainein actually indicates the physical processes underwent by clouds which produce celestial bodies (cf. Alexander P. D. Mourelatos, (2008), « The Cloud-Astrophysics of Xenophanes and Ionian Material Monism », in Patricia Curd & Daniel W. Graham (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Presocratic Philosophy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 156).

42 Cf. B26 : « Always he abides in the same state, not moving at all, nor it is fitting for him to move to different places at different times » (tr. Lesher, with modifications). For a commentary, see James Lesher (1992), Xenophanes, p. 111-114.

43 Tr. Lesher.

44 Cf. Tor's reading of the fragment in support of his «universal disclosure» hypothesis (see Shaul Tor (2013), Rhizomata, 1/2, p. 265-267).

45 « Unmoved » translates the Greek ἀτρεμὲς. The variant ἀτρεκές (« strict »,« sure »,« certain ») could work here, but ἀτρεμὲς is more appropriate as a qualifier of ētor, especially because it stresses the property of being unmoved by contrast with the inherent movement of the heart. On this point, cf. Leonardo Tarán (1965), Parmenides: A Text with Translation, Commentary, and Critical Essays, Princeton, Princeton University Press, p. 16-17. Alexander P. D. Mourelatos (2008), The Route of Parmenides, Las Vegas, Parmenides Publishing, p. 155-156; Allan H. Coxon (2009), The Fragments of Parmenides: A Critical Text with Introduction and Translation, the Ancient Testimonia and a Commentary, edited with new translations by Richard McKirahan and with a new preface by Malcolm Schofield, Las Vegas, Parmenides Publishing, p. 284.

46 Besides εὐπειθέος (« persuasive »), there are two other variants in the text, namely εὐκυκλέος («well-rounded ») accepted in the Diels-Kranz edition and εὐφεγγέος (« brilliant »), reported by Proclus, but generally dismissed by scholars. εὐκυκλέος is accepted as a lectio difficilior, but εὐπειθέος fits more in the context, as it marks a contrast with mortals' beliefs mentioned in the following line, deprived of true trustworthiness. In addition, even though in fragment B8 What-Is is compared to a sphere, at this point of the poem such an anticipation would have been missed by the audience (cf. Allan H. Coxon (2009), Fragments, p. 283-284). For a different interpretation, see Leonardo Tarán (1965), Parmenides, p. 16-17.

47 DK28B1.28-30, tr. Coxon, with modification. Greek text : χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι/ ἠμὲν Ἀληθείης εὐπειθέος ἀτρεμὲς ἦτορ/ ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας, ταῖς οὐκ ἔνι πίστις ἀληθής.

48 As will emerge later in the poem, the « heart of truth» is not distinguished by truth itself. On this point, see also Allan H. Coxon (2009), Fragments, p. 283, in which the use of ētor is compared to that of kara and kephalē in tragedy.

49 On this point, see also Maja E. Pellikaan-Engels (1974), Hesiod and Parmenides: a New View on Their Cosmologies and on Parmenides’Proem, Amsterdam, A. M. Hakkert, p. 80. On ēmen...ēde, see Herbert Smyth (1920), Greek Grammar, Boston, American Book Company, n. 2867.

50 DK B8.50-51 : « Therewith I put a stop for you to my reliable discourse and thought about truth » (tr. Coxon, with modifications).

51 DK28B2.2 : ὁδοὶ μοῦναι διζήσιός εἰσι νοῆσαι.

52 Cf. Alexander P. D. Mourelatos (2008), Route, p. 55-56, n. 26.

53 The translation of B2.3 and B2.5 is after Coxon's.

54 Cf. B2.7-8 : « For you can neither know what is not (for it is impossible) nor tell of it » (tr. Coxon).

55 Cf. B8.1-4 : « Only one story of the way is still left: that is. On this way there are very many signs that Being is ungenerated and imperishable, entire, unique, unmoved and perfect » (tr. Coxon, with modifications). The translation «perfect» follows an emendation of the Greek atelestos (« unaccomplished », « endless ») of the manuscripts. On this point, see Leonardo Tarán (1965), Parmenides, p. 93-95 ; Allan H. Coxon (2009), Fragments, p. 315 ; and Cerri's commentary in Parmenide, Poema sulla natura, edizione, traduzione e commento di Giovanni Cerri, Milano, BUR 1999, p. 222-223.

56 Cf. Richard D. McKirahan (2008), « Signs and Arguments in Parmenides B8 », in Patricia Curd & Daniel W. Graham (eds.), Handbook, p. 221, n. 9.

57 The correlation of asserting with thinking and knowing is stated in fragments B2.7-8; B3; B6.1-2; B8.7-9, 15-18, 50 (on this point, see Coxon 2009, p. 294). In Wedin's reconstruction of Parmenides' arguments, B2 and B3 together contain the « Governing Deduction », upon which all the other deductions are based (cf. Michael V. Wedin (2014), Parmenides' Grand Deduction: A Logical Reconstruction of the Way of Truth, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p. 9-33). It is beyond the scope of the present work to enter the details of Parmenides' arguments in B2 and B8. For a detailed analysis, I refer the reader to Michael Wedin (2014), Parmenides' Deduction, p. 9-33 and 83-192 ; Richard McKirahan (2008), « Signs », p. 192-221 ; John Palmer (2009), Parmenides, p. 137-159 ; Jonathan Barnes (2005), Presocratics, p. 122-136 (focused on B2).

58 B8.50-51 : λόγον ἠδὲ νόημα ἀμφὶς ἀληθείης.

59 On this point, see also John Palmer (2009), Parmenides, p. 90.

60 This holds even if we interpret helenchos as referring to the decision about the right path of enquiry, since the choice is made on the basis of logical inference as well (on this point, see Alexander Mourelatos (2008), Route, p. 91; Leonardo Tarán (1965), Parmenides, p. 81). On helenchos as a test for truth, see further David Furley (1989), « Truth as What Survives the Elenchos: An Idea in Parmenides », in Pamela Huby & Gordon Neal (eds.), The Criterion of Truth, Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, p. 1-12 ; for a detailed discussion of the passage, see James Lesher (1984), « Parmenides' Critique of Thinking. The Poludēris Elenchos of Fragment 7 », Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 2, p. 1-30.

61 Cf. B8.14, 16, 30, 32, 37.

62 Cf. B8.60-1 : « This arrangement [i.e. mortals' doxastic account of the world] I declare to you to be plausible in its entirety in such a way that never shall any mortal opinion outstrip you » (tr. Coxon, with modifications).

63 Cf. B6.4-9.

64 B6.7. On the importance of krisis for Parmenides' epistemology, see Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Divine, p. 151-153.

65 Cf. B7 : « For this principle shall never be vanquished, so as to allow things to be that are not. But do you keep your thought from this way of enquiry. And let not habit do violence to you on the empirical way of exercising an unseeing eye and a noisy ear and tongue, but decide by reason (logos) the controversial test enjoined by me » (tr. Coxon).

66 Cf. B8.15-17 : « And the decision regarding these things depends on that of the issue, is or is not. Now it has been decided, as was necessary, to leave the one way unconceived and nameless, since it is not a real way, and for the other to be a way and authentic » (tr. Coxon). Noticeably, in fragment B7 the recourse to logos is emphatically opposed to the aimless wandering of the senses.

67 Cf. B3, B6.1-2, B8.34-38.

68 For an overview of the issues posed by the fragments, see Shaul Tor (2011), Mortal and Divine, p. 164-166.

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Nicolò Benzi, « Noos and Mortal Enquiry in the Poetry of Xenophanes and Parmenides », Methodos [En ligne], 16 | 2016, mis en ligne le 11 mai 2016, consulté le 28 mai 2017. URL : http://methodos.revues.org/4326 ; DOI : 10.4000/methodos.4326

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